"We expected more out of the Giants. This is a must-win game for the Giants. If they don't win this, their season is slowly slipping away." – Mike Ditka, previewing the crucial Giants-Chargers contest.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – No less an authority than Mike Ditka pointed out that New York really, really needed to knock off the Chargers. They needed to end their three-game losing streak – and they needed to enter their weekend off on a high. Well, it wasn't to be.
Instead, New York lost its fourth consecutive game after a 5-0 start, their first four-game losing streak since Nov. 12-Dec. 3, 2006. Adding to the ignominy is the fact that this was the Giants' first one-point loss in front of their home fans since a 10-9 loss to Philadelphia on Oct. 22, 2001.
Tom Coughlin had no choice but to play the positive card after this one, even if he looked like he wanted to rip out someone's throat during his post-game press conference.
"I just told the team we have seven games to go, we're 5-4, obviously we have to come back," he said. "If we play with the kind of energy we did, and we upgrade our skill level and we eliminate the penalties, we got our turnovers under control, then I think we can come back and be a good football team in the second half of the season."
That sure is a lot of ‘ifs.' For all that had gone right, wrong and otherwise in this one, it came down to the defense. Sure it would have been nice if Chris Snee didn't get called for holding and the Giants had punched it in to effectively end the ballgame. Of course it would have been helpful had the Jeff Feagles/Lawrence Tynes duo been able to at least attempt that field goal that ended New York's opening drive. But none of that went New York's way.
Now it was all on the defense. The same defense that had been shredded in three straight games, but had played well enough against San Diego that Coughlin was comfortable with that late six-point lead. No way was his ‘D' going to let Philip Rivers and Co. march all the way down the field and take this must-win contest right from their clutches. Right?
Yeah, not so much.
Mathias Kiwanuka said the defense was ready to redeem itself, ready to play Mariano Rivera in this most-important of football games.
"The sense was we were going to close out the game," Kiwanuka said calmly in a Giants locker room absent most of its key players – at least by the time members of the media were invited in. "Our heads were high; our confidence was up."
But in the end, they just couldn't get it done.
"They definitely made a lot more plays, especially when it counted," Kiwi continued in the perfect synopsis of this most crushing of defeats.
Of course the Giants can bounce back from this. But who in their right mind thought they'd ever lose four straight? Not after a blistering start to the 2009 season that had many calling for a second Super Bowl title in three seasons.
Instead, the defense failed them in the worst way. One stop was all they needed, and they couldn't make it. Rivers looked like he was running a two-minute drill in practice the way he calmly led his offense down the field 80 yards in eight plays, the defense defenseless to stop him.
So now the Giants have no choice but to enter their bye weekend with nothing but bad thoughts as a result of some pretty awful results.
"It would probably be better if we played next week, to be honest with you," Coughlin said. "But, we will have to deal with this. That is kind of the way it is. We played 13 straight games (including preseason) and it is a good time to have a bye. It's a nice spot for it. We would have certainly enjoyed it a whole lot more had it been a win."
And likely felt a lot less like their once so-promising season was slowly slipping away.
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