The Giants are going to play their last game on Sunday, and Jim Fassel is going to coach his last game for the Giants.
And basically, that is all noteworthy after the injury-devastated Giants lost to the Dallas Cowboys (and their former head coach, Bill Parcells), 19-3, on Sunday.
The loss dropped their record to 4-11, guaranteeing them a position no worse than seventh in the first round (and it could improve to as high as fourth). The other side of the coin is that the Giants officially put the Cowboys back in the playoffs after a four-year hiatus, and watching Parcells get doused with the Gatorade canister, a hokey tradition begun when he was with the Giants, was probably additionally depressing.
Now Fassel will prepare the team once more. "I told them I don't care how many games we have left as a team or how many I have left as the coach," he said. "I am still the coach and we still have a game to play, so I warned them we would practice hard this week. I understand the injury business but the players we are using just have to get better."
The Giants had no offense at all. They gained 10 first downs, a season low. They gained 213 total net yards, three more than their low point of the season. The defense allowed a lukewarm Dallas offense 326 total net yards, and Parcells was quick to criticize his offense after the game. "We didn't do much," he said. "I guess we did just enough, though. I told them after the game that we have a lot to work on, a lot to improve, if we hope to do anything in the tournament."
Parcells also offered praise for the Giants' front seven. "That's a tough unit," he said. "They played hard all day and Jim and his staff had them well prepared."
Defensive end Michael Strahan had three sacks, increasing his season total to 17, and temporarily, at least, he leads the NFL in that category. The Cowboys gained just 104 yards on the ground, 36 from Troy Hambrick, 34 from Richie Anderson and 26 from quarterback Quincy Carter.
"That Strahan is a good player," Parcells said. "Jim Fassel is a good coach, and I told him before the game that he just needs to be careful when he evaluates offers. He's a winning coach with a proven record. He had that team in the playoffs. He took them to a Super Bowl. He'll get a job. He just has to be sure what it is and if he really wants it."
For Fassel, the road is about to end. For several of the Giants, poor performances during the season cannot be washed away by a season finale. It is possible, then, that many of the Giants, including surprising names, are also going to play their final game next Sunday against Carolina.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--TE Jeremy Shockey (partially torn knee ligaments) missed the game in Dallas. He wasn't supposed to play but he had planned on attending. Rather, he flew to Miami for a consultation with an orthopedic specialist to decide whether he will require knee surgery.
--QB Jesse Palmer, the replacement for the injured Kerry Collins, got his third straight game and didn't look good. "Remember, the offensive line is just put together with paper clips and rubber bands," said one of the players. "It isn't a fair test."
--RB Tiki Barber carried 13 times for 47 yards but did fumble again. However, a review of his fumble, which could have resulted in a TD for Dallas since he did it coming out of the end zone, decided it was caused by ground contact. Regardless, he fumbles entirely too much and this could lead the team to seek another RB next season.
--TE Visanthe Shiancoe started and caught three passes for 20 yards. The third round rookie now has eight receptions for the season and his primary duty, blocking, seems not to have improved since training camp.
--CB Ike Charlton, signed just two weeks ago, started at LCB and recorded three tackles. The other starting corner was rookie Frank Walker and the SS was Johnnie Harris. Only FS Omar Stoutmire was a starter when the season started.
--LDE Michael Strahan had three sacks, running his season total to 17 and at least temporarily leading the league in that category. His three were the only one managed by the Giants.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. COWBOYS
PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- QB Jesse Palmer, making his third straight start for the injured Kerry Collins, still shows obvious signs of inexperience and a lack of playing time. He completed 18 of 32 passes for 190 yards and threw neither a TD nor an interception. He did have a long gain of 40 yards to WR Amani Toomer, who caught five for 66 on the day. RB Tiki Barber also had five catches (for 55 yards) and two rookies, WR David Tyree and TE Visanthe Shiancoe, had three each. Tyree also dropped a critical third-down pass that would have kept a drive going in the third quarter. The O-line blocking was erratic at best; the only veteran starter left is center Chris Bober.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- Once again, most of the blame must be given to the O-line, which started two pure rookies, RT Jeffrey Hatch and RG David Diehl, a FA undrafted rookie at LG, Scott Peters, and a second-year FA, Ian Allen, at LT. RB Tiki Barber managed to gain 47 yards in 13 carries; the team had 22 carries for 54 yards, and that counted a five-yard end around by WR Amani Toomer. Dorsey Levens, another of the disappointing UFA signings, carries six times for four yards. The line also surrendered five sacks, as Palmer was kept off balance and often scrambling in the face of the Cowboys' rush.
PASS DEFENSE: C -- Perhaps a large part of the "success" achieved was the fact that the Cowboys' passing game was ordinary at best. Still, 240 yards were gained, including a game-opening 64-yarder from QB Quincy Carter to WR Joey Galloway that burned the rookie CB, Frank Walker. The front seven maintained some pressure on the Dallas backfield, and LDE Michael Strahan had three sacks, running his NFL-leading total to 17.
RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Cowboys gained only 104 yards in 31 carries, but some of the fault is that their go-to RB is Troy Hambrick, and he isn't spectacular. The Giants' LBs were active and often effective. Weak-side LB Dhani Jones had 11 tackles, all solos; MLB Mike Barrow had nine. DT Keith Hamilton and Strahan had four each. It was a down day for SSLB Brandon Short, who had just one tackle.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D - Brian Mitchell returned one punt for seven yards and two KOs for 33 yards. Jeff Feagles punted eight times for a 43.3 average (35.6 net) and K Matt Bryant's only FG attempt, from 45 yards, was good. It was also the only points scored by the Giants all game.
COACHING: C -- Outgoing head coach Jim Fassel had his team focused and prepared, the opposite of the previous week when they lost to New Orleans, 45-7. The offense was limited in what it could attempt, but the intensity was there. Defensively, coordinator Johnnie Lynn, soon to be out of a job along with the rest of the staff, still insisted on too many three-rusher formations and that only allowed Cowboy QB Quincy Carter ample time to wait for his receivers to get open.
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