Commentary

Shame? There's no place like Dome

Giants embarrassed in Falcons' home, yet insist their 'confidence is not shaken'

Updated: December 16, 2012, 9:45 PM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

ATLANTA -- After the worst shellacking a defending Super Bowl champion has ever taken, Justin Tuck sat at his locker stall, staring at his folded hands, trying to figure out what had just happened.

"What is the girl in 'The Wizard of Oz'?" Tuck asked. "Dorothy? I wish I had some red shoes and I can wish myself right to next Sunday, because it can't get here quick enough."

The New York Giants aren't in the Canyon of Heroes anymore. In fact, they probably wished they were in Kansas -- or anywhere but Atlanta's Georgia Dome on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeTom Coughlin
AP Photo/John Amis"Where was it?" Tom Coughlin asked after the game, referring to any semblance of consistency.

The Atlanta Falcons, a team that barely scored two points against them in last season's wild-card game, punched the Giants in the mouth harder than Juan Manuel Marquez did to poor Manny Pacquiao.

The only good thing the Giants can take from this 34-0 debacle is that unlike what Marquez did to Pac-Man, the Falcons didn't knock the Giants' playoff hopes out cold.

The Giants (8-6) fell flat on their face and lost sole possession of the NFC East lead. But they still are playoff bound if they win their final two games, at Baltimore and against Philadelphia at home.

While the Giants opened the door and invited the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys to claim the division, Tom Coughlin's team controls its own destiny, in terms of the wild card, due to its conference record.

It will be no easy task, winning in Baltimore and beating Philadelphia in what could be Andy Reid's final game. But the Giants have been down this road before.

Last year, after losing a listless 23-10 game to the Redskins in Week 15, the Giants went into "all in" mode and beat the Jets and Cowboys to win the NFC East and make the playoffs.

So even though Tuck didn't hesitate for a second in saying this was the worst he has seen the Giants in a regular-season game, the team's defensive captain has seen how his team can bounce off the mat and get back up.

"We have had crappy games like this and came right back out and played like Super Bowl champions," Tuck said. "No, my confidence is not shaken."

The Giants did look shocked and embarrassed in the locker room afterward. How could they not be? One week after dropping 52 points on the Saints, the Giants suffered their worst shutout loss since a 35-0 defeat to the Cowboys in 1995. According to ESPN Stats & Information, this beatdown was also the worst shutout loss by a defending Super Bowl champion.

In a game that had playoff implications and was a test against the NFC's best team, the defending champs looked like a practice squad.

Eli Manning threw the first of two interceptions -- on the second play of the game -- to Asante Samuel at the Giants' 22-yard-line. Four plays later, Michael Turner ran through the Giants' defense to start the romp.

Lawrence Tynes, who was the best kicker in football for much of this season, missed a 30-yard field goal. Atlanta scored on its next drive and the Georgia Dome was in a frenzy.

The electric David Wilson, starting in place of the injured Ahmad Bradshaw, had no 50-yard explosions in his pocket. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz were held to a combined six catches for 55 yards -- a total either of them has been known to reach in a half, let alone combined for an entire game.

The Giants went for it three times on fourth-and-short in Atlanta territory and were stopped each time.

Defensively, the Giants were slowly carved up by Matt Ryan, who completed 23 of 28 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns.

Rookie Jayron Hosley, starting for the injured Prince Amukamara, struggled, tweaking his ankle and giving up one of Julio Jones' two touchdowns on a 40-yard strike.

"That's not Giants football," defensive end/linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. "That is embarrassing not just to us, but to whoever wore a Giants decal on their hat or shirt or anything like that."

The Giants were outclassed in every phase of the game.

"I don't want to say shocked, but where was it?" Coughlin asked of his team's consistency.

For weeks now, the Giants have played their little game of taking one step forward, two steps back as if they were daring people to doubt that they can repeat last year's feat.

Well, the Giants have done it again. Just like last year, here they are, staring at the likelihood of having to win their final two games to make the playoffs.

And this time, there's no Rex Ryan to provoke them the week before the game of their season.

"I've been here too long. … I've seen this too many times before to have any doubt in my mind," Osi Umenyiora said of bouncing back. "I know it can be done. But talking about it isn't going to do nothing. We have to go out there and get it done."

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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