‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
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Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.” He’ll be covering football throughout the season.
The Giants played well enough to beat most teams last night.
But the Packers aren’t most teams. You don’t win 18 straight by being like most teams, or by having an ordinary quarterback.
So the Giants, predictably, went down to their fourth straight loss 38-35 on Mason Crosby’s 31-yard field goal as time expired. They’re 6-6 now, and if they don’t sweep the last four games against Dallas (twice), Washington and the Jets, they’ll spend another January in their living rooms.
But here’s the thing. The Giants played well and lost in ‘07 to an undefeated Patriots team in the last game of the season, and then took that momentum of a hard-fought game and turned it into a magical playoff run.
Sure, the circumstances are different now. There’s still a lot of football to be played. But the Giants, and you fans, should hope that Sunday’s loss will have a healthy effect on this battered squad as it goes forward into a playoff atmosphere the next month.
At least that’s what Eli Manning hopes for.
“That’s playoff atmosphere,” he said after leading his team to a tying touchdown with just 58 seconds to go. “You want to play in must-win games. We know if we win, then we’re in the playoffs. That’s exciting.”
Perhaps too exciting for this team, which sustained two more injuries to the defense when S Kenny Phillips went down with a sprained left MCL and rookie LB Spencer Paysinger went out with a hamstring.
The road is long, the job big. But thanks to the Cardinals, who beat the Cowboys in overtime in a major favor to the Giants, they’re still in the postseason conversation.
Whether it’ll take 10 wins to get there, or whether Atlanta and Detroit will do them favors and lose a bunch in the final month, the Giants can get to the postseason if they just win.
And they nearly did it against the Packers. The defense hit Aaron Rodgers, sacking him twice and forcing him into some quick throws. They stopped the Green Bay ground game.
The offense came up with a season-high point total that might have been even higher had Tramon Williams and Charlie Peprah not slammed Victor Cruz in the end zone in the fourth quarter to knock a touchdown pass loose. Instead, the Giants had to settle for Lawrence Tynes’ 50-yard field goal.
Tom Coughlin said his team was as tired as it’s ever been, having laid it all on the line against Mike McCarthy’s 12-0 gang of downfield weapons. But he also looked forward to the future, knowing full well what happened in 2007.
“It can have a positive effect if you play the way we played and if you give the effort we gave and if you play with the intensity we played with,” Coughlin said. “I think every guy that took the field believed we could win. Those are the kind of emotional things that bind you together.”
True enough. But as Justin Tuck said, they had a chance to knock out the champs and they couldn’t do it. Instead, the defense mounted its blitz on the final drive and the defensive backs, left one-on-one with one of the NFL’s great receiving corps, couldn’t make a stop. Rodgers took them down to the 12 in 55 seconds, hitting Jermichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, and Greg Jennings for big passes. That left just enough time for Mason Crosby’s winning field goal.
The KO punch never came.
“When you’ve got a chance to knock out the champ, you gotta knock him out,” Tuck said. “You can’t let him hang around and fight off the ropes.”
Sometimes, though, a loss like this can actually leave a team with a good feeling. A fighting feeling.
It happened in ‘07.
It could happen this year. But the Giants have to make it happen by building on the many good things they did against the best team in football, by far.
Will the Giants ride Sunday’s effort all the way to the playoffs? Sound off in the comments below…