Loss Puts Giants on Downslide

The New York Giants might have had a game to spare, but they've now lost two of their last three and go on the road. The Vikings' convincing upset may have exposed some weaknesses in the Giants' personnel.

The Giants, burdened with an unexpectedly brutal 41-17 defeat at the hands of the ordinary Minnesota Vikings, now trudge halfway across the country to Chicago for next Sunday's newly-critical encounter with the Bears.

They are now 7-4, having lost two of their last three games after a six-game winning streak, and while they are still well situated for a wild-card playoff berth, the lasting effects of this blowout might become more than just troublesome.

Quarterback Eli Manning had the worst day of his four-year NFL career, throwing four interceptions — three of which were returned for touchdowns — and while he completed 21 of 49 pass attempts for 273 yards, his passer rating was a dismal 33.8.

The trouble with losing this home game is there are now two consecutive games on the road, in Chicago and then in Philadelphia, and the once "locked in" playoff record, while still reasonably safe, cannot take two more defeats.

The Giants may get running back Brandon Jacobs (hamstring) back next week against the Bears. Their leading rusher was injured last week in Detroit (the first of three consecutive NFC North opponents), and not only was he on the game inactive list but so was his usual backup, Derrick Ward, who missed his fourth straight game.

So it was Reuben Droughns who started (and gained 46 yards on 15 carries), and the little help he was given came from rookie Ahmad Bradshaw (four carries, 29 yards). It is possible that both Jacobs and Ward (ankle, groin) will return next week.

But the guy who won't be coming back until next season, and whose absence was obviously felt, is strong-side linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, who suffered a fractured fibula last week in Detroit on the second play of the game when defensive end Osi Umenyiora rolled over on him while they were chasing running back Kevin Jones.

Reggie Torbor filled in for Kiwanuka, had four tackles and didn't do anything spectacular, and the loss of positive pass coverage (Kiwanuka moved from linebacker to end and then to tackle on occasions) also hampered the Giants' overall defensive effort.

Beating the Bears now becomes mandatory. If the Giants had a game to spare, this was it. With five games remaining, they must win at least three to insure that post-season appearance — and they need a far better performance from Manning to make that happen.

Manning's four interceptions represented his career high for a single game, and the three touchdowns they produced was a first-time event in Giants history.

"I have no excuses," Manning said. "I could say there were tipped balls and, well, that's part of the game. It's on me. We had a good game plan and we didn't perform. The Vikings did a great job, made the plays and deserved to win."


  • ORT Kareem McKenzie was taken off the field in the second half for x-rays, but his injury turned out to be a simple leg contusion.

  • Head coach Tom Coughlin, after the game, was flat-out stunned. "I never dreamed I would be here talking about this kind of game with you people," he said. "I thought we'd play a lot better than we did."

  • RB Reuben Droughns, who gained 46 yards on 15 carries, was complimentary to the Vikings' defense, which entered the game ranked first in the NFL in run defense. "It seemed everywhere I went there were two guys closing a hole," he said.

  • TE Jeremy Shockey was politically correct when asked about QB Eli Manning's horrendous performance. "He's a tough guy and he's a great quarterback," said Shockey, who caught four passes for 44 yards. "He'll bounce back. Everybody has a bad game and the great ones come back with a good one the next time out."

  • WR Plaxico Burress, after three weeks of almost under-the-radar anonymity, had one of his better games, catching seven passes for 93 yards and a 6-yard touchdown. It was his ninth touchdown of the season, and his seven catches (as well as TE Jeremy Shockey's four) tied the pair for team leadership in receiving with 52 grabs each.

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