(Long Island, N.Y.) Heading into the 2009 season, many of the experts were picking the New York Giants as a Super Bowl favorite in the NFC. They made these people look like geniuses by winning their first five games and little changed following a 48-27 defeat to New Orleans in Week 6. The high-octane Saints were undefeated themselves and leaving the Big Easy with an ‘L’ was not a season-breaker. But what has taken place since them may just be.
Two of the next three losses came at home and both were winnable games. Sandwiched between Arizona and San Diego was a blowout loss in Philadelphia, which may come back to haunt Big Blue if divisional tiebreakers come into play to decide a playoff berth.
After the bye week, things do not get any easier for Tom Coughlin and company. Of the seven remaining games on their schedule, only two are against sub-.500 teams (at Washington and at home versus Carolina). The rest of the contests are at Atlanta, Denver and Minnesota while the Cowboys and Eagles make the trip to East Rutherford, New Jersey.
The best thing for the G-Men is a week off following a month’s worth of losing. The field boss has a few areas that need to be addressed and he will use the extra time to do exactly just that. “Unfortunately, we already know that our red zone defense and our green zone offense are not very effective,” said Coughlin. “I think that is pretty much where we start. We have other areas, obviously, that we are concerned about, but that is a good spot to start.”
When Steve Spagnuolo left the staff to become head coach of the St. Louis Rams, many questioned if Bill Sheridan could step into his shoes. The personnel is there so now that the results have not been satisfactory, it is easy to point fingers at the defensive coordinator. After training camp, the preseason and nine weeks of the regular season, tweaking may be the only option left to improve the unit’s performance.
“You can’t make dramatic changes but you definitely can modify it because we do that every week anyway, even with our base stuff out in the middle of the field based on what the offenses do,” Sheridan commented. “You are not going to make a whole full-fledged overhaul and just dump what you have been doing because you invested a lot of work and you taught your players how to play the coverage.”
However Sheridan may feel about it, the chunks of yards the defense has given up – including the two-minute drive directed by Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to pull out a last second win – is alarming. The Giants have always been known as a defense-first team and seeing 40+ points on the wrong end of the scoreboard is just simply not acceptable. But all is not lost.
This is far from the first time that the Giants have had to bounce back after a point in their season seemed bleak. That is something encouraging to Coughlin. “I believe that we have the players,” he said. “We have the staff. We have the ‘know how.’ Historically it can be done.”
If the Giants do well against such quality opponents in the coming weeks, they will deserve to make the postseason. It may be a difficult path to Miami but you have to start somewhere.