The Giants essentially lost the game when they were unable to gain one measly yard in four tries late in the first half. Trailing 14-3, Tiki Barber's 13-yard run followed David Tyree's 48-yard grab and moved New York to the Philadelphia 1-yard line.
"That was very damaging," Jim Fassel said. "You have to do things that give you hope."
On first down, Dorsey Levens ran left end and was stuffed for no gain. On second down Kerry Collins had Marcellus Rivers open in the end zone, but didn't see him until Eagles S Brian Dawkins moved into position to break up the pass.
On third down, Levens again tried to score from behind left tackle, and again was stuffed for no gain. After a timeout, the best play Jim Fassel could call was a pitch to Barber wide right. You know the rest. Eagles LB Carlos Emmons swallowed up Barber, and the Giants' chances with it.
"We weren't really moving them off the line real well," Fassel said. "I thought by putting Tiki in there that they'd think pass."
They didn't. And once again, the Eagles were simply better than the Giants. They simply wanted it more.
Barber said hats off to Emmons, who turned in the game's biggest defensive play.
"I give credit to him," Barber said. "He played it wide enough. It would have been easy for him to think we were just going to come straight ahead."
"We called the defense and slanted people to the outside and they did an outside run," Emmons said. "It was a good call by (defensive coordinator) Jim Johnson. The guys on the field made great plays and it ended up being a big stop for us."
The Giants say it didn't take all that much wind out of their sails. If only that was the case.
"It doesn't kill you, but it steals any chance of momentum we might have had," Barber said.
"I really don't feel like it (hurt)," Kerry Collins said, "because we came out and we got the ball right back. It felt like we were operating. I didn't feel like anyone's head was hanging or that we lost focus. Obviously we would have all liked to have scored there but I thought the guys put it behind them and moved on."
The Eagles noticed how deflating it was for Big Blue.
"That was big," Eagles CB Lito Sheppard said. "It was right before the half. They got some breaks on that drive. It was a big stand and a backbone breaker for them when they couldn't get into the end zone."
"On the fourth down play, forcing Tiki outside and the guys ran to the football," Philly CB Troy Vincent said. "That was huge. We went into halftime 14-3 instead of 14-10. That was the turning point of the game."
Say what they will, the Giants lost the game right then and there. They could have jumped right back into contention and had all the confidence in the world at halftime. Instead, for the umpteenth time, the league's second-ranked offense came up empty when it really mattered.
If only they awarded points for play between the 20s. If so, the Giants would be headed toward a first-round bye.
* * *
The Giants say they were prepared to battle the Eagles. They were up and ready to save their season once again. Then how come no one was all that upset after the game?
Perhaps, fans, because these Giants are just already resigned to their fate.
Jim Fassel, never one known to go away quietly, was clearly defeated after the game. He's apparently run out of answers. Can't find the right buttons to push anymore.
Michael Strahan was as cordial with the media as could be. For the second consecutive week, Strahan answered question after question as to why the Giants' season was going down the tubes, including blaming himself for not taking more of an active role in motivating the team.
"I'm disappointed because I guess I didn't grab the reins enough," Strahan said.
That's very noble, Michael. But that's not your job.
That job falls squarely on Fassel, the man who used the dreaded "Q" word and had to be chided by a handful of veterans who 'suggested' that saying the word "quit" around a bunch of young players might not have been the coach's best choice of words.
The problem is Fassel's out of words. He's out of answers. After the game, a member of the New York media asked Fassel if he thought his club could still make the playoffs. He said, "I don't know."
The Jim Fassel the Giants have rallied around time and again never would have said "I don't know."
The club is mathematically alive, so there's still a chance. There's always a chance.
That is unless said coach and players have already thrown in the towel.
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