By Ernie Palladino
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Some families will exchange presents tonight, Christmas Eve.
The NFL gives most of its gifts on Sundays. The Giants received theirs shortly after kickoff. When the Cowboys fell 34-31 in overtime to the Saints, it assured the Giants of continued playoff life heading into next week's regular-season final against Philadelphia.
The Cowboys' present can't be looked upon as some ugly tie or sweater, to be returned at the first convenience. In fact, the way the Giants played Sunday, it was more than they deserved. Way more.
For the second consecutive week, the Giants no-showed, this time in a 33-14 loss to the Ravens. And if there are any Giants fans out there who took some perverse pleasure in watching a genuinely miserable Jets team go down 27-17 to San Diego just before the Giants' mess, they might want to consider something.
The Jets are simply playing out the season. They may be doing it laughably, with a third-string quarterback while their perfectly healthy and original starter and backup ride the bench, but they are running out the string just the same.
The Giants played like they did when they still had something to play for. And that is what makes performances like the last two weeks impossible to understand.
The numbers are just incredible. With the playoffs on the line, they have been outscored 67-14 by Atlanta and Baltimore.
One flop is understandable. Some days, everything goes wrong. But two no-shows in a row is a trend that begs answers.
Tough schedule? That might account for consecutive losses, and even the Giants' traditional second-half swoon that has now stretched to 2-5. But that doesn't address the non-competitiveness of the combined setbacks.
Injuries. Sure, Justin Tuck and Prince Amukamara sat and Ahmad Bradshaw played with a cumbersome brace on his sprained knee. And we all know by now that Hakeem Nicks won't be effective until next year, after he rests his own knee sprain that has sapped him of that breakaway potential.
They are all immaterial, plain and simple. Those things explain competitive losses, not a team-wide enrollment in the Witness Protection Program.
The reason has to be mental. Tripping over themselves in the second half of the schedule year after year has apparently gotten to the Giants. Either that, or they have grown psychologically exhausted from battling the good teams in quick succession -- Green Bay, Washington, New Orleans, Atlanta, and now Baltimore. One might wonder whether they'll have focus enough remaining to beat the horrendous Eagles at MetLife Stadium next Sunday.
There's plenty of justification for that. The Giants have looked the past two weeks like a team that has already started the offseason.
Eli Manning was no where to be found in Baltimore. Neither was the run blocking or most of the defense. At least the coaches knew where Corey Webster was. All they had to do was glance up at the big screen in M&T Bank Stadium to watch him getting beat over and over and over again.
A third-quarter field goal drive epitomized the entire game for the Giants. The Ravens committed four penalties for 42 yards on the 16-play drive, which ate up 7:57 of the third quarter. Three of the four were major penalties, and they constantly put Joe Flacco in third-and-forever situations.
The way the Giants played defense, they could just as easily have been third-and-inches. A short pass, a defensive pass interference on none other than the eminent Mr. Webster, a 36-yard throw to tight end Dennis Pitta over Webster, and a 16-yarder to Anquan Boldin against Antrel Rolle (for a change) led to a short field goal and a 27-7 lead.
The yardage figures were damning. The Ravens finished with 533 offensive yards, 290 in the first half alone. At the point the Giants went down by 20, the offense had run just 25 plays.
New York let Baltimore escape from 11 of 18 third-down situations.
This is not how playoff contenders act?
Dallas handed them a gift. If only there was some way to re-gift it to a group who has played like they deserve to be in the postseason; Washington, maybe.
It is truly wasted on the Giants. Their performances the last two weeks have revealed them unworthy of any postseason spot.
A lump of coal would have been more appropriate.
Too harsh or do the Giants deserve to be on the naughty list? Be heard in the comments...
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