Giants need answers and help to make the playoffs

Despite throwing away control of their playoff destiny with

lopsided losses the past two weeks, the New York Giants aren’t

giving up.

While perplexed after seeing the defending Super Bowl champions

outscored 67-14 by Atlanta and Baltimore, coach Tom Coughlin

insists the Giants (8-7) will play hard in their season finale at

home against the Philadelphia Eagles.

”We’ll just keep hanging in there and working hard and this

certainly is adversity,” Coughlin said Monday. ”This certainly is

a difficult time for us, but we’re going to fight and we’re going

to do everything in our power to prepare ourselves for

Philadelphia, who played very well against Washington.”

The Giants need a ton of help to avoid missing the playoffs for

the third time in four years. They have to beat Philadelphia, have

Minnesota and Chicago (both 9-6) lose and have Dallas (8-7) tie or

lose to Washington.

While the chances of it all happening seem remote, Coughlin is

hoping his team plays well after stumbling down the stretch with

losses in five of the last seven games.

Neither Coughlin nor quarterback Eli Manning nor defensive end

Osi Umenyiora could explain the collapse, although injuries have

played a big part, especially in the second half of the season.

Halfback Ahmad Bradshaw (foot, knee), receiver Hakeem Nicks

(foot, knee), defensive tackle Chris Canty (knee), safety Kenny

Phillips (knee), offensive linemen David Diehl (knee), Chris Snee

(hip) and David Baas (shoulder) all have played with nagging

injuries.

Manning blamed some of the offensive woes lately on players not

being able to practice much of the week and then showing up for

games. Coughlin said the team isn’t making many big plays on either

side of the ball.

Manning believes this team wants to finish the season on a high

note, even if that doesn’t get the Giants in the postseason.

”We want to have something we can be proud about, and see how

the other games (end up) ” Manning said. ”I can guarantee you that

the worst feeling we can have is if we go out there and don’t play

at a high level, and all those teams lose that we need to and we

don’t handle our own end. All we can worry about is improving our

performance and getting back to playing quality football.”

The Giants certainly haven’t done that lately. A week after

being embarrassed 34-0 by the Falcons, New York dropped a 33-14

decision to the Ravens.

The combined 14 points is their lowest total in back-to-back

games since Nov. 28 and Dec. 5, 2004, when they lost to

Philadelphia 27-6, and to Washington, 31-7.

The offense was pathetic against a Ravens defense missing Ray

Lewis. It gained 186 total yards with just 67 on the ground, was 2

of 10 on third down and held the ball for 20:29.

Baltimore gained 533 yards, the second-highest total in

Coughlin’s nine years as head coach.

Coughlin was at a loss to explain how a team loaded with

veterans from two Super Bowl wins failed to step up and make

plays.

”I’m sure it will be an incredible investigation and study,”

Coughlin said when asked if that was something the team would be

looking at in the offseason.

Umenyiora said the ball just hasn’t bounced the right way this

season. They have been close to making plays and just missed or had

breakdowns, something which didn’t happen in their late-season

six-game winning streak that carried them to a title last

season.

It has led to a fair amount of frustration, but not anger,

Umenyiora said, adding only one team walks away happy at the end of

the season.

”Did this year play out the way out any of us wanted it to?”

Umenyiora said rhetorically. ”No, but at the end of the day we

still have a chance to go out there and give one last good

impression or one good showing of ourselves and I think we’re going

to do that.”

Umenyiora agreed with Coughlin that the Giants aren’t a very

confident team right now.

”The pedigree of this group is very, very good and for us to be

getting beat the way we’ve been getting beat these last two weeks,

obviously there’s something lacking. Is it physical talent?”

Umenyiora said. ”You can’t say it’s physical talent because we

have the ability, but obviously it has to be something, and so the

only thing I think you can point to is confidence. It just doesn’t

seem like we’re playing with a lot of confidence and it’s showing

out there on the football field.”

There is a good chance this will be Umenyiora’s final season

with the Giants. He said he would like to finish his career with

the franchise, but he knows changes are coming if New York’s season

ends Sunday, and there is a ”high probability” he would be a

casualty.

Manning said the Giants’ failure to make another late-season

push was disappointing but not really a surprise because every

season is different.

”You have to play your best football at the end of the season,

especially for those in playoff contention, for playoff chances,

you have to put yourself in the best possible position to be

playing great football,” Manning said. ”We haven’t done

that.”

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