NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – Fans of Big Blue might be sweating out the looming possibility of another late-season meltdown.
As for the Giants? They aren’t worried, despite starting the second half of their schedule with a loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Coach Tom Coughlin seemed slightly amused Monday when asked about the team’s recent trend of getting off to good starts and then folding down the stretch. New York failed to win a playoff game after the 2008 season and then missed the postseason the next two years.
Coughlin dismissed any similarity after a 27-20 loss on Sunday that left the Giants (6-3) with a one-game lead over Dallas (5-4) in the NFC East.
“I can’t imagine why this question keeps coming up,” Coughlin said Monday. “You have to take each year one at a time, You have to take each game one at a time. This is a game against a team that was 7-1. It’s not that we played poorly or not that we da-da-da-da. We didn’t win the game.”
Different year. Different team. And Coughlin wasn’t about to apologize for a loss on the road to San Francisco (8-1), which has the second best record in the NFC.
“We don’t feel we should ever give up 27 and I am certainly not satisfied with 20 points,” the 65-year-old coach said. “As far as analyzing why and what – we didn’t play well enough to win. Does it have to do with anything in the second half? No!”
Coughlin’s biggest problem with the performance was the two interceptions thrown by Eli Manning and the ability of the offense to generate one touchdown in four trips to the red zone.
Even with those problems. the Giants were in position for their sixth fourth-quarter comeback of the season before their final drive stalled at the San Francisco 10 yard line when they failed to convert on third and fourth down. Manning’s final pass was batted down by Justin Smith.
“We did some positive things but there are no moral victories here,” Giants Pro Bowl guard Chris Snee said. “We felt like we left stuff out there on the field. We left a game out there in San Fran that we thought we should have had. We are well beyond being happy about playing and coming up losing. That is not the mentality that we have around here.”
Safety Kenny Phillips believes this group of players is a different that the past two year.
New York missed the playoffs two years ago after losing eight of its last 11. Despite a 10-6 record last season, the Giants cost themselves a playoff berth giving away a 21-point fourth quarter lead to Philadelphia in December with first place in the NFC East on the line. They also lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Packers in Green Bay with a playoff berth on the line.
Phillips knows there are people who expect the Giants to stumble again, but he said no one is spending a lot of time thinking about it.
“We’re more mature, knowing the opponents we have coming up,” he said. “I think we are ready for this stretch. You could tell by the moral in the locker room, just by the way we handled this loss. As far as individuals and as a team. I think we are heading in the right direction.”
The Giants will get a chance to bounce back on Sunday night when they play the Eagles (3-6) in a game that conceivably could end Philadelphia’s hopes of repeating as the division winner. The Giants beat Philadelphia earlier this season and another win would give New York a four-game lead in the division with six to play.
Philadelphia also might be without quarterback Michael Vick, who broke two ribs in Sunday’s loss to Arizona.
“Whatever the circumstances are, we’ll have to deal with it in our preparation,” said Coughlin.
New York will follow that game with a contest at New Orleans (7-3) and then one at home against the Packers (8-0). A game in Dallas would follow in what has to be one of the toughest stretches for any team in the league.
“We have a group of fighters,” Coughlin said. “We have a team of guys that will fight you and battle you. It’s not always going our way. (Sunday) wasn’t. We didn’t play especially well (Sunday), but we do fight and we do battle. Despite some errors and so-on and so-forth, our effort is good and we do fight. We do battle. That’s the key thing. As long as we continue to do that I think we can correct a lot of these other things. I know we can play better because many people who played yesterday didn’t play as well as they did the week before. That’s something that we have to get straightened around, no doubt. But there are a lot of positives, yeah, a lot of positives.”
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