Coughlin sticks with his young gun

<b>BALTIMORE -</b> It didn't take Tom Coughlin but a few moments after the game to determine that he was indeed going to stick with Eli Manning as his starting quarterback.

Unfortunately for Coughlin and Manning, the rookie appears to be getting worse each week, instead of better. His four-for-18, 27-yard performance in Baltimore was far worse than anyone could have ever imagined.

"The young quarterback obviously struggled today," Coughlin said. "I gave him every opportunity to work his way through it. It was obvious at one point that it wasn't going to happen today so that's why we made the change. Kurt (Warner) played very well in his role at the end of the game. Eli is still the starting quarterback."

That Warner was able to come into the game and complete six-of-nine passes for 127 yards and a touchdown in two series, while all Manning was able to do for close to four full quarters is gain 27 yards had many Giants shaking their heads.

"Coach wants us to win a game, but he's not giving us the best quarterback to do so," one starter said.

"It seems like Eli needs to take a little break and we should let Kurt play," another vet added.

Manning believes that he doesn't need any time off.

"I don't think so," he said. "I watched the first nine games, and I learned best by getting out there. Even if I have another day like this, you're still getting live action. Even if you're learning the hard way, you're still learning out there."

It's obvious that young Manning has plenty to learn. He made many poor passes and bad decisions as he was picked off twice, narrowly averted disaster on a couple other occasions and lost a fumble.

"I don't think I can pin it down to one thing," he said. "I didn't play well, I missed some throws, I made some bad decisions."

Warner entered and immediately lit it up, hitting Ike Hilliard for a nine-yard gain, connecting with Amani Toomer on a 41-yard catch-and-run and finding Jeremy Shockey for 22 yards to set up Tiki Barber's one-yard TD run.

Yet, Coughlin is going to stick with Manning, and felt strongly enough about it that he told his players in the locker room immediately after the game.

"I think it's important for everyone to know that that's the way it is," he said. "I made a decision. It is my responsibility."

If he were anyone other than Kurt Warner you'd be surprised that the backup also supported the decision.

"I think it was the right move," Warner said. "The decision was made four weeks back to go with Eli. This guy is the quarterback of the future for the New York Giants, period, no question about that. You're going to have some of these kinds of games as you try and grow and learn in this league."

But it's obvious that not everyone is willing to be patient while Manning works out the kinks; some players believe that they wouldn't be on a six-game losing streak if Warner were still at the helm.

While some players were privately grumbling, others went out of their way to back their young signal-caller.

"He's going to be a good quarterback, and he's going to make some good things happen," Toomer said. "He just has to get his feet wet. I think he's coming along."

"Just keep your head up," Barber said he told Manning. "You're going to go through growing pains. It sucks and it's going to suck for all of us. Just keep your head up and keep battling. Just keep getting that experience and eventually it'll click."

Game Notes

My bad: Several players were shocked when Coughlin came into the locker room at halftime and said, "That one's on me." Coughlin was referring to his foolish decision to throw the ball with only 14 seconds to play in the first half from the Giants 33-yard line.

Of course, Manning was picked off by Ed Reed and the subsequent Reed/Deion Sanders return set the Ravens up for a 44-yard Matt Stover field goal as the first half expired. That stretched Baltimore's lead to 27-7 at the break.

Coughlin doesn't often take the blame when things go awry. However, some players that were angered by the foolish call said they felt better after their coach put it on his shoulders.

Tiki's fine: The Giants survived a real scare when Barber limped off the field very late in the contest. After the game, he said his ankle was fine.

"Luke (Petitgout) just stepped on me. It's a pretty vicious lick, but I'm OK," he said.

Murphy's Law: Barrett Green's comically ridiculous season continues. He suited up a week after taking a cheap shot to his knee in Washington, but had to leave the game in the first period with the same problem. Fellow backer Nick Greisen left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury, the third time this season that he's banged up the same ankle.

Record chase: With 55 rushing yards against the Ravens, Barber is 278 yards shy of Joe Morris' single-season team record of 1,516 yards, set in 1986. He must average 93 yards in the final three games to break the record.

With 6,647 career yards, Barber is 250 yards shy of Rodney Hampton's franchise record of 6,897. He must average 84 yards a game for the rest of the season to break the mark this year.

Take two: The Giants and Ravens have played just one previous regular season game, a 24-23 Baltimore victory on Sept. 14, 1997. The teams also met in Super Bowl XXXV, a 34-7 Ravens triumph. The teams have faced each other in a preseason game each of the last nine seasons. Baltimore holds a 6-3 series lead, including a 27-17 victory on Sept. 2.

The contest was the Giants' first regular season game in Baltimore since they defeated the Colts, 37-28, on Sept. 15, 1963. Y.A Tittle threw three touchdown passes and Alex Webster rushed for 60 yards and another score.

MIA: As expected, rookie RG Chris Snee missed his second straight game with a glandular infection below his jaw. S Gibril Wilson (neck), DT Norman Hand (groin) and WR Jamaar Taylor (quad) were also sidelined. The rest of New York's inactives were RB Mike Cloud, LB T.J. Hollowell, DT Davern Williams and Jesse Palmer, the club's third QB.

Word of the day: Coughlin used the word 'repugnant' to describe Big Blue's brutal beating in Baltimore.

Next up: Prepare yourself for an invasion from Roethlisburgh. The 12-1 Steelers and their hot rookie QB come calling Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

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