Concern Abounds for Skidding Giants

IRVING, Texas – The word spilled out of Tom Coughlin's mouth more than once, expressing a feeling that was clearly evident from the stunned look on his face.

Concern.

"It's not a good time to be playing that way,'' Coughlin said. "I'm very concerned. It was just two weeks ago we were talking about playing our best.''

The Cowboys were ripe for the picking but the Giants weren't able to grab hold. As a result, the Cowboys, dysfunctional as they may be, are alive and the Giants are sagging.

The last visit ever for the Giants to Texas Stadium turned into a trip to forget. They were battered physically and woefully ineffective offensively in a 20-8 loss that allowed the controversy-ridden Cowboys to save their season and leave the Giants to wonder what is becoming of theirs.

"We're in the playoffs,'' Antonio Pierce said, "but we don't want to go into the playoffs like this.''

This was a chance for the NFC East champion Giants to clinch a bye in the first round and along the way critically wound the Cowboys' playoff hopes. Neither happened the way the Giants envisioned, as their offense – for so long the highest-scoring outfit in the league – has come unglued and suddenly cannot find the way into the end zone, with one touchdown in the past two games. The sum total against the Cowboys: Two John Carney field goals and one safety. Eli Manning, under siege, was sacked a season-high eight times, three by DeMarcus Ware.

"Unacceptable,'' Manning said.

Asked if he was concerned, Manning added "Not concerned, just disappointed, a little frustrated.''

For the first time this season, the Giants (11-3) have lost back-to-back games and it begs the question: Did they peak too soon?

This sets up a NFC showdown Sunday at Giants Stadium, as the Panthers (11-3) have pulled even with the Giants, making up two games the past two weeks. The winner clinches the No. 1 seed.

The offensive problems were widespread. They couldn't run the ball without Brandon Jacobs in uniform (72 rushing yards) and their renowned offensive line was pummeled, unable to keep Manning on his feet.

"Use pretty much every word in the book,'' guard Chris Snee said. "Disappointing, embarrassing, throw whatever word you want in there.''

The meltdown has taken hold after Plaxico Burress was suspended for the remainder of the season. Jacobs has a bad left knee. Do the Giants have enough?

"It's got to be enough,'' said Manning, who threw two interceptions. "This is our team, this is who we've got.''

Asked about the correlation between the loss of Burress and the scoring woes, Coughlin said "It would be nice for me to say that is not the case but basically you have to have the evidence.''

However, a defiant Justin Tuck wasn't about to admit anything.

"I'll piggyback what [Cowboys coach] Wade Phillips said last year,'' Tuck said. "The best team didn't win.''

Extra points

This was the first time the Giants were held without a touchdown since the infamous 23-0 playoff loss to the Panthers in the 2005 playoffs…

Reports have surfaced that Raiders owner Al Davis may be interested in Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride as the next head coach in Oakland.


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