Tom Coughlin opened his news conference with those two small words that are fraught with such large meaning. It was not fun to endure Sunday’s night’s desultory 17-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in MetLife Stadium. Not fun to fall to 6-4 and into a first place tie in the NFC East with the Dallas Cowboys. Not fun for the players and coaches to watch the tape and dissect the breakdowns on offense, defense and special teams. And not fun for the players to discuss what happened, not only in their customary day-after meeting, but for those who stayed in the locker room and met with the media.
“It’s an opportunity lost,” defensive tackle Chris Canty said. “It’s an opportunity to put that team behind us. It’s an opportunity to secure first place in our division, at home with our fans, great atmosphere. You couldn’t ask for a better atmosphere. You couldn’t ask for a better evening to play football. We just went out there and we didn’t execute. We didn’t match their intensity. We got punched in the mouth and we didn’t do anything about it.”
But perhaps the most salient point to take away from a hard day of introspection is this: Today was bleak, but this team still has the capability and opportunity to celebrate in the future. Six games remain for the Giants, beginning Monday night in New Orleans.
“Everything that we still wanted to do at the start of this season is right there in front of us,” Canty said. “Everything we wanted to do we still have the opportunity to do. We control our own destiny. It starts with this week of preparation.”
“We still have three divisional games left with Washington and two against Dallas,” defensive end Justin Tuck said. “We’re still where we want to be, but we can’t afford to play like we did last night.”
That’s a given. Eleven of the Giants’ 13 offensive possessions ended in either a turnover or a punt. They rushed for only 29 yards and averaged 1.7 yards a carry. An interception ended one drive and an Eli Manning fumble with 1:17 remaining effectively extinguished the Giants’ final chance to pull out a victory. Numbers like those prevented the Giants from capitalizing on a defensive effort that saw them intercept three passes and hold the Eagles to just 17 points.
But the defense was also culpable in the defeat. The unit registered just one sack and – more remarkably – one hit on substitute starting quarterback Vince Young. With the score tied in the fourth quarter, the Eagles crafted an 18-play, 80-yard drive that enabled them to hold the ball for 8:51. Philadelphia converted six third-down opportunities on the drive, including Young’s game-winning eight-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper.
“We have to get off the field, period, point blank,” defensive lineman Dave Tollefson said. “They converted six third downs and were 53 percent on the night. That’s not us. No matter what the scenario is, what they’re running and what we’re running, we as a defense have to step up and give ourselves a chance in that game. Ninety percent of the game it was great. But if you watch that (second-to-) last drive, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.”
The flavor was no more palatable after the final offensive possession. Manning’s 47-yard pass to Victor Cruz gave the Giants a first down at the Eagles’ 21 with 1:25 left. The Giants fully expected to tie the score as a precursor to pulling out the victory in overtime. But on the next play, defensive end Jason Babin separated Manning from the ball, which was recovered by Derek Landri.
“The frustration here now is to get three interceptions and hold somebody to 17 points and not win,” Coughlin said. “I can stand up here and pontificate all I want, that is very difficult to understand. That’s what we preach for all of the time. We did win the turnover battle, we tied the fourth quarter and we held them to 17 points, a team that’s known to score whatever number of points – just put 34 on Dallas a couple of weeks ago. And for us to not win that game, that is even further stuck in my craw because of the way we played offensively. And yet we still should’ve tied the score and put it into overtime – sitting there with a 1:25 to go.”
“It seems like we always wait until the fourth quarter before we start playing our best football,” Manning said. “In eight or nine games, that has been the case. We go in the fourth quarter and we are down or it is a close game and we have to fight back. Five of them we were able to win and three of them we got into the red zone basically and something happened. We were stopped, you get a fumble or a tipped ball or a guy slips. It is the little things. We still feel that in crunch time we move the ball and we make big plays. We just have to play with more urgency throughout the game.”
That sense of urgency seemed to be missing last night.
“Considering what they did to us here last year (rallying from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit to win),” Tuck said, “considering Sunday Night Football, what’s at stake, having an opportunity to go 7-3 - I have no words to describe, I guess, the disappointment of us not coming out and being absolutely on fire to play a football game.”
“We just didn’t play well as a football team. We did some great things throughout the game, but to win in this league against opponents like that, you have to start fast and you have to play the game 100 percent. I think we played it probably 90 percent, especially on defense. … We didn’t have the fire I thought we should have. But we played hard.”
Coughlin confirmed that and expressed his belief that the final six weeks will be better.
“It is within the power of our team to correct this situation,” Coughlin said. “This is the same team that went to New England a few weeks ago (and won, 24-20). There are not any changes there and that is what I pointed out to them today. It is the same football team that went into a place that won 20 straight football games and won. The ability to do that is certainly here.”
But something was simmering in the players’ collective psyche today, a feeling perhaps best expressed by safety Antrel Rolle. He is not immune to making outrageous statements, but Rolle displayed a quiet intensity when analyzing what went wrong against the Eagles.
“I don’t feel like we had the attitude that we could go out there and dominate yesterday,” Rolle said. “We started flat, throughout the game we were flat, ended flat. For a team trying to get to where we need to get to, it’s unacceptable at the end of the day.
“We’re too calm out there. Football is not a game for you to be calm. It’s a game of attitude, it’s a game of passion, it’s a game of emotion. I just feel like we were too calm.”
The Eagles played with an edge throughout the game. Linebacker Brian Rolle and defensive lineman Trevor Laws hit Manning late and from behind after the quarterback threw a first-quarter interception. Cullen Jenkins tackled D.J. Ware so fiercely the running back suffered a concussion. DeSean Jackson drew a 15-yard taunting penalty for flipping the football at Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
“There are a lot of things in that game that irritated me,” Antrel Rolle said. “I think you all know me as a player and sometimes I think I have to calm myself down because I let my emotions get the best of me at times, but there were a lot of things that rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t like the way we responded to it. You play within the lines and you play within the rules but you don’t take (crap) from nobody at the end of the day. That is my attitude. You don’t take (crap) from anybody and last night, I feel like we took a little bit. I don’t know what is going to change or how it is going to change but in order for us to get where we want to go, things are going to have to change.
“I think guys are out there flying around and we’re playing extremely hard. I don’t think we played to the standards that we could. I don’t think we played with as much toughness as I know we can play with. I don’t see that same intensity as we had when we played the Patriots. … We’ll get better at it. We’re going to find a way.”
With a tie atop the division and only six games remaining, they need to find it quickly.
*Brandon Jacobs led the Giants with 21 rushing yards on 12 carries, but Coughlin said the low output was not the running back’s fault.
“(It was) pretty much the blocking,” Coughlin said. “But it’s not just the line now. You have a tight end, you have a fullback and you have some wide receivers involved too. And as you know, one of the things that might happen on offense in football, you might block six of them and one of them is free and that guy makes the hit. They did a good job last night. They tackled well. We didn’t get a lot of yardage after first contact, anything of that nature. Like I said, they were a desperate team and they certainly did play like it.”
*Cornerback Prince Amukamara, the Giants’ first-round draft choice, had five solo tackles, an interception and two passes defensed in his NFL debut.
“I think the kid played well,” Coughlin said. “I think he did alright. We didn’t expect for him to play that long and he did play quite extensively. I thought he did an admirable job for the first time that he stepped on the field. Remember, he’s the guy that chased (LeSean) McCoy down even at the very last play, out of bounds on the two yard-line. I give him a lot of credit for that as well.”
*The Giants today activated defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, who was suspended last month after testing positive for performance-enhancing substances. He missed four games while serving the suspension. Kennedy returned to practice last week, but the Giants had until today to decide whether to activate or release him. To make room on the roster, the Giants waived defensive tackle Dwayne Hendricks.
*Coughlin said cornerback Michael Coe suffered a shoulder injury that will require surgery and end his season. Coe played in all 10 games as a reserve defensive back (where he had four tackles) and on special teams (six tackles).
Tight end Jake Ballard has an elbow injury that Coughlin believes should not keep him off the field.
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and linebacker Michael Boley (hamstring) both missed the game and it’s unknown if they will play against the Saints.
“We’re going to see where they’re at either tomorrow or Wednesday in terms of running,” Coughlin said. “Seeing if they can practice, to what extent can they practice.
“We’ve waited for Ahmad, and rightfully so. I don’t know that (the doctors) are just going to give us the green light. When they do and they say he can play and he can take a hit, he’s going to be sore for the rest of the season, but that he’ll be able to come back and play the following week, then we’ll take that into consideration as well.”