Friday, September 23, 2011
Giants ready for revenge versus Eagles
By Ohm Youngmisuk
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As DeSean Jackson darted through the New York Giants' special-teams unit and completed a comeback for the ages last December, Mathias Kiwanuka remembers looking on from the sideline in stunned disbelief.
"It was very surreal," the linebacker said. "It was like the crowd got silent. Time stopped for a second. This was not supposed to happen and we will make sure it doesn't happen again. But in that moment, it was definitely unbelievable."
Jackson's 65-yard punt return not only silenced the 81,223 people in attendance, but it ultimately kept the Giants from making any noise in the postseason.
There were plenty of reasons the Giants missed the playoffs for the second straight year in 2010. But the Philadelphia Eagles are the biggest reason the Giants didn't win the NFC East and have a chance to make a playoff run.
In both of their meetings last year, the Giants held fourth-quarter leads only to blow them in the final minutes.
That's why when the Giants visit the Eagles on Sunday, they have unfinished business to tend to against Michael Vick & Co.
"Last year will linger with me until I die," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "Everybody in that locker room feels as though we owe the Eagles a little something and that is going to be a big game for us."
One of the prevailing goals set by coach Tom Coughlin and his staff this season is to finish. Not only do the Giants want to finish games strong, but they want to avoid the late-season collapses that Coughlin has seen more of than he can stomach.
"That is what we got to work on, finishing," safety Antrel Rolle said. "That is going to be our No. 1 point of emphasis this week."
Unfortunately for Coughlin, his players are having difficulty finishing games healthy. The Giants lost wide receiver Domenik Hixon this week to a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury. Hixon will be the ninth Giant placed on injured reserve so far this season, and he's the fifth to suffer a season-ending ACL/knee injury.
Due to so many injuries on defense, the Giants have been trying to compensate for the losses with players attempting to do more than they typically do.
The Giants have struggled against the pass in the first two weeks of the season, as they try to make up for not having cornerback Terrell Thomas and middle linebacker Jonathan Goff. The Giants rank 24th in the NFL against the pass so far, and have watched Rex Grossman and Sam Bradford both pass for more than 300 yards against them.
The Giants have been forced to start rookie Greg Jones at middle linebacker, and cornerback Aaron Ross has struggled replacing Thomas and was benched briefly against the St. Louis Rams on Monday night.
"We got a lot of guys in new places," Tuck said. "We haven't jelled yet. A lot of guys are playing different spots and that slows down some guys. Your thought process goes to me being a captain, being the player that I am, I got to make plays all over the football field. Then you can neglect what your actual job is.
"If you don't have the confidence in guys behind you, you still have to try to overcome for that and try to make plays all over the football field," Tuck continued. "And by doing that, you hurt the talent that you have at your own position, but they are doing a good job and the more time we have with [Jones] back there and if we can keep this unit healthy, you will see us grow a lot as a football team."
Facing Vick (who was cleared to practice on Thursday after suffering a concussion in this past week's game) and the speedy Eagles with a rookie middle linebacker and a depleted secondary could be lethal.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, though, is looking forward to the challenge. Last year, his defense was able to limit Vick for the majority of their two meetings.
During the first game, a 27-17 loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia, Vick passed for 258 yards and no touchdowns while rushing for just 34 yards and one score.
The Giants blitzed Vick often, sending players like Rolle at him from different angles. In his two games against the Giants, Vick was sacked a total of six times and fumbled twice, losing one.
But the Giants, clinging to a 17-16 lead, failed to stop LeSean McCoy on a crucial 4th-and-1 on which McCoy took a pitch and scored on a 50-yard touchdown with 4:25 remaining.
During the 38-31 comeback the Eagles trailed 24-3, and Vick didn't throw a touchdown until 3:56 remaining in the third quarter. He then helped erase a 31-10 deficit in the final eight minutes by throwing for two more touchdowns and running for another as Fewell's defense disintegrated.
"There were a number of opportunities we had to tackle Vick or McCoy or Jackson or whomever and get off the field," Fewell said. "The memories are so vivid that I don't want to recall them because I'm looking forward to this next opportunity."
On Sunday, Fewell hopes to finish what his defensive unit started last year and bottle up Vick -- if, as expected, he plays -- for an entire game.
It might be the only way Fewell, Tuck and the Giants can start getting over last season's collapse to the Eagles.
"I've watched that game a number of times," Fewell said. "My memories are that we didn't finish the game. We didn't take care of business. I'd like to see us finish what we've started."