York Giants coach Tom Coughlin on the sideline against Dallas on Sunday was to
see a man repeatedly bouncing back and forth between joy and despair--in short,
a microcosm of his season. Coughlin's smile was suddenly replaced by a grimace
when rookie defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka intercepted a first-quarter Dallas
pass only to fumble, without being touched, on the return. Late in the game the
coach clapped with joy when Plaxico Burress's touchdown tied the game, only to
slump his shoulders a minute later when Martin Gramatica booted the
game-winning 46-yard field goal with a second left.
A win could have
exorcised many of the Giants' demons--injuries, discord, on-field disasters.
Instead, New York is two games behind 8--4 Dallas in the NFC East, hoping to
draw a wild card. "It's not dire," Coughlin said of his team's future.
"We're going to stick together."
The next test
comes on Sunday, at Carolina. Here's how the season unraveled.
SEPT. 17 After
losing to Indianapolis in the opener, the Giants give up 24 straight points at
Philadelphia to trail 24--7 in the fourth quarter. But Eli Manning sparks a
furious rally. A field goal with seven seconds left ties the game, and
Manning's 31-yard toss to wideout Burress in OT wins it. "I saw a little
glimpse of New York Giants pride in that second half," said Coughlin.
SEPT. 25 There is
no comeback in Seattle--and little Giants pride on display--as New York loses
42--30. "We were outplayed and outcoached," tight end Jeremy Shockey
tells reporters. The next day Coughlin calls Shockey's take "extremely
disappointing," and Manning delivers a rare rebuke, calling the outburst
"unacceptable." Shockey expresses regret.
OCT. 18 The New
York Times reports that All-Pro running back Tiki Barber will likely retire
after the season. A number of media pundits label Barber a quitter. He fires
back on his satellite radio show, calling the critics "idiots."
OCT. 23 A 36--22
win in Dallas is a Pyrrhic victory. Linebacker LaVar Arrington ruptures his
Achilles tendon, ending his season, and defensive end Osi Umenyiora suffers a
hip-flexor injury that will knock him out for five games.
NOV. 5 More
injuries. In a win over Houston, defensive end Michael Strahan suffers a foot
sprain that puts him out for at least four games. Three days later the club
announces that veteran wideout Amani Toomer will miss the rest of the season
with a knee injury.
NOV. 12 New York
loses 38--20 to Chicago in Manning's worst game of the season. Starting left
tackle Luke Petitgout breaks his leg.
NOV. 22 After
Barber carries just 10 times for 27 yards in a 26--10 loss to Jacksonville, he
chides the staff for not calling more running plays. "It's not rocket
science," he says. "I felt insignificant." Coughlin calls a