Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Players & Grades

Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Players & Grades

The big story for the Giants is getting to be an old one. Quarterback Eli Manning is simply not performing well, his progress curve has leveled out and there is some genuine concern among the coaches and front office types that he might need to sit down for at least part of a game.

Not so, at least not in his mind.

"I am not losing confidence in myself or my game," he said after the team's 26-10 clobbering by Jacksonville, a Monday night massacre that might have been much worse had two touchdowns not been taken away -- one by a Jaguars' fumble in the end zone (by running back Fred Taylor); the other by a penalty on cornerback Rashean Mathis after a Manning fumble had been returned 16 yards for an apparent score by defensive end Paul Spicer.

"We have to get back and find a way to play good football again," Manning added. The Giants, who started out 1-2 but then won five in a row to vault into first place in the NFC East, are now on a two-game skid, mired at 6-4 and tied with Dallas for the division lead. Their early-season victory over the Cowboys serves as a temporary tie-breaker.

"Eli is frustrated and he is looking for people to help him make big plays," said coach Tom Coughlin, who returned to Jacksonville for the first time since being dismissed after eight years as the first head coach in the expansion team's history. "He cannot do it all by himself. I am concerned that we are not making the plays that allow for production. Tonight, without a running game (the Giants gained a paltry 25 net yards rushing), we probably threw the ball more than we should have and we didn't have the results we needed."

Manning threw 41 times and completed just 19. He over-threw, under-threw and threw ill-advisedly, at times challenging triple coverage. At one point late in the game he had wide receiver Plaxico Burress all alone deep down the right sideline and lofted a ball that was way too short -- intercepted by rookie linebacker Clint Ingram.

"My fault," Manning said. "The game was not a good one for me. I have to get better, we have to practice harder and we have to find a way out of this situation."

The 6-4 Giants now travel to meet the Tennessee Titans, a game they should win, but then return home to meet Dallas in a division showdown. They still have Carolina, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Washington on the schedule.

NOTES, QUOTES

-- RB Tiki Barber only gained 27 yards in 10 carries but he kept alive his streak of leading the Giants in rushing for a 73rd consecutive game. "We didn't run enough because we couldn't," he said, "and that is not acceptable." Barber went into the game with 971 yards and came out with 998.

-- QB Eli Manning, for the sixth consecutive game, finished with a QB rating of less than 75. Monday night it was a rocky 51.9 -- and the bad news is that it wasn't his lowest of the season. That was the 28.7 last week vs. Chicago.

-- OLT Bob Whitfield simply couldn't handle it again, for the third straight week. He filled in for ORT Kareem McKenzie three weeks ago when that starter had an acute migraine, and for the last two weeks has been the replacement for OLT Luke Petitgout (broken leg). He had two holding calls and a false start.

-- TE Jeremy Shockey caught eight passes for 82 yards, a significant improvement from the week before when he had just one catch for 15 yards vs. Chicago. "We needed to get him back in the passing offense," said coach Tom Coughlin.

-- WR Tim Carter (one catch, 26 yards) hasn't done much despite his size and speed. He was the Giants' second-round pick five years ago from Auburn and despite all those skills it begins to look as though he might not make it to another season. He dropped a clear touchdown pass Monday night and that has happened far too frequently.

-- WR Plaxico Burress (five for 65, one TD) failed to defend against an interception and on another play didn't hold on when a long pass landed right in his arms. In spite of all his skills there is talk that he won't be back when his contract expires.

-- OLG David Diehl may be moved to OLT to replace Luke Petitgout (and fill-in Bob Whitfield), which would move reserve O-lineman Rich Seubert to left guard.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL REPORT CARD VS. JAGUARS

PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- QB Eli Manning was dangerously erratic, completing 19 of 41 passes for 230 yards, two picks and a TD. He was sacked once and finished with a QB rating of 51.9, which is not good at all. The blocking was fair at best, and he often had to throw before he was ready. It is becoming apparent that the passing game missed veteran WR Amani Toomer, who underwent knee surgery and is out for the season, and not just for his receiving skills. TE Jeremy Shockey, who had eight catches two weeks ago and just one last week vs. Chicago, caught seven for 82 yards but was not able to lift the team by merely his accomplishments. He also missed two blocks on rushing plays. Veteran OT Bob Whitfield, filling in for the injured LT Luke Petitgout, had his third straight sub-par performance and a change might have to be made, such as moving LG David Diehl to LT and inserting reserve Rich Seubert at LG.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- RB Tiki Barber gained 27 yards in 10 carries and was all the positive yardage the Giants had. QB Eli Manning had minus-2 yards and RB Brandon Jacobs carried three times for zero yardage. The blocking for the run was poor, the play selection rivaled the blocking and overall there were no adjustments that might have moved the running plays inside. Barber, after the game, complained about the offense in general, calling it "unacceptable," and adding that "we couldn't run the ball and we didn't attempt to run the ball." The Giants called for only 13 running plays all night, eschewing the run that has worked to effectively for them even when the score was close.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- Jaguars QB David Garrard completed 19 of 32 passes for 249 yards. He was neither sacked nor intercepted. He managed an offense that converted nine of 18 third-down situations, often with pin-point passing to wide open receivers on third-and-long. The Giants, playing without their Pro Bowl DEs Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan chose not to blitz most of the night, allowing rookie Mathias Kiwanuka and converted William Joseph to handle the DE work with LCB Corey Webster coming up with a third straight clinker, playing too soft on receivers and then missing tackles.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- The Jaguars gained 165 yards rushing in 43 time-consuming carries, and with RB Fred Taylor gaining 79 yards in 24 trips to the line, the ball was in Jacksonville possession far longer than it should have been. The Jaguars held a 40:10 to 19:41 edge in time of possession. Eight of the Jaguars' 21 first downs came on the ground and added to the total of 414 net offensive yards registered against the suddenly weak (and injury rocked) Giants' defensive unit.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- K Jay Feely made his only field-goal attempt, a 40-yarder that gave the Giants, ironically, a 3-0 early lead. P Jeff Feagles did his part, kicking the ball six times for a 40.2 average (net 35.7). Giants head coach Tom Coughlin moved Chad Morton off the KO return team, leaving him to take back punts. Derrick Ward had four KO returns for 79 yards. But the kick coverage teams were sporadic -- Maurice Jones-Drew had two KO returns for 38 yards, while Alvin Pearman took four punts back for 27 yards. Jaguars K Josh Scobee was four-for-four in FGs, the longest a 48-yarder.

COACHING: D-minus -- There was no pass rush, and that isn't only the fault of the injury jinx. Coordinator Tim Lewis simply didn't factor in anything that might have confused the Jags' offense and QB David Garrard. The offensive play-calling was predictable and ineffective, and no changes were seen there even after it became apparent that the Jaguars were shutting down the Giants' running game and forcing QB Eli Manning to win the game by himself. Coach Tom Coughlin, who oversees everything and has final approval of each and every decision, must bear some of the brunt of the blame, too.

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