New York Giants: Tom Coughlin

Coughlin not sure about Wilson's return

February, 21, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- One day after ESPN reported that running back David Wilson is targeting a training-camp return, New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin tried to tamp down expectations, saying he's not sure when Wilson will be cleared.

Wilson
"Do I think he'll be ready for training camp? I really don't know the answer to that," Coughlin said Friday at the NFL scouting combine. "A lot has to do with his attitude, the way he feels and the way the doctors and trainers obviously feel. He's not going to be put out there until he's ready for that. I'm not even (sure) how (much) he's going to be limited in the spring."

Wilson suffered a herniated disk last Oct. 6 and underwent surgery Jan. 16.

Coughlin said Wilson was in good spirits when they talked a few days ago. Wilson has begun light weight-lifting with his legs, reporting little pain, according to Coughlin.

"Forget about the fact that he could be a difference-maker on our team; it's the idea, is he going to be healthy enough to be able to withstand?" the coach said. "We're not going to put him out there unless he really, really believes in himself and when the doctors believe he's ready to go."

Coughlin addressed other issues:

• He sounded confident that guard Chris Snee will rehab his surgically repaired hip and will return for the 2014 season. Coughlin said there's "no question" that Snee will be ready. He likely will have to restructure his contract.

• Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is making "very good progress" with his troublesome back. Said Coughlin: "He wants to be the player he was a couple of years ago. I'm interested in that."

• Second-year tackle Justin Pugh has been encouraged to gain weight. Coughlin said he wants Pugh in the 310- to 315-pound range. "That," he said, "would add power in his play."

• Coughlin declined to speculate on the future of defensive end Justin Tuck and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, both of whom will be free agents on March 11.

Practice report: Gettin' tricky with it

August, 14, 2013
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David WilsonAP Photo/Frank Franklin IIDavid Wilson & Co. had a little fun on the practice field Wednesday.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On Tuesday, Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell experimented with several different formations during practice.

On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride got a little creative.

During 11-on-11 red zone work about 2/3 of the way through practice, the Giants ran a halfback option play. David Wilson got the ball on the left of Eli Manning, launched a left-handed pass toward the left corner of the end zone, and a wide open Victor Cruz hauled the ball in for a touchdown.

The crowd ate it up, cheering boisterously. Who doesn't love a trick play?

The Giants attempted 539 passes last season -- Manning threw 536 of them, and backup QB David Carr tossed the other three. But maybe Wilson will get in the mix somewhere along the way this fall?

Here are some other highlights/lowlights from Wednesday's practice:

• During 11-on-11's early on, Carr connected with WR Louis Murphy for a nice gain down the left-hand side. Ryan Nassib tried to connect with TE Chase Clement, and Clement almost made an acrobatic one-handed grab, but he couldn't quite hang on.

• The defense stood out during 7-on-7 work Wednesday. CB Prince Amukamara had a near-pick of Manning on a short pass to Murphy. Carr threw left to Hakeem Nicks and LB Jacquian Williams made a beautiful play, leaping to deflect the ball away. And CB Laron Scott had yet another interception Wednesday -- Carr threw deep left for Murphy, and Scott ran down the ball and made a beautiful over-the-shoulder grab.

• In red zone 11-on-11's, just prior to Wilson's halfback option pass, CB Aaron Ross had excellent coverage on Cruz in the back-left corner of the end zone, breaking up a potential touchdown pass.

• Williams made another nice play during 11-on-11 goal line work, breaking up a Manning pass intended for TE Brandon Myers. But soon after, Manning connected with Cruz for a touchdown over the middle.

• Carr almost threw his second interception of the day in a goal-line set, when he attempted a short pass to WR Kevin Hardy that went right through CB Jayron Hosley's hands. Nassib, on the other hand, hooked up with WR Ramses Barden for a touchdown in the same situation.

• As usual, practice ended with a two-minute drill, and this time around Carr got the nod at QB. He did complete a pass to TE Larry Donnell, but ultimately failed to get his team in the end zone. Gilbride said Tuesday that the backup quarterback job is up for grabs between Carr, Nassib and Curtis Painter. Carr is the favorite, but he definitely didn't put on a great performance Wednesday.

Coughlin: 'We want Cruz to be a Giant'

March, 5, 2013
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NEW YORK -- Coach Tom Coughlin wants Victor Cruz around for a long time and expects the salsa-dancing, Pro Bowl wide receiver to remain with the Giants.

But Coughlin understands "it takes two to tango" and knows there is a limitation to what the New York Giants can do to sign Cruz, a restricted free agent, to an extension.

"We want Victor Cruz to be a Giant," Coughlin said before promoting his new book, "Earn The Right To Win: How Success in Any Field Starts with Superior Preparation," on "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News.

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesVictor Cruz took in a couple of Knicks games last week while he waited for free agency to begin.
"That is the bottom line. However, it takes two to tango. We would certainly want to do everything in our power to keep him here. Ownership has indicated that. Front office has indicated that.

"That is where we are," he continued while standing in a green room. "We will do whatever we can. Obviously, we have some type of limitation. We do have other players to sign. He is a huge part [of the Giants' success] and he is very, very popular. He is a wonderful young man, he is a great story. That story should stay here."

The problem is that the two sides have not been able to work out an extension for months. During the 2012 season, Cruz was confident and optimistic that an extension would be reached after saying the structure of a deal was in place.

But the Giants and Cruz remain apart as free agency approaches. The Giants will likely tender Cruz; if they give him the highest restricted free-agent tender, they would receive a first-round pick as compensation if they chose not to match an offer from another team.

The Giants recently re-signed free agent left tackle Will Beatty to a five-year deal worth as much as $38.75 million. The team had to release veterans like Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Canty and Michael Boley to clear cap space. The Giants likely have some more cap maneuvering to do to potentially re-sign left guard Kevin Boothe and tight end Martellus Bennett.

Co-owner John Mara recently told the Newark Star-Ledger that the Giants have a spending limit on what they can do with Cruz. The team also wants to lock down wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who is entering the final year of his contract.

"It's obvious that we have had to part ways with some very, very special players and special people that have helped us win one or two championships," Coughlin said. "I would prefer not to lose anybody, but that is just the nature of the business."

"We have to wait and see," Coughlin later added when asked if the Giants will do more in free agency besides trying to keep some of their own free agents. "It is all cap-driven."

Coughlin has spoken with Cruz recently. He doesn't know if the receiver will get the contract he wants, but he does expect Cruz -- a native of Paterson, N.J. -- to stay here.

"I expect him to be a Giant, yes," Coughlin said. "He knows that we want him to be a Giant. He is well aware of that."

Coughlin launches book tour

March, 5, 2013
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It's a busy week for Tom Coughlin.

Free agency begins a week from now and teams can begin negotiations with free agents this weekend.

Also, Coughlin is launching a tour Tuesday to promote his new book, "Earn The Right To Win: How Success in Any Field Starts with Superior Preparation."

The book goes on sale Tuesday and Coughlin will appear on NBC's "Today" before later holding a book signing at the Fifth Avenue Barnes & Noble at 12:30 p.m.

He will also make appearances this week on CNN with Piers Morgan (Tuesday), "Fox & Friends" (Wednesday), "Live! with Kelly and Michael" (Wednesday) and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" (Thursday). Coughlin's tour will end with a book signing at Bookends in Ridgewood, N.J., on March 11.

Here's an excerpt from the foreword, written by Michael Strahan:

I had been playing for the New York Giants for more than a decade when Tom Coughlin was named head coach in 2004. Tom has since been recognized as one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, but at the beginning, our relationship was tough: I hated him. Hate is a strong word, but that's the way I felt. He was hard on everybody; he seemed to be overly concerned about petty things that made no difference, like being five minutes early to every meeting, wearing the same color practice jerseys, having your helmet strap buttoned up even when we weren't in practice. The players didn't think that he was treating us as professionals. He also wasn't open to any discussion about his tactics. His attitude was, This is what it is and this is what it's going to be. Period. After my first season playing for him I didn't know if I wanted to come back.

While I was making my decision, I happened to hear a Coldplay song, "Clocks." There is a line in that song that caused me to pause: "Am I part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?" I thought about that, and I had to wonder, Was I doing what I could to improve the situation or was I making it worse? I could either continue rebelling and fighting against him, or I could decide that those things were insignificant and just do my job to the best of my ability and see what happened.

I started to look at Tom Coughlin differently. What are his objectives? I wondered. What are his goals? Is he just trying to make us miserable with all these rules? Clearly his objective was to win. I thought about that and realized, Okay, we have that in common. What else do we have in common? It turned out there were a lot of things: We both liked to do things the right way, we both were hard workers, we both enjoyed being leaders, and we both loved what we were fortunate enough to be doing.

Giants' offense puts up shocking stats

December, 23, 2012
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Eli Manning Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesEli Manning, who faced heavy pressure all afternoon, takes a sack against the Ravens' D.
BALTIMORE -- The numbers are simply stunning.

A week after being shut out by the Falcons, the Giants were even worse against the Ravens on Sunday.

Yes, they put up 14 points. But half of those came during garbage time in the fourth quarter, with the score 33-7 and the outcome no longer in doubt.

The Giants had 256 yards of offense against Atlanta. Against Baltimore, they accumulated just 186 -- and 80 of those came on that final, inconsequential drive.

"We did nothing offensively," said coach Tom Coughlin.

Eli Manning completed just 14 of 28 passes, for a paltry 150 yards. Ahmad Bradshaw returned after missing last week's game with a knee injury, but had just nine carries for 39 yards. A week after having just three catches for 15 yards against the Falcons, Victor Cruz had three catches for 21 yards against the Ravens. And Hakeem Nicks was shut out, for the first time in his NFL career.

"I don’t even want to talk about it," said Nicks. When asked if it was something the defense did, Nicks said, "I don’t know what it was."

Bradshaw had a little more to say. "We just didn't come to play today," Bradshaw said. "It was a big game. This was one we needed. They wanted it more than we did."

To be fair, Manning didn't always have a lot of time to make plays. The Ravens applied lots of pressure, with three sacks and nine quarterback hits.

"We couldn't get anything going," said Manning. "The Ravens did a very good job on defense. They put a lot of pressure on me, and they gave us a lot of different looks. They made it hard for us."

Now the Giants have made it very hard for themselves, in terms of making the playoffs. They'll need to beat the Eagles next Sunday, but they'll need some other games to go their way, too.

Last year in Week 16, needing to beat the Jets to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Giants were sparked by a 99-yard touchdown by Cruz.

There were no plays like that in Week 16 this year. Just two weeks after scoring 52 points against the Saints, the Giants' offense has disintegrated.

"What has happened over the course of the last couple of weeks is very difficult to explain," said Coughlin. "We had a resounding win against New Orleans and felt real good about ourselves, and then I have no explanation as to why we're in the position that we're in."

Coach's decision: Run or pass?

December, 22, 2012
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This isn't the Baltimore defense of the past.

Entering Sunday, Baltimore is ranked 26th in yards allowed per game, 22nd in passing yards allowed and 26th in rushing yards. Injuries are a main reason why the Ravens have struggled, but the team still has plenty of solid players on defense that haven't played up to par.

Coming off a 34-0 loss, the Giants offense should be looking for a bounce-back game. The offense has been hit or miss down the stretch, alternating between good and bad weeks. In the last four weeks, the Giants have scored zero, 52, 16 and 38 points. Going by that, the Giants should put up points Sunday.

The big decision will be whether to try to beat the Ravens through the passing game or to try and get the running game going. Baltimore is susceptible to both, and obviously a balanced game is desired, but it seems the Giants tend to have success in just one area.

Running the ball could be a problem this week depending on the health of Ahmad Bradshaw. The veteran is working his way back from a knee sprain and might not be able to shoulder the full load. While David Wilson showed he can run the ball with no problem, the Giants coaching staff still does not fully trust him -- evident in last week's loss when he only received 12 carries despite being the start.

In the passing game, it just hasn't clicked this year. Manning is having a down year after having the best of his career, with just 20 touchdowns through 14 games. In his last four road games, Manning has just one touchdown pass. The Giants just have not been able to get it going on the road in the air.

It also doesn't help that Hakeem Nicks' injuries have slowed him down, and while Victor Cruz has had a great season overall, in the six games of the second half he has just 25 catches for 369 yards and two scores. In the first eight games, Cruz had 54 catches for 650 yards and seven scores. Teams have found ways to limit the damage those two have done down the backstretch.

Baltimore can be scored upon and the Giants are going to need some points to win Sunday. The question is whether they get it done with their passing offense or the rushing offense.

Has Ojomo's turn come at last?

December, 22, 2012
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Before each game, Giants general manager Jerry Reese has a brief conversation with rookie defensive end Adewale Ojomo.

"He tells me just stay ready and he asks me if I had to play today, could I?" Ojomo said on Friday. "I always tell him, 'Yeah.' Just look him in the eye and tell him 'Yeah.' Just waiting. I want to play, get out there and show what I can do."

[+] EnlargeAdewale Ojomo
Rich Schultz /Getty ImagesAdewale Ojomo
As the least experienced member of the defensive line, Ojomo is patiently waiting his turn to see the field as the season nears its end. Ojomo has only been active for one game this season, against Cleveland on Oct. 7, but he could be considered this week with veteran Justin Tuck questionable for the game.

"I'm staying ready," Ojomo said. "I'm ready to play. I can't wait to play."

Ojomo, who went undrafted out of Miami, said he usually doesn't find out if he'll dress until the last minute. He's currently listed as the sixth defensive end on the depth chart, and it's been tough to secure his spot among the 46 who dress. In the one game he did play, he was on special teams.

The defensive end was the star of the preseason, posting four sacks and earning praise from teammates and coaches. The Giants are loaded at the position, but, fearing other teams may snatch him up, kept Ojomo on their final 53-man roster.

While it's not surprising Ojomo isn't getting much playing time, he still yearns to be out there each Sunday.

"It's been tough but I gotta be patient and wait my turn," Ojomo said. "I know Jerry Reese and the coaching staff, Tom Coughlin and everybody, they know what they're doing. I just got to be patient."

Ojomo said he understands a rookie must pay his dues. He described this year as a "learning process" in which he's studied how the team operates and prepares for games. With Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka around, he said he's tried to absorb as much as he can.

Ojomo has also used his time to beef up -- since he doesn't play, he can lift weights five times a week. Ojomo said he's the strongest he's ever been. For the 6-4, 270-pound end, the season has turned into a developmental year, both physically and mentally.

It's also been like a redshirt year in college for Ojomo, with one big difference.

"(It's) like a paid redshirt year," Ojomo said. "That's what it is."

Tracy ready to step up after long wait

December, 22, 2012
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It may have taken eight weeks longer than Adrian Tracy expected, but the Giants defensive end is excited for a potential increase in playing time Sunday.

With defensive end Justin Tuck questionable for Sunday's game against Baltimore, Tracy is in line to potentially see a boost in snaps if the veteran can't go. It seemed earlier this year that Tracy would be a bigger part of the defense after his first sack against San Francisco, but that never translated.

"(I'd be) Ecstatic. This is what you want to do. You want to play. You want to get out on the field and you want to contribute to the team and do anything to help them win," Tracy said. "In San Francisco, when I got the opportunity, I was on cloud nine and if it presents itself this week, I'll have the same feeling."

Tuck did not practice all week and it's up in the air if he will be able to go. The Giants depth chart currently has Tracy as the backup to co-starters Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora on the right side, and Mathias Kiwanuka as the backup to Tuck. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said he'll have to see when asked if Tracy would be in line to see a boost in playing time.

A sixth-round pick in 2010, Tracy has bounced back and forth between linebacker and defensive end in his short tenure with the Giants. He registered the first sack of his career against San Francisco on Oct. 14, and thought he might see a tick in his playing time because of it. The team had found a combination defensive end/linebacker position for him, and he responded with a strong showing in brief action.

Eight games later, Tracy has received just 20 snaps since, including four games when the team didn't use him on defense at all. In the last three games, he's only had three defensive snaps, all of which came in the blowout win against New Orleans. The momentum that was supposed to keep Tracy on the field just hasn't materialized as the Giants enter the final two games of the season.

"There was a role that was made for me and they thought that I played well at that position and I thought that my role would increase, but in due time," Tracy said. "Things happen."

Tracy said he's been pretty much playing as a defensive end this week, and wants to be sure that there isn't a drop off if he gets to play.

"Every week I go into the game plan prepared," Tracy said. " I get my mentality right to focus on what is required of me in the different positions that I fill and that’s what you want to be is prepared at all times in case something happens where you’re called on."

Coughlin breaks down loss to Atlanta

December, 17, 2012
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Giants coach Tom Coughlin met with the media Monday and broke down the team's 34-0 loss to the Falcons on Sunday. Here are some of the points Coughlin harped on, including a rather surprising opinion about the first half of the game.

NOT BAD?: Despite being down 17-0 at the end of the first half, Coughlin wasn't that upset with what he saw.

"To be honest with you, the first half was not bad," Coughlin said.

Coughlin pinned some of the blame on himself, but the Giants couldn't execute. They had two interceptions, a missed field goal, and couldn't convert twice on fourth down. Coughlin said he went for it on fourth down because he wanted to galvanize his squad.

MISSED TACKLES: Defensive tackle Chris Canty said the Giants missed 18 tackles in the game, as they allowed Atlanta to rush for 129 yards on the day. It's a problem that has plagued the Giants in the past.

"It’s frustrating anytime. Defensively and special teams, that’s what you have to do," Coughlin said. "Yesterday, we made a specific point about it because of Michael Turner’s history and the quality of back that he is, but not only that, the size of the receivers and the power and speed in which they play. You had to swarm the ball and get them down right away without allowing them to have a chance to get going."

COMING UP SHORT: The Giants went 0-for-3 on the day in fourth-and-short situations, with David Wilson being stonewalled on 4th-and-1, and Manning throwing two incomplete passes to Victor Cruz and Kregg Lumpkin. Coughlin saw chances to grab the first down, but the Giants couldn't make the play.

"The first short-yardage run, I think we had a chance; a couple things had to happen. We had to combo-block and get off and we didn’t get up on the mike-backer," Coughlin said. "We didn’t really clean the hole out and so it was congested. He just never had a real chance of any kind of day light to squeeze through.

"The other two were passes and the one (to Cruz), there wasn’t real good separation and I don’t know that there was pressure to throw it, but it was thrown. That was an incompletion. Later on, we were trying to go in the right spot (to Lumpkin), but the ball was tipped."

NO PASS RUSH: The Giants had just one sack on the day, courtesy of Canty, and struggled to get close to Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan. The once vaunted Giants pass rush is now tied for 16th in the league with 32 sacks.

"We’re being well pass-protected. We’re not getting, and when we do get the one-on-one, we don’t seem to be able to get there," Coughlin said. "The rhythm of the throw is gone. The ball is off. Should that be the case consistently? No, of course not. We should have more pressure on the quarterback, but it has not happened for us and so we continue to strive for it to happen."

Playoff picture buoys Coughlin's spirits

December, 17, 2012
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Finding out Sunday night the Giants would make the playoffs by winning their final two games gave coach Tom Coughlin optimism on what had otherwise been a demoralizing day.

"Hope is the word. Hope is a nice word," Coughlin said of what that scenario invoked. "When you create the scenario of hope, hopefully it's going to be an uplifting thing, and when we do come back on Wednesday we realize where we are and there's a little bounce in our step and we get back to work."

The Giants lost 34-0 in Atlanta on Sunday, and no longer control their fate in the NFC East. But they will wrap up at least a wild-card berth by defeating Baltimore and Philadelphia the next two weeks. The Giants could still get in by splitting the next two games, but would need lots of help to grab a spot.

"This is an opportunity you ask for. A situation you want to be in," quarterback Eli Manning said. "We like our chances. We know what we have to do and it's right in front of us, and we have to go win this game this week."

As it stands now, the Giants would miss the playoffs, which made Coughlin skeptical at first when he was told the Giants controlled their own fate. The scenarios work out, though, to benefit the Giants, especially since NFC East rivals Washington and Dallas play each other in the final week.

According to NFL.com, there are two scenarios in which the Giants would clinch a playoff spot this week, and there is one scenario in which they could be eliminated altogether. It seems more likely that Big Blue will have to sweat it out until the final week of the year.

The Giants faced an identical scenario last year. If they beat the Jets and Dallas to close the season, they were in the playoffs as the NFC East champions. They won both games, of course, and went on to win the Super Bowl.

Several players, though, said that experience doesn't carry over to this season.

"Everything is different year to year, and though we've been in this circumstance before, we just can't rely on just kind of turning it on," defensive tackle Chris Canty said. "We have to make sure we continue to go back to work and continue to prepare. Bring more effort and more energy and focus on the details so we can put ourselves in the absolute best position for Sunday."

Canty wants to see a much better defensive effort against Baltimore.

"We need to be more physical. We're not knocking anybody back right now. We're not shedding blockers," Canty said. "We're not tackling. I think we said we had 18 missed tackles yesterday. That's not championship defense."

Drive of the Game: Giants go for it on fourth

December, 16, 2012
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Trying to pick the drive of the game from the rubble of the Giants' 34-0 loss Sunday to the Falcons is a bit like sifting wheat germ with the idea that a flake of gold might turn up when you just know there's no gold in there.

The closest approximation for New York came in the second quarter, when the Giants set up shop at their 10-yard-line courtesy of a holding call against Justin Tryon, as Atlanta punted into the end zone.

New York already trailed 17-0, but a field goal or touchdown as halftime approached would've pulled the Giants within two scores.

With 3:42 remaining in the half, Eli Manning found wide receiver Domenik Hixon for nine yards, and then after an incomplete pass connected with Hakeem Nicks for 24 yards over the middle.

Here, the Giants burned their first timeout, with 2:52 to go.
[+] EnlargeJulio Jones
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesThe Giants' D gave up a 40-yard touchdown catch to Julio Jones to start the second half and put the game out of reach.


Hixon then took a short pass to the right side and turned it into a 37-yard gain down the sideline, and it looked like the G-Men had something going.

On the last play before the two-minute warning, Kregg Lumpkin carried behind right guard for a couple yards to the Atlanta 18-yard-line.

After the stoppage, Manning found Hixon over the middle, but Atlanta reserve safety Robert McClain wrestled him down for a 7-yard gain to the Atlanta 11 when the Giants needed eight for a first down.

On third-and-1, Falcons linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas snuffed a New York sweep left as they corralled Lumpkin for no gain.

Timeout, Giants, with 1:14 to go.

A field goal would have made it a two-score game, but Lawrence Tynes had already missed a 30-yarder. This would have been a 28-yard try.

The offense stayed on the field, and Manning was flushed right. He threw on the run to wide receiver Victor Cruz. The ball was a little low, about knee height, and Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel arrived at roughly the same time to blast Cruz from behind as the ball hit the receiver's hands – perhaps a micro-second sooner.

There was no call, and the Giants' last chance to make a game of it was gone. Atlanta ran out the clock, and then went 80 yards in eight plays to start the second half. They led 24-0 after a 40-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to wide receiver Julio Jones.

Maybe that was the drive of the game; it clearly put this one out of reach.

Manning knocked off rhythm by Falcons' D

December, 16, 2012
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Eli ManningKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesEli Manning, who faced heavy pressure all afternoon, takes a sack from Falcons' Kroy Biermann.
ATLANTA -- The afternoon began poorly for Eli Manning, and it rarely got much better.

When the first pass thrown by the Giants' quarterback was picked off by the Falcons, it had an eerily familiar feel.

Asante Samuel, traded to the Falcons in the offseason from Philadelphia, intercepted three Manning passes while playing four seasons for the Eagles, so when he stepped in front of a ball intended for wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, deflected it, bobbled it, and then returned it six yards to the Giants' 16-yard-line, it wasn't anything new.

"He just jumped it. That's what he does, and he's done a number of times," Manning said. "I thought I had room, and threw it and he did a great job of jumping on the ball."

Manning went on to complete 13 of 25 passes for 161 yards and his two interceptions led to 10 Atlanta points in a dreadful 34-0 loss.

His passer rating of 38.9 was a season's worst.

The Falcons didn't waste much time converting the first pick into a 7-0 lead, and soon Manning's second pass was deflected at the line by Atlanta defensive tackle Vance Walker. Wide receiver Victor Cruz caught the ball, but for just a 4-yard gain.

Manning's third pass sailed well over Cruz's head, and before long the Giants trailed 14-0 by the end of the first quarter.

Add the second interception, when Atlanta safety Thomas DeCoud stepped in front of Manning's first pass of the second quarter (also an attempt to Hicks), mix in a few throws that weren't catchable, and the first shutout of Manning's pro career was a downright miserable experience.

"You want to be out there and play well," he said. "We know how important the game was. We wanted to go out and ... score points."

Samuel's track record against Manning has an enormous asterisk.

He dropped a would-be interception late in Super Bowl XLII while playing for the Patriots when New England led 14-10. Manning completed a long pass to David Tyree -- the Helmet Catch -- on the next play to keep alive a drive that wound up not only winning the Super Bowl for the Giants, but ending the Patriots' perfect season.

Sunday, though, Falcons coach Mike Smith credited defensive coordinator Mike Nolan -- who was the Giants' defensive coordinator from 1993-96 under former coach Dan Reeves -- for building a scheme that kept Manning off balance.

"Mike and his staff did an outstanding job," Smith said. "It was a look that Eli Manning probably hadn't seen from us."

Smith would not detail Atlanta's plan. Giants coach Tom Coughlin said, “[the Falcons] were able to do some things up front that allowed their secondary to make plays.”

The Falcons sacked Manning just once, but bothered him enough with the pass rush and apparently confused him frequently with coverages in the secondary.

Samuel got it all started.

"I'm accustomed to playing the Giants ... and that experience helped me make plays," said the quicksilver cornerback. "I guess [the Eagles] got tired of me picking [Manning] off so they sent me somewhere else to make a better team over here. Shout out to coach [Andy] Reid. I love ya, Coach."

Nicks feels good, ready for Atlanta

December, 14, 2012
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Victor Cruz and Hakeem NicksDebby Wong/US PresswireHakeem Nicks says he and Victor Cruz aren't focused on which team has the best wide receiver duo.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As he's been hampered by foot and knee issues this season, Hakeem Nicks has continually said he's feeling better each week. Even this week, as Nicks sat out a day to manage his injuries, the wide receiver believes he's on the right path.

"I feel real good actually right now," Nicks said Friday. "This week ... I had a good practice today, yesterday as well. The legs are feeling pretty good, so I'm looking forward to playing."

Coming into the week, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said the team was going to have to slow it down with Nicks. The receiver missed Wednesday before having limited practices on Thursday and Friday. Nicks said he's been doing the reps in practice he needs to be on the same page with quarterback Eli Manning, and believes the slowed down schedule has been beneficial.

"I feel good and I'm ready to play," Nicks said. "Big game. We need it. Focused on playing team ball and get the job done."

This week's game is being billed as the battle of the receivers as Atlanta will send out Roddy White and Julio Jones and the Giants will counter with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. Earlier this year, White said Atlanta had the best duo, even calling out Cruz for being a slot receiver. Nicks isn't concerning himself with that talk as the Giants prepare for the important game.

"That isn't anything we're focusing on," Nicks said. "We're focusing on playing team ball and doing what we've got to do to get this win for our team and our organization."

Penalties play giant role in loss

December, 4, 2012
12/04/12
1:50
AM ET
LANDOVER, Md. -- Making your way through the visiting locker room early Tuesday morning, you kept hearing the same word, over and over again:

Penalties.

Many Giants players, and coach Tom Coughlin, blamed the loss in large part on the Giants' sloppiness -- and they were right. Big Blue committed nine penalties, and several of them came in critical spots.

Here's a look at the key miscues:

• The Giants marched down the field on their first offensive drive of the game, but on 1st-and-10 from the Redskins' 23-yard line, right tackle Sean Locklear was flagged for a false start, which halted the Giants' momentum. The Giants weren't able to get another first down, and had to settle for a field goal.

• The Giants again advanced into Redskins territory on their second drive, but on 1st-and-10 from the Washington 30, Manning was charged with intentional grounding. New York again failed to pick up another first down, and this time Lawrence Tynes missed a 43-yard field goal attempt.

• After the Redskins scored a touchdown to go ahead 17-16 early in the fourth quarter, rookie David Wilson received the ensuing kickoff and raced all the way to midfield, setting the Giants up with excellent field position. But the kick return was called back, thanks to a holding penalty by reserve offensive lineman Jim Cordle. The Giants were instead forced to start that drive at their own 8-yard line, and went three-and-out.

• On the Giants' second drive of the fourth quarter, after forcing a Redskins punt, they faced a 3rd-and-10 from their own 43-yard line with 4:42 remaining. Manning connected with tight end Martellus Bennett for an 11-yard reception and a first down, in Washington territory -- but the play was nullified by a holding call on left tackle Will Beatty. That stuck the Giants with a 3rd-and-20, they did not convert, and that ended up being the Giants' last offensive possession of the game.

The Giants entered the game with the second-fewest penalties in the NFL (48). The Redskins, on the other hand, had the third-most (93).

But you wouldn't have guessed that from Monday night.

Coughlin: Monday is 'most important game'

November, 29, 2012
11/29/12
6:11
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Monday night's game in Washington won't be just another divisional matchup for the Giants.

"The stage has been set," head coach Tom Coughlin said. "Every game is extremely important. This is the most important game we've played all year long this Monday night."

The showdown will go a long way in determining which team is going to walk away with the NFC East. With a win, the Giants could sweep the Redskins and put themselves three games up in the division with just four remaining. A loss opens up the division.

"We are looking at this as this is the biggest game of the year right now," Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks said. "We are still taking it one game at at time, and we got to grind through it and expect big things."

With a two-game lead on Washington and Dallas, the Giants can put Washington behind them by sweeping their NFC East rivals. If Dallas loses to Philadelphia, the Giants would then be up three games on both opponents entering the final four games. Even if the Cowboys win, the Giants would still be up two games on them.

Things would become dicey for the Giants with a loss, as they face a tough schedule to end the year. If the Redskins and Cowboys win, the Giants are suddenly just a game up in the division and will have to likely pull off some road upsets to secure their road to the playoffs.

In the final four weeks, the Giants host New Orleans and Philadelphia and travel to playoff-bound Atlanta and Baltimore. Washington's only game left against a team currently projected for the playoffs is a home game against Baltimore, while Dallas' only one is a home game against Pittsburgh.

"For both teams it's a very big game. It’s a divisional game," Coughlin said. "It's at this point of the year they're coming off two divisional wins. We're anxious to get back into the division, hopefully, to do well, but it's a very important game for both teams."

The Giants have notoriously made things tough on themselves in the second halves of seasons, including last year's loss to Washington before going on their Super Bowl run. While they're just 1-2 in the second half this year, wide receiver Victor Cruz sees a difference in the Giants as the season nears its end.

"I just see a different energy. I feel like we're a different team right now, as opposed to last year where we found our stride when our backs were really against the wall," Cruz said. "I feel like we're finding our stride now and luckily we're at a good point in the division and we have a pretty solid record right now, and we can only go up from here. We just got to keep our foot on the gas."

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