NFL Team Report - New York Giants - INSIDE SLANT
In the aftermath of Thursday night's loss in Chicago, the New York Giants had some good news with the bad, but even that was tempered with what may be ugly.
The good was that the Giants finally showed some semblance of a running game as 6-foot-4, 264-pound, 31-year old, 9th-year retread Brandon Jacobs bullied, barged and battered his way to 106 yards and two touchdown on 22 carries.
The run-blocking was as solid as it has been all season, and that included the addition of new fullback John Conner, who replaced tight end Bear Pascoe in the starting lineup as the lead blocker.
The bad, of course was that 27-21 loss that put the Giants at 0-6 for the season.
And, just when one might think it can't get worse, the ugly is that running back David Wilson, who did not make the trip to Chicago because of a neck injury, may be done for the season, or worse.
Wilson will consult with noted Los Angeles spinal surgeon Dr. Robert Watkins regarding his options. Wilson told reporters on Friday that he has been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal.
Spinal stenosis is not necessarily career ending, but it would depend on numerous factors, such as where on the spine the condition is present and if the condition is creating constant discomfort.
Wilson revealed that doctors told him the results of his recent X-rays showed that he has a vertebra that is too close to his spinal cord.
The second-year back, who began the season as the starter, said he isn't feeling any pain and, if Dr. Watkins clears him, he could conceivably be out on the field a week from Monday when the Giants play host to the Minnesota Vikings.
"Best case, I'll be back after the second opinion," he said. "That's what I'm hoping and praying for because I feel perfectly fine. It really doesn't make sense to me right now. People say, 'Oh, but it's the neck,' but I feel like I'm fine. I'm willing to go out there and sacrifice and play with my team, this is what I love. That's my choice."
Like concussions, cases of stenosis are tricky. A player may feel good, but still could be one hit away from disaster. In the case of stenosis, that disaster could be paralysis.
--It's one of the oldest axioms in football, yet the New York Giants, who are 0-6 after a 27-21 loss to the Bears on Thursday night, can't seem to grasp the concept.
"First you have to stop from beating yourself, and then you can go forth to beat your opponents," head coach Tom Coughlin said Friday.
Yet here stand the Giants, who have done something different to thwart their attempts to win in every week this season.
The biggest and most consistent culprits so far have been turnovers and a lack of a pass rush.
The Giants have a league-leading 23 turnovers, a number that includes 15 interceptions thrown by quarterback Eli Manning, and seven lost fumbles.
On defense, their 5.0 sacks is 31st in the NFL, one ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"We're not doing the things we've always done here to take care of the football and to give ourselves a chance to be in position," Coughlin said. "We've had sacks over the years and they've been a great compliment. We're not getting to the quarterback."
So what then can they do at this point to put the brakes on what's fast becoming a lost season?
The first thing is Coughlin has encouraged both his players and assistant coaches to get away this weekend to clear their minds a bit and reflect.
He also said the coaches were going to take a hard look at things, such as why the pass rush can't get going.
"Perhaps we can tweak the system a little bit, be creative in some respects trying to get some things that help us," he said.
As for the interceptions, Manning, who denied that there are times when he and his receivers haven't been on the same page, said that making wholesale changes isn't the answer.
"You just keep working on when you get into that bad situation or if you've got pressure or if you're forced to throw the ball before you want to, whether you throw it away or just tuck it and take the sack," he said in speaking about what he can do better.
"You've just got to keep making smarter decisions on that and just visualize it and train myself to be smarter in those circumstances.
With fans becoming impatient with the Giants' struggles, Coughlin wanted it to be known that the team is doing everything it can to turn things around.
"We're working as hard as we can to make some forward progress, to make some subtle changes to try to take care of some of our problems," Coughlin said.
NFL Team Report - New York Giants - NOTES, QUOTES
One of head coach Tom Coughlin's messages to his team during this 0-6 slide has been to stick together and support each other.
However, that message might not be getting through to everyone in the locker room.
"I think some are. I think some don't care," cornerback Terrell Thomas said when asked if the players were upset. "Some people lose a game and go about their day very easily. Others can't sleep at night."
Coughlin agreed with his veteran cornerback, noting that the majority of the players are indeed taking the situation as hard as the head coach.
"If they're not," Coughlin said, "they're not smart enough to figure it out."
Despite the apparent reactions to the team's struggles, Thomas believes that his teammates will pull it together.
"This team will fight, not turn against each other," he said.
--Quarterback Eli Manning seemed very close to breaking down emotionally during his postgame press conference after Thursday night's game. However, a day later he was back to his usually composed self and talking about moving forward in his quest to fix things.
"It's tough," he said of the team's 0-6 start. "We work hard and everybody game plans and practices hard to go out there and try to play well. It's not fun playing this game and losing and not feeling like you're helping your team and so it is tough.
Despite being stuck in what seems like an endless cycle, Manning said he's not going to change how he prepares or let all the interceptions change how he plays the game.
"I'm going to compete. I'm going to work hard and do whatever I can do to try to put our team in a situation to win a game. I'm going to keep trying to make good reads and throw the ball. I'm not going to get gun shy. Sometimes you have a bad throw and those things happen, but the decisions are the things you can truly control."
And what about the season? Can it still be saved despite the current record?
"You never know," Manning said. "You don't know how it's going to turn out. Right now, the other NFC East teams have two wins and the best record team has two wins. We've got to stick together and just keep fighting and keep making improvements and see if we can get on a hot streak, but obviously it's take one game at a time and worry about getting that first win and that will be a nice one."
NFL Team Report - New York Giants - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--RB Da'Rel Scott (hamstring) suffered what appears to have been a significant hamstring injury late in the fourth quarter on a 13-yard run. Scott had to be helped off the field by members of the team's medical staff, and appeared to have difficult placing any weight on his injured right leg. He was to have a MRI to determine the severity of the injury.
--RB Brandon Jacobs (thigh) was seen late in the game with a black wrap around his right thigh. The exact nature of his injury was not known, nor was there any immediate word on if the injury might keep him out of action.
--LB Jon Beason, acquired in a trade last week from Carolina, made his Giants debut as the team's starting middle linebacker and finished with team-leading 12 tackles.
--FB John Conner, whom the team signed on Sept. 29, made his debut on offense, getting the start at fullback in place of tight end Bear Pascoe.
--S Will Hill was fined $15,750 for hitting Eagles rookie tight end Zach Ertz in the head during their Week 5 matchup. Hill had drawn a 15-yard penalty on the play, which occurred in the first quarter of the Eagles' 36-21 win.
--C David Baas, sidelined with a neck injury, expressed optimism that he will be able to return to the lineup when the Giants host the Vikings a week from Monday. Baas, who has ruled out surgery for now, expects to be cleared to return to practice next week.
REPORT CARD VS. BEARS
PASSING OFFENSE: D - The pass protection was solid but for the sixth week in a row, quarterback Eli Manning and his receivers just couldn't play a flawless game. Manning added three more interceptions to boost his season total to 15 through six games, as many as he had all of last season. Even more alarming is that Manning's passer rating, which this week was 58.5, has not exceeded 65 since Week 1 of the season, when he posted a 102.3 rating against Dallas.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A - After three weeks of being on the verge of a breakthrough, the Giants finally got their running game back thanks to Brandon Jacobs' 106 yards on 22 carries, production that also included two rushing touchdowns. The run blocking was as solid as it has been all season, and that included the addition of new fullback John Conner, who finally replaced tight end Bear Pascoe in the starting lineup as the lead blocker.
PASS DEFENSE: C - The Giants defensive backs had very few answers in their coverage of receiver Brandon Marshall, who caught nine out of 11 targets thrown his way for 87 yards and two key first-half touchdowns. It also didn't help matters that the Giants' pass rush continues to be missing in action, as despite running several more blitzes than they had in recent weeks, none of them got home, the Giants only recording two hits against Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
RUSH DEFENSE: A - The Giants run defense continues to be a shining star in a season of misery. Once again, it held an opponent's top rusher-this week it was Matt Forte-to under 100 yards and no touchdowns. The Bears finished with 110 rushing yards on 29 carries, seven of which came on their final drive of the game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A - The special teams did its part by not allowing dangerous return man Devin Hester no chances to return punts and holding him to a 24.3 kickoff return average. On the other side of the coin, Giants punt returner Rueben Randle safely fielded all three of his punt return opportunities, all of which went for a fair catch, while Jerrel Jernigan's 36.0 kickoff return average was respectable.
COACHING: C - With the passing game continuing to be a mess, it's time that the offensive coaches consider simplifying some of the multiple options given to the receivers on every route instead of leaving each situation up for interpretation, at least until Manning and his receivers get to the point where they're thinking as one. On defense, coordinator Perry Fewell tried dialing up some more blitzes to pressure quarterback Jay Cutler into making mistakes, but until such times when the defensive ends can do more than contain, there just doesn't seem to be any answers for his struggling pass rush.