First Down

In an extremely brief post-game address to his club, Jim Fassel expressed the sentiment that he was extremely embarrassed, and that his players should be as well. Then he wondered if his troops were trying to get him fired. <BR><BR>

Another performance like this and Fassel might not have to wonder any more. Wellington Mara cares about nothing more than his beloved fans. Of course he wants to win as much as anyone, but Mara can't stand for his fans to be disappointed. Against the Falcons, everyone having anything to do with the Giants organization was disappointed – and embarrassed. Heck, the writers are embarrassed to have to cover this club on a daily basis.

The 'Fire Fassel' chants that erupted briefly late in the third quarter were the first ever recorded at Giants Stadium. This is beyond disappointment for Giants fans; this is downright disgust.

"We haven't played very well at home," Fassel said. "We have had three ugly losses at home, ugly, ugly losses. I can understand the fans being upset. I am upset, I don't like it. I knew that was what I was going to get when I came here if I didn't do well. That is just the nature of the beast. If you don't like it, if it is too hard for you to handle then don't ever come here and don't coach this team ever, okay?" Those might be words of advice for New York's next boss. At this rate, it's going to be real hard for New York to make the playoffs, in turn making it extremely difficult for Fassel to remain at the Giants' helm.

The penalties. The mental mistakes. The nonexistent run defense. The fumbles. The interceptions. The general consensus that they just didn't care enough.

"This is embarrassing," Dhani Jones said. "This is very disappointing. It's not the way we should play football. It's one of those games where if you think for two seconds that they won't beat you that is when it sneaks up on you; it kills any of your chances you have of winning. We had a lot of penalties today, but we have to learn to fight through them." Kerry Collins tried to fight through the fact that he was seemingly hurried on every play, but was unable to. Against the Jets, Collins did well out of the empty backfield. No such luck against Atlanta. The Falcons often rushed only three defensive linemen, but brought all kinds of other defensive packages that the Giants had no answer for whatsoever.

"Yeah, it's really embarrassing," Collins said. "I'm embarrassed the way that I played, I'm embarrassed the way we played offensively; you know, turnovers, penalties and everything we did wrong today. It's embarrassing but we're going to have to come back next week."

Come back? Sure. Return to the race in the NFC East, where they currently reside in last place? Likely not.

Back-to-back trips to Philadelphia and Tampa Bay are up next, followed by tough home games against the Bills and Redskins. New York has shrunk its margin of error to a microscopic level.

All because they didn't come to play against an Atlanta team that quite simply wanted it more than they did.

"This is about as bad as it gets when you don't go out there and compete and let them do whatever they want, it's embarrassing," Michael Strahan said. "We control our own destiny and right now it doesn't seem we want to go in the right direction. We did not perform at all today."

Like Strahan, Micheal Barrow had no answers at all for New York's laughable effort. "It's embarrassing because I know we can play better than that," he said. "I'm sick and tired of always playing to the level of our opponent. They came in here and beat us – without Michael Vick – for the second year in a row. That's embarrassing."

"First of all this is embarrassing," Cornelius Griffin said. "We did move the ball well at times, we just couldn't capitalize on the opportunities that we had when we had a chance to. We didn't play good in each phase of the game. We just have to come back hard and make up our mind what we are going to do. It's time to put up or shut up. We didn't play smart football; we didn't play good at all. We can't come in with self pity. We have to figure out what the problems are and get them corrected. We have seven games left and we have to make a difference."

It's probably already too late. Jim Fassel has battled and battled, always rising when his back was to the wall. It appears he might finally be out of lives.

The players refused to blame Fassel. We know he doesn't play the game. But the fact that for the umpteenth time his team wasn't ready to play falls at his feet. Through no fault of his own, it seems like his players no longer get the message.

Something has to change. And if Mara hears the fans calling for Fassel's head the next time New York plays at Giants Stadium on Nov. 30, it might be the straw that broke the coach's back.

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