- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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This week we are taking a look at five issues that prevented the New York Giants from making it back to the playoffs one season after winning the Super Bowl.
In 2011, the Giants won three of their last four to get into the playoffs and they never lost again. But the chemistry, clutch play and motivation the Giants had during their Super Bowl run disappeared in 2012, when they were routed in two of their last three games to miss the playoffs.
"Once the inconsistency started to happen, you could kind of see something was missing," wide receiver Victor Cruz said on ESPN Radio on Tuesday. "Whether it be injury, whether it be something vocal, whether it be leadership, I don't know what it was, but you just could feel something was missing throughout the season."
Let's take a look at some missing intangibles:
Chemistry: When the going got tough in 2011 and the Giants were on the brink, the players united into an unstoppable force that won six straight do-or-die games.
When the Giants needed to win at least one road game either at Atlanta or Baltimore this season to make the playoffs, they barely showed up.
Was it possible the Giants missed some key personalities in the locker room that made the chemistry so solid in 2011? The Giants didn't bring back vocal veterans Brandon Jacobs, Deon Grant and Dave Tollefson, who were loved by teammates.
Jacobs and Grant, in particular, were a big part of the leadership circle during the Super Bowl run. The Giants knew this, but they moved on and, understandably wanting to give younger players an opportunity while also getting more athletic. But by replacing Jacobs, Grant, Tollefson, Aaron Ross and Mario Manningham with younger players, the Giants lost valuable experience.
Clutch play: In games decided by seven points or less, the Giants went 3-4 this season. In '11, they went 7-3 in those situations, including the postseason when they won the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl by a combined seven points.
Luck always plays a factor, and the Giants had a little when they beat Dallas by the length of Dez Bryant's fingertips and edged Washington with a late 77-yard touchdown.
But they got unlucky in a 19-17 loss at Philadelphia when they were a tad too aggressive late, drawing an offensive pass interference flag that pushed them out of field goal range. And they were badly outplayed down the stretch in the fourth quarters of physical losses to the Steelers and Redskins.
Those three losses –- any one of which could have gotten the Giants into the playoffs –- were the type of games they pulled out in '11.
Complacency: One of the cards the Giants love to play -- and typically play well -- is us-against-the-world. But that never seemed to come into play, since nobody really doubted what the Giants were capable of doing. They also didn't have Tom Coughlin's job status as a motivating factor, since he is now a two-time Super Bowl champion.
"You don't know what you're going to get from us," Jason Pierre-Paul said toward the end of the season. "We're not consistent until somebody's going to get fired or our backs are against the wall or it's either all or nothing."
But the Giants failed to respond at Atlanta and Baltimore. Going into those games, the Giants said all the right things, but you still never sensed the feeling of urgency that they had when they were 7-7 the season before and had to win out.
How to improve: When you are talking about intangibles, it comes from within.
The veterans who won it all in 2011 have to lead the way in 2013. All the Giants need to play better, especially Eli Manning, Justin Tuck, Webster, Pierre-Paul and Hakeem Nicks, who needs to get healthier. Those are just some of the main guys who drive the team when they are playing at their best.
The Giants have all offseason to figure out how to regain the championship intangibles they lost.
"To be the Super Bowl champion and not be in the playoffs," Coughlin said on WFAN last week. "If that doesn't bring you down to Earth and create the kind of humility that goes along with getting your nose back to the grindstone, I don't know what does."
Tell us what intangible you thought was missing and what needs to happen next season below.
2dBy Dan Graziano