Thursday, November 12, 2009
Good Behavior Starts At Home
By Jon Wagner Sr. Writer at Large Football Reporters Online
Recently, the New York Giants have been bad.
No, they haven’t been well-behaved at all over the past four weeks.
They’ve been undisciplined and careless, mistake-prone and unfocused.
They’ve been so bad, that in the span of just one month, they’ve gone from a 5-0 member of the NFL elite to a mediocre, middle-of-the-pack, 5-4.
And, now they’re being punished for their actions.
A very tough schedule lies ahead for them, and they’ll have to work extra hard and do nearly everything the right way, just to get back to being what most had previously expected of them.
But, they’re on their bye week, so they have plenty of time to think about what they’ve done, and how to do much better going forward.
When you’re away from home, sometimes you forget certain lessons, and it’s easy to go astray.
That’s why, if you’re a Giants fan, you’ll have to excuse the two bad road losses, by 21 points to the Saints, and by 23 points to the Eagles.
After all, the Giants weren’t going to win those games anyway. So, why fret about them? It’s the NFL, it happens, especially in tough places to play, like New Orleans and Philadelphia.
Even with those two defeats, New York still has a winning 3-2 road record, which included at one point, three straight road wins and a victory over now first-place Dallas.
However, at home, we should all know better. At home, it’s easier to remember and follow valuable lessons of how we’re supposed to act.
Yes, at home, we should all definitely be on our best behavior.
And, so should the Giants.
But, during their current four-game losing streak, they certainly haven’t.
It’s the home losses aided by some very sloppy play, and misguided moves by the Giants’ coaching staff, which have really hurt the Giants more than anything so far this season.
The Giants let two very winnable games, each very much there for the taking in the fourth quarter, against teams visiting all the way from the west, slip away all because they acted poorly at home.
Against Arizona, the Giants outgained the Cardinals at home by 39 yards. Okay, not much, but they did win the battle both through the air (albeit by just four yards) and a little more significantly on the ground (by 35 yards). And, they controlled the time of possession, again not by a lot (by a mere 32 seconds), but it was still in their favor. When a football team does those things at home, it should win.
But, not when they’re not careful. Not sticking with the running game when they should have at times, and at others, poor execution early in several different series which repeatedly set up third-and-longs. Add seven penalties, two fumbles (one lost), and three interceptions, including a final one fairly deep in Arizona territory, trailing by just a touchdown with 68 seconds left, and it all cost the Giants a home win they should have had.
In their latest loss, the Giants outgained San Diego 304-226 yards (116-34 rushing), while holding the ball for over fifteen minutes more (37:47 to 22:13) than the Chargers. And, the Giants were even a little more disciplined at least when it came to hanging on to the ball, winning the turnover battle, 2-1. Again, when you accomplish all of those things in a game, particularly on your home field, you should come away with a victory.
Again though, a lack of focus and attention to detail led to another heartbreaking home loss. Nine penalties totaling 104 yards, 84 more yards than the 20 yards the Chargers (who committed only three penalties) were penalized more than wiped out the 82-yard rushing advantage the Giants held. And, no penalty was worse than the 10-yard holding call on right guard Chris Snee immediately after the Giants took over after an interception at the San Diego 4-yard line with a three-point lead and just 3:14 left in the game. Include the coaching staff in the blame for the bonehead miscues as well, for not going for the win and playing things much too conservatively, settling for a field goal after Snee drew the flag, only to lose on a Charger touchdown in the final half-minute.
If the Giants would have taken care of business in those two home games, their whole season would look drastically different today.
In lieu of their current four-game slide, the Giants would have simply split their past four games.
Rather than an uninspiring 2-2 home record in 2009, the Giants would be a perfect 4-0 at the Meadowlands.
Instead of third place in the NFC East, the Giants would be in first place.
And, in place of a 5-4 record and great playoff uncertainty, the Giants would be 7-2 and thinking about making a push for a home playoff game.
Perhaps it was to be expected given the Giants’ recent history. This is nevertheless, virtually the same team that went only 3-5 at home while winning eleven straight games away from Giants Stadium during their Super Bowl winning year just two seasons ago, and it’s the same team that earned the top seed and home field throughout last year’s playoffs, only to lose their lone postseason game -- where else -- at home last year.
As bleak as things seem right now for the Giants, knowing that no team which has gone through a four-game losing streak in a season has ever made a Super Bowl, it could be much worse.
The current wild-card picture reveals that Atlanta and Philadelphia, each 5-3 and just one-half game ahead of the Giants, are the only other non-division leaders besides New York with winning records in the NFC. And, the Giants play both of those teams at home, in addition to getting a home date with Dallas, which the Giants trail by 1½ games for the NFC East division lead.
Righting themselves at home can still solve a lot of problems for the Giants’ season even if they falter badly once or twice more on the road.
As tough as the overall remaining schedule is for New York in its final seven regular season games of 2009, even if the Giants have a road game or two as bad they had in New Orleans and Philadelphia, they can still achieve the goals they set out with when they were 5-0.
If the Giants can finally play a lot more crisp and sound football at home, as they should, with a bad Washington team left on the road, Big Blue could still realistically achieve a 10-6, or perhaps an 11-5 record, if they could also steal just one of the tougher games left on the road. There’s also the possibility that a normally tough road game at Minnesota may mean nothing to the Vikings in the final week of the season, which would make that road game a lot more winnable than it looks today. Those types of scenarios could very much have the Giants acting as the dangerous playoff team in January which most expected to see a lot more before New York’s current four-game losing streak.
To do that though, the Giants have to refrain from the types of costly mistakes which they should never make on a consistent basis, especially at Giants Stadium.
Thus, for the rest of their season, the Giants must remember that good behavior always starts at home.