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The Giants, now 2-1 after absorbing their first loss Sunday night in San Diego, return home to face the Rams in a game that suddenly becomes important for them to win. Why so? Because of how badly they played in the 45-23 defeat, and that goes especially for the defense.

While the Rams won't offer anything like running back LaDainian Tomlinson, they will bring their dual threat of Stephen Jackson and Marshall Faulk, and that, with the passing of Marc Bulger to Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, should be enough to make a good defense flinch.

And right now, the Giants do not have a good defense. "I think it's fair to say that we didn't do anything right," a bitterly disappointed coach Tom Coughlin said after the loss to the Chargers. "Yes, we had a short week and we had to fly to the Coast, but so what? Lots of teams have to do that. We have a lot of work to do and not much time to do it."

The sole bright spot for the team Sunday appeared to be young quarterback Eli Manning, who bore the brunt of the fans' wrath for refusing to sign with San Diego two years ago as the NFL's first overall draft choice.

"It was about what I expected," he said, after his 24-for-41, 352-yard performance that included two touchdowns and no interceptions. "They were loud, and that was fine. They didn't throw anything at me -- and that was fine, too."

With a victory Sunday, the Giants would enter their bye week with a 3-1 record. A defeat would be harmful in many ways.


The Giants made a game of it for the first half and in fact were trailing just 21-20 when the third quarter began. But then the Chargers went on a 21-3 run and rolled to a 45-23 victory, their first win of the season.

The Giants allowed 192 yards rushing by LaDainian Tomlinson on 21 carries. He scored three TDs and averaged better than 9 yards a carry. He also caught six passes for 28 yards and threw a 26-yard option pass touchdown to Keenan McCardell.

The Giants played the first quarter without star receiver Plaxico Burress, who was late for two meetings during the week. The punishment was for him to sit out the first quarter, but it must be wondered whether coach Tom Coughlin hurt the team more than the receiver by keeping him out.


--WR Plaxico Burress was late for two meetings last week and admitted it. He was punished by missing the start and the entire first quarter at San Diego. "I tried to help as much as I could from the sideline," he said. "I wasn't that late, but I'll have to do better, I guess." QB Eli Manning was mildly critical of Burress. "We just have to do better," he said. "We've got to get things in order off the field, too."

--TE Jeremy Shockey caught six passes for 101 yards against San Diego, and was the go-to guy for QB Eli Manning in the first half. "It was a good game for me but we lost, so I don't care about it," he said. "When you win, it's a good game for everybody."

--LT Luke Petitgout was surprised that the Giants didn't do better in the running game at San Diego. They managed only 86 yards in total, and star RB Tiki Barber had only 15 carries for 60 yards. "I guess when you pass so much," he said, "you tend not to run the ball much. But we were blocking very well."

--WR Amani Toomer was impressed by Eli Manning, even in defeat at San Diego. "He is very poised and he knows what he's doing," he said. "He takes control of the huddle like a veteran."

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