Inside Slant, Battles, Quotes, Injuries, Personnel

Just days before their home game against the St. Louis Rams, some of the Giants' offensive players were being critical, but not of the defense that allowed 485 total yards of offense to the San Diego Chargers, who won Sunday night's game 45-23.

There were mixed emotions as to the wisdom of coach Tom Coughlin's decision to keep star wide receiver Plaxico Burress out of the first quarter because he was minutes late for two meetings last week.

"When you go out onto the field to start a game," said tight end Jeremy Shockey, "you want to have all your weapons with you. When you're trying to win, you'd like to have your best chances to win, you know?"

Then a stricken look suddenly appeared on his face and he quickly added: "But that happened already. It's over. I don't want to talk about it any more."

Burress was kept from starting and didn't play a down in the first quarter, and many have questioned the ultra-rigid stance Coughlin installed when he took over a year ago. In the opening series of the game, for instance, the Giants had to "settle" for a field goal from the San Diego 5-yard line when the coach opted not to try for the touchdown or at least a first down on fourth-and-1.

Had Burress been in the game, he might have been sent to the back corner of the end zone and the pass from Eli Manning might have been a cloud-scraper, allowing Burress to leap for it over one of the short cornerbacks.

"We had to come away with points," said Coughlin. "When you go all the way across the country and get that close, it is discouraging not to come away with any points at all." The truth is that to many of the players the ultra-conservative call was equally discouraging. One veteran with tons of years in his resume just shook his head.

"I have always though that a hard-line policy like that can often be a double-edged sword," he said. "He (Coughlin) couldn't do anything else once he established that rule, but there could have been other ways to deal with the issue."

In any case, the game was lost. The defense was abysmal and there were more tackles and assignments missed than in the first two games combined.

Equally puzzling was Coughlin's sudden aversion to using the 6-4, 260-pound running back, rookie Brandon Jacobs. "If you are having trouble running the ball," said another veteran, "then why not try to blast your way through?"

Jacobs got exactly one carry - on third-and-1 from the Chargers' 5-yard line the play before the opening series field goal - and he failed to get it. Could that be why he didn't play again except on special teams?


37th meeting. The Rams lead this series 25-11. It is a series that has been maintained through the Rams' three home cities - Cleveland, Los Angeles and St. Louis. Perhaps the most memorable meeting took place in the divisional playoffs of 1989, when in overtime Rams WR Flipper Anderson caught the winning TD pass and just kept running downfield, through the end zone and into the tunnel to the locker rooms, waving at the fans in Giants Stadium.


--Coach Tom Coughlin made a couple of on-the-spot changes Sunday night, including the bench of SLB Reggie Torbor for Nick Greisen. But it wasn't just that. Greisen moved to the weak side, forcing the switch back to the strong side by veteran Carlos Emmons. "It felt good to get on the field," said Greisen. "I don't know if that's my future (to start at weak side). That's out of my hands. But you are always competing for a job, that's what you do on a pro football team, you compete."

--Greisen came to the Giants as a MLB and was the backup there until moving to the weak side last season, when he filled in for the injured Barrett Green. It is possible that he will keep the job, at least temporarily, as Torbor might have proven himself to be somewhat green as a starter. He is only in his second season.

--Asked whether he planned other lineup changes on the defensive unit, Coughlin responded: with one of the usual quotes from the Coach's Handbook: "I am not going to announce anything at this point."

--QB Eli Manning was far less critical of the decision to keep WR Plaxico Burress off the field in the first quarter for punitive reasons. "We have got to clean up our behavior off the field, too," he said. "All of this is the coach's decision. It isn't up to any of the players to question it."

--Manning, despite the heat generated by thousands of fans who will not forgive him for refusing to play for San Diego when drafted last year, turned in his finest game to date, completing 24 of 41 passes for 352 yards and two TDs. "It doesn't matter, we didn't win the game," he said.

--The rumored move Coughlin was said to be contemplating, the benching of LCB Will Allen for rookie Corey Webster, didn't happen last week because Webster was sidelined with a strained quad muscle. So will it happen this week? "Corey will practice and we'll see how much he can do," said Coughlin, who once again, however, refused to say anything definitive about the rumor.

--During the telecast on ESPN last Sunday night, you probably saw broadcaster Joe Theismann interviewing Giants' defensive coordinator Tim Lewis on the air. The assistants aren't allowed to speak to the media, but apparently it's all right during a game. "You'd think he wouldn't have wanted to talk," said one defensive guy, "considering how badly we were making him look, you know?"

BY THE NUMBERS: For a team with a 2-1 record and the most points in the league, try this number - 31 - and see if it makes any sense. That's where the Giants rank in total defense in the NFL, 31st.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It wouldn't have been a bad idea to burn the film." - Giants coach Tom Coughlin, referring to the evidence of the team's 45-23 loss to San Diego.


The Rams, this week's Giants' opponent, use a 4-3 defensive front, and that should be a relief to the offense. Last week it was the San Diego 3-4 and there was precious little rushing production all night. The Giants gained only 73 yards rushing (not counting 13 by QB Eli Manning), not a compatible companion with the 352 yards Manning amassed in the air.

"If you can't run the ball," said one of the offensive tackles, "then you should try to use the short sideline passes. That can be just as effective as a run, and there is almost no danger when you throw those."

This week there might be some lineup changes defensively, although head coach Tom Coughlin will not make any such announcement. But if he does make changes, look for the benching of LCB Will Allen (for rookie Corey Webster), SLB Reggie Torbor (for Nick Greisen) and possibly SS Gibril Wilson (for Shaun Williams). PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--WLB Barrett Green, who hasn't played yet this season, may get "a few snaps," according to coach Tom Coughlin, if he practices well and without morning-after soreness. Green had surgery to repair both knee and ankle injuries during the off-season and subsequently lost his starting job to Carlos Emmons, who moved over from SLB.

--QB Eli Manning, according to Coughlin, played "an outstanding game" Sunday night in San Diego. "He stood up to incredible pressure and he gave the team a great feeling of confidence," he said. "His game was outstanding."

--TE Jeremy Shockey caught six passes for 102 yards against the Chargers, giving him 13 for 194 on the season. "I don't deal with statistics and numbers any more," said the frequently loose cannon. "I only care about winning."

--RB Tiki Barber, who gained 1,518 yards last season, is well below that average through three games. He has gained 205 yards (in 50 carries), still a respectable 4.1 per carry average, but the total represents less than 65 yards per game. He has also caught only four passes (for 71 yards) through three games and last season had 52 (for 578 yards).

--After three games, the Giants have five interceptions, but no one has more than one. Moreover, there were no picks vs. the Chargers.

GAME PLAN: The Giants won their first two games by using an announced plan to stop the other team's running game, and it was certainly tried last Sunday night in San Diego. The futility of the effort, however, resulted in 192 yards and three TDs by Chargers' RB LaDainian Tomlinson - "arguably the best running back in the league," according to Coughlin.

So the formula will be back in effect Sunday vs. the Rams, to stop their duo of Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk -- and allow the hot-handed QB Marc Bulger to beat them? Not likely. Bulger has completed 73 of 113 passes for 870 yards and six TDs, including a whopping 23 for 358 yards and a pair of TDs to WR Torry Holt. "Somewhere in between stopping the run and the pass," says Coughlin, "means we would like to keep the ball a longer time and not let that offense get onto the field."


--Giants TE Jeremy Shockey will get to see just how tough St. Louis SS Adam Archuleta really is. He has caught passes against most defenses, but few have as physical a SS as the 6-1, 225-pound Archuleta.

--Giants RT Kareem McKenzie, a 335-pound road grader, will get to play against the quicker St. Louis LDE Leonard Little, a known sack artist (who doesn't have one yet this season, by the way). But backup RDE Brandon Green has four sacks and on sure-pass situations he'll get to find out just how well Giants' OLT Luke Petitgout can fight him off.

--Giants QB Eli Manning vs. the middle of the Rams' defense, notably RDT Jimmy Kennedy, LDT Ryan Pickett and MLB Chris Claiborne. He wants to establish a passing game with TE Jeremy Shockey, both to complete those passes down the middle of the field but to free up WR Plaxico Burress as well. St. Louis CBs DeJuan Groce and Travis Fisher, each 5-10, will have a shot at defending the 6-5 Burress.

INJURY IMPACT: RCB Will Peterson (back) did not practice Wednesday and is listed as questionable. So, too, is CB Corey Webster (quad), perhaps the replacement at LCB for Will Allen. PR-RB Chad Morton (hamstring) is also questionable. WLB Barrett Green (knee, ankle) is questionable and hasn't played yet this season.

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