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NEWARK STAR LEDGER
Politi: Can Giants' Eli Manning Once Again Live Up To His Reputation For Late-Season Heroics
Excerpt: "The preeminent sports magazine in the country just called Eli Manning “the best quarterback alive if you want to win a title” in its end-of-year issue — a statement that should make anyone with a pulse at least raise his eyebrows.
But Manning is also the best quarterback alive if you want a bland answer to a question, and when presented with this statement in Sports Illustrated, he lived up to that reputation.
“Yeah, I guess if they’re going to say something about you,” he said while standing at his locker Wednesday, “you’d rather that they say something nice. That’s always good.”
But now Manning has to prove that it’s true again, starting in Baltimore on Sunday. He has those two Super Bowl titles and the MVP trophies to go along with them, including one last winter, so no level-headed Giants fan can shed too many tears if the quest for another one ends prematurely.
Still: Isn’t this supposed to be his time of the year? Isn’t this when Manning transforms into something better than his numbers or his unsteady performances and turns the Giants into a championship team?" Read more...
Which Giants Defense Will Show Up vs. Ravens
Excerpt: "Tom Coughlin used the words “physical” and “toughness” to describe the identity of the Ravens defense, which his team will face Sunday.
As for his Giants defense, the coach wasn’t quite as complimentary.
“Just like our football team, probably. The inconsistency,” Coughlin said. “That’s probably where I would leave it.”
The two defenses are nearly identical in statistical rank: The Ravens are 26th in the league, the Giants are 28th, based on yards allowed per game.
Both have dealt with key injuries — Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Lardarius Webb for the Ravens, and the Giants’ Kenny Phillips, Jacquian Williams and Prince Amukamara, for varying time periods.
What doesn’t sit well with Coughlin and his players is their unit’s mercurial performance.
Last Sunday’s 34-0 loss to the Falcons, in which the Giants say they missed 18 tackles, was a Hyde performance to their Jekyll victories against teams like the 49ers and the Packers.
“We are not consistent until I guess somebody is going to get fired or our backs are against the wall or it is either all or nothing,” said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, speaking about the team overall, but including the defense in that assessment." Read more...
Giants' Lawrence Tynes Is Confident He'll Get Back On Track
Excerpt: "For all the inconsistencies plaguing the Giants throughout the season, one thing has remained a constant: Lawrence Tynes's right foot.
At least that was the case through 13 games. Entering Week 14 against the Saints, Tynes was converting field goals at a record-breaking pace – the product of the Giants' frustrating tendency to have drives stall in the red zone at a high rate.
After finishing 3-for-4 against Washington in Week 13, he was 32-for-36 on the season. He's struggled since then. In the last two games he's just 1-for-3, with misses from 36 and 30 yards out. Going back to Washington, Tynes has missed three in the last three games.
"You can sit there and slump about it and be mad about it, but it's not going to do you any good," Tynes said. "I've done that very, very well in my career. I think I've missed two kicks three times in my career and I've played over 120 games. So you just got to look at it for what it is and kind of just move on. I think I do a good job of that. You get (peeved) off a little bit, but you just got to move on." Read more...
Tom Coughlin "Incredibly Proud" Of Victor Cruz's Visit To Family Of Sandy Hook Victim
Excerpt: "Quietly, on his off day, Victor Cruz made a difficult trip to Newtown, Conn. There, the Giants receiver visited with the family of 6-year-old Jack Pinto, one of the 26 victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Cruz was Jack's favorite player, and the little boy was laid to rest in a No. 80 Giants jersey bearing Cruz's name.
Cruz's gesture Tuesday -- on top of the phone call he made to the Pinto family Saturday night, and his tribute to Jack on his gloves and cleats in Sunday's game -- made Coughlin swell with pride.
"Incredibly proud of what he's done. Incredibly," coach Tom Coughlin said today. "That family will remember that all their days. And somehow help to, hopefully, some of their grief might at least temporarily be spent in being able to embrace Victor Cruz." Read more...
Giants' Kenny Phillips Getting Close, Ahmad Bradshaw Still Iffy
Excerpt: "Both safety Kenny Phillips and running back Ahmad Bradshaw are dealing with sprained knee injuries, and both have said they will play Sunday against the Ravens.
At least one of them is in line to do so.
Phillips practiced Wednesday, though limited, for the first time in more than two weeks. He originally sustained a sprained knee ligament against the Eagles in Week 4. He then aggravated it in his first game back against the Packers in Week 12. He played the following week against the Redskins, but in a limited role, and hasn’t played over the last two games.
“With Kenny we feel like he’s rested and ready to contribute,” coach Tom Coughlin said.
Having Phillips on the field affords defensive coordinator Perry Fewell the option to use the three-safety package the Giants relied on last season, along with Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown.
Bradshaw, however, didn’t practice and Coughlin insisted his return will be a medical decision and out of Bradshw’s resilient hands.
Bradshaw missed last Sunday’s game after he sprained his left knee last week and said Monday he believes things would’ve been different if he had been on the field.
“When he plays, he plays with fire, he plays with determination, he’s focused and he’s extremely physical,” Coughlin said. “He takes great pride in that aspect of the game for him. He takes great pride in defying what anyone says he can’t do. And he is someone on the sideline that’s not very patient and is not afraid to make a few comments about it.”
• CB Prince Amukamara practiced yesterday for the first time since straining his hamstring against the Saints on Dec. 9." Read more...
Giants Are Consistently Inconsistent & More From Afternoon Tea With Tom Coughlin
Excerpt: " NY Giants head coach Tom Coughlin took the podium on Wednesday in a bit of a mixed mood. Obviously upset with the egg they laid on Sunday, he preached consistency from the get go. At the same time, he seemed pleased that the Giants still control their own playoff destiny. But…those darn injuries… They always take center stage.
There were nine players on the pre-practice injury report, including Prince Amukamara (hamstring), David Baas (hip/shoulder), Chris Canty (neck),Ahmad Bradshaw (feet/neck), Hakeem Nicks (knee/foot), Tyler Sash(hamstring), Chris Snee (hip), Justin Tuck (shoulder) and Kenny Phillips (knee).Of those nine players listed, Bradshaw, Baas, Snee and Nicks will not practice. Phillips and Amukamara will. And the coach said he "thinks" Canty will as well.
"We'd all love to have him play, but it will be a medical decision," Coughlin said of Bradshaw's week 16 status.
As for the remaining two games, it's all about consistency, consistency, consistency and the need to have it on both sides of the ball. Accordingly, Coughlin says the team will need to rely on their captains and a veteran presence to steady the ship." Read more...
NY DAILY NEWS
Eli Manning Refuses To Panic, Even As Giants Continue To Slip In December. Possibly Out Of Playoffs
Excerpt: "It has been a season that has made the heads of the defending Super Bowl champions spin, sometimes on a daily basis.That’s the way the calm, cool and always collected quarterback looked and sounded on Wednesday as he answered question after question about what’s wrong with the Giants and why their backs are once again up against the proverbial wall.
Even their coach finds it “baffling” how they can turn good practices into bad games, and no one can explain the wild weekly swings of a team with so much talent.
And in the middle of it all, with the chaos and commotion swirling around him as usual, is the Giants’ beacon of calmness.
He knows they face potential elimination on Sunday.
He knows his own erratic play is a big reason why.
But if anyone was expecting to see signs of worry or concern or, really, anything at all well, then they just don’t know Manning. His unwavering, unemotional approach to the Giants’ seemingly annual dip into December madness is why he’s turned this into his favorite part of the season over the years.
“I think when you go through this, you sometimes feel like you’re the only team in this situation,” Manning says. “But there’s a lot of teams in this situation and very similar to us. They’ve got to win out to make it to the playoffs, and maybe they won’t make it to the playoffs.
“So we’re in a good position. I think you have to be excited about this position. You could always be better. You could always be a lot worse, too.” Read more...
Giants Can't Play Jekyl and Hyde
Excerpt: "Forget about the Ravens, forget about Ray Rice, and forget about Joe Flacco’s big arm.
Ask Antrel Rolle what Sunday's Giants-Ravens game is all about, and he'll tell you that he doesn't care about the opponent one bit. To the veteran safety, the thing the Giants need to figure out more than anything on Sunday is themselves.
“There's times we go out there, we look like the best team in the world, there's times we go out there, we look like the worst team in the world,” Rolle said Wednesday. “I think we know who we are as a team. But, you know, we just fail to go out there and prove it each and every week.
“This game is not about them. This game is about us.”
After a season-long identity crisis, the defending Super Bowl champions will get one more chance to define themselves on Sunday, and they’re hoping that the heat of the moment will finally forge them into a juggernaut. All year, they've struggled to build on big wins, struggled to craft an identity, but on Sunday, they need to leave Baltimore with a victory, and a personality.
“It's hard,” defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. “Week after week you don't know what you are going to get from us. We are not consistent, until I guess somebody is going to get fired or our backs are against the wall or it is all or nothing. That is where we are right now.”
A year ago, Eli Manning’s fourth-quarter magic and the QB-harassing defensive line defined the Giants. But this season, Manning's been off, the pass rush has lain dormant, and no regular formula for victory has been found. Early in the season, the run game carried Big Blue to victories over the Browns and 49ers, then totaled 64 yards in a nail-biting victory over Washington. JPP and the defensive line stunned Green Bay’s
Aaron Rodgers one week, then couldn’t touch Robert Griffin III and Drew Brees the next two.
“The way we’re playing right know, we don't know who we are,” said Pierre-Paul. “We know we’ve got two games left, and we've got to go out there and win.”
“We're a team that's desperate,” added Victor Cruz. “We need these two victories, and we're focused on this first one right now.” Read more...
Coughlin: Bradshaw's Status In Doctor's Hands
Excerpt: "Ahmad Bradshaw made it clear the last two days that he plans on playing in Baltimore on Sunday, as long as he’s able to convince Tom Coughlin to let him on the field.
First, he’ll have to convince the team doctors, too.
“We’d all love to have him play,” Coughlin said on Wednesday. “But it’s going to be a medical decision, it’s not going to be mine. Although he wants to play as badly as he can, I think if the doctors feel that he can play without hurting himself, then I think that very well might be the case. If the doctors don’t feel that that’s possible then they’ll make the decision.” Read more...
Coughlin "Incredibly Proud" Of Victor Cruz
Excerpt: "Many athletes lend their name and money to charity, and many show up at events to lend a helping hand. But it takes a truly special person to do what Victor Cruz did on Tuesday afternoon.
Cruz, the Giants’ receiver, spent his off day in Newtown, Conn., visiting the family and friends of six-year-old Jack Pinto, one of the 26 victims of the terrible shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last week. One day earlier, Jack was buried wearing the No. 80 jersey of his favorite Giants player.
Cruz honored Jack’s memory by writing his name on his gloves and cleats on Sunday, but he said all along that he wanted to do more.
“Incredibly proud of what he’s done,” Tom Coughlin said on Wednesday. “Incredibly proud. That family will remember that all their days. … Hopefully some of their grief might at least temporarily be spent in being able to embrace Victor Cruz.” Read more...
THE NEW YORK POST
Tynes Says He Is Not In Slump
Excerpt: "Lawrence Tynes is not in a slump.
That’s the thought-process of the Giants’ kicker, who, after a torrid start to the season, has missed a field goal in each of the past three games, including what appeared to be a chip-shot 30-yarder last week inside the kicker-friendly Georgia Dome.
“I think I made like 18 out of 19 at pregame,’’ Tynes said yesterday. “If you’re in a slump you’re probably not kicking real well at all during the week or at practice, so I feel like we are doing that. I just feel like maybe our game tempo is a little off. I think we’ve fixed that earlier this week, and [yesterday] at practice we did some team stuff, so you just got to be positive moving forward. You can’t really dwell on the past.’’
The kicking operation — snap, hold, kick — has not been as crisp as it was when Tynes was in a groove, hitting 29 of his 32 field goal tries. He still leads the NFL with 33 made field goals.
“We thought his timing wasn’t very good the other day on the one that we missed, but it’s the time of the year we can’t afford any misses,’’ coach Tom Coughlin said." Read more...
Big Blue Not Relying On Past Late-Season Success
Excerpt: "It looks like déjà vu all over again for the Giants, who went from 7-7 last season to a Super Bowl victory.
At 8-6, they need to win their final two games against the Ravens and Eagles to secure at least a wild-card berth. Yet, the Giants aren’t going to depend on history to repeat itself.“I don’t want to hear that. To me, that’s all bullcrap,” Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul said. “Yeah, we have done it before, but this is a whole other year. Each year is a totally different year. You don’t have the same guys on the team as last year. Who knows who is going to be here next year.“Right now, we can do it for now, and that’s what we have to do.”Safety Antrel Rolle wasn’t about to get nostalgic either.“Last year was a totally different year,” he said. “If we get caught up in what we did last year, we’re going to find ourselves in a hole we don’t want to be in. The only thing that’s going to help us out is our determination and our will to go out there and get it done. We can’t base this year’s performance off last year.”The Giants made their magical run last season by first beating the Jets on Christmas Eve, then capturing the division with a victory over the Cowboys. They then defeated the Falcons, Packers, Niners and Patriots in the playoffs. The only thing history does is show the Giants it can be done. But there are no guarantees." Read more...
Amukamara, Phillips Back At Practice
Excerpt: "It was not exactly “All In” for the Giants Wednesday, but they did welcome back two key members of their defensive backfield, as safety Kenny Phillips returned from a knee injury and Prince Amukamara was on the field after missing last week’s game in Atlanta with a strained hamstring.
Amukamara and Phillips both worked on a limited basis.Phillips missed six straight games with a sprained MCL, returned for two and then sat out the past two games after aggravating the injury. Phillips said on Monday he is “100 percent’’ sure he will play on Sunday in Baltimore.“With Kenny, we feel like he’s rested and ready to contribute,’’ Tom Coughlin said.Rookie Jayron Hosley started against the Falcons in place of Amukamara and the results were not what the Giants were looking for.“I’m feeling great,’’ Amukamara said. “I feel a little bit sore right now and that’s natural.’’Amukamara said he has yet to fully test his hamstring, as he has “been staying in my realm, just trying to be smart about it right now.’’ He’s still not sure if he can contribute enough to play on Sunday vs. the Ravens.“It’s kind of like a Catch-22, damned if you do, screwed if you don’t,’’ he said. “You want to put the team before you, but you also just have to be smart about it.“This is a huge game, very crucial and if we make it to the playoffs you don’t want to get hurt in this game and not be ready for the playoffs. But you definitely want to help the team make the playoffs. It’s a huge decision.’’ Read more...
Giants Must Wrap Up Ravens' RB Rice
Excerpt: "In order for the Giants to avoid getting shown the door, they need to crash through it no matter who is in their way.
“Our backs are actually against the wall now, and we got to play that way,’’ linebacker Chase Blackburn said Wednesday. “We got to come out fighting, swinging, just like when you’re in a bar fight and your back is against the wall, there’s only one way to get to that door — swing your way out. That’s what you got to do.’’The Giants didn’t come close to landing any haymakers in last week’s inept 34-0 loss in Atlanta, and as a result have pushed their season to the brink of playoff elimination heading into Sunday’s game in Baltimore against the struggling but still postseason-bound Ravens.
The Giants got blanked by the Falcons seven days after putting 52 points on the Saints, but mostly it’s been uneven at best, unsightly at worst as they’ve dropped from first to third in the NFC East.“Week after week you don’t know what you are going to get from us,’’ Jason Pierre-Paul said. “We are not consistent until, I guess, somebody is going to get fired or our backs are against the wall or it is either all or nothing. That is where we are at right now. It is either all or nothing or we are going to pack our stuff and get out of here.“And I am not trying to go home early. I want to make that run and at least get into the playoffs and showing that we can do it. That is what we are striving for and hoping we can get there.’’ Read more...
Post Power Rankings: Recent Giants' Teams Not Always Great With Backs Against The Wall
Excerpt: "The Giants have leaned heavily on the fact that for some inexplicable reason they play their best when their backs are against the wall.
And it’s a right they earned by winning the Super Bowl last year by digging themselves out of a similar situation last year on their way to a Super Bowl. It was this same Week 16 a year ago where they started their magical run of six wins in six weeks culminating with a win over the Patriots.
They have reached that level on a couple of occasions this season with dominant wins at San Francisco in Week 6 and home against Green Bay in Week 12. But with all that talk the Giants conveniently leave out the other times in recent seasons when their backs have been against the wall and they have completely disappeared.
There’s not a lot of talk about the 2010 team that lost 45-17 to the Packers in Week 16 two years ago or the one that got outscored by the Vikings and Panthers 85-16 to end the 2009 campaign. And it was two weeks ago that coach Tom Coughlin proclaimed that the Giants needed to go 4-0, and it wasn’t until after they got demolished 34-0 by the Falcons that Coughlin and the team realized this wasn’t true and they still control their own playoff destiny.
So, we will find out – starting in Baltimore on Sunday -- if this is a replica of last year’s team or another one that flamed out after a 6-2 start.SITE LINK
(NOTE: Previous power rankings before Week 12)
1. Broncos (11-3) (5) —Denver’s only losses this year have been to Atlanta, Denver and Houston, and they have won nine straight since coming back from 24-0 halftime deficit against San Diego.
2. 49ers (10-3-1) (2) – Look like the best team in football whenever they aren’t playing Rams or Giants.
3. Falcons (12-2) (4) — The 34-0 demolition of Giants will be convincing to some, but until this team does it in the playoffs I am not ready to jump on the bandwagon.
4. Texans (12-2) (1) — As long as they avoid elite quarterbacks, like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, in the playoffs the Texans should be fine.
5. Patriots (10-4) (3) – Loss to 49ers shows that at some point this postseason Tom Brady is going to be forced to put up 40 points.
6. Packers (10-4) (6) — Survive ridicilous trick play on punt — that even Rodgers ripped — to beat Bears and clinch NFC North for second straight year.
7. Seahawks (9-5) (14) — Pete Carroll made the gutsiest decision of the year by starting Russell Wilson over Matt Flynn at start of season, and it’s paying off big time right now.
8. Giants (8-6) (8) — Is it good or bad that the defending Super Bowl champion Giants missing the playoffs after a great start would not get anywhere near the attention that the 6-8 Jets are getting?
9. Colts (9-5) (16) – Chuck Pagano’s battle with leukemia has deservedly received a lot of headlines and his return to the sidelines, expected to be in Week 17, will be great to see. But Bruce Arians has done an impressive job taking over in difficult circumstances and is 9-3 as interim coach.
10. Cowboys (8-6) (17) – For the Tony Romo haters out there: The Dallas quarterback has 12 touchdowns and three interceptions over the last past six games. The Cowboys have gone 5-1 in that stretch to control their own destiny in NFC East." Read more...
THE BERGEN RECORD
A Giant Drive
"New York Giant Justin Tuck (seated) helped with the New York Giants Annual Toy Drive that took pace at Garden State Plaza on Dec. 4. Helping Tuck were Lodi Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Mike Nardino, Club Chief Financial Executive Kim Cattafi, former New York Jet Bruce Harper, Club Vice President Mike Williams and Jonathan Nardino (next to Tuck). The toys will go to needy kids in the Boys & Girls Clubs in Garfield and Lodi."
JPP Tired Of The Chatter
Excerpt: "Jason Pierre-Paul had heard enough.
Enough about last season and how the Giants turned inconsistency into history by winning their last six games, including Super Bowl XLVI with an upset of New England.
The circumstances of last year’s Giants, who found their way and finished on top of the NFL, should have no bearing on what happens to this season’s team.
So if Pierre-Paul has his way, Big Blue this week finally will leave the past for the commemorative DVDs and the history books once and for all.
From his perspective, the Giants have no other choice but to do so if they want a chance at a repeat coronation come the first Sunday in February in New Orleans.
"I don’t want to hear that. To me that’s all bull crap," Pierre-Paul said, referring to a question about whether the Giants have confidence because they have been in this position before. "Know what I mean? Yeah we have done it before but this is a whole other year. Each year is a totally different year.
"Each game right now is a must-win game for us. We put that on ourselves, and that is a consequence of it." Read more...
NEW YORK TIMES
WALL STREET JOURNAL
QB Eli Manning's Emotions Remain Steady
Two weeks ago, Eli Manning threw four touchdown passes and the Giants scored 52 points in a victory against New Orleans. Last Sunday, his most glaring statistic was two interceptions and the Giants were shutout in Atlanta. WR Victor Cruz Visits Victim's Family
While the performances have been uneven, Manning’s emotions have stayed on their usual consistently steady line. He doesn’t get too animated when he excels, nor too dejected when he plays below his expectations. That won’t change this week, though the Giants’ season could be on the line when they visit the Baltimore Ravens Sunday. The Giants almost certainly need to win to keep their postseason hopes alive.
“Whether you’ve played your best game or your worst game, each week you go in confident,” Manning said today. “You know you have the ability and you know you can make plays. Even from last week, you can draw from the good plays, you can draw on the good drives that you had. We didn’t make the big plays in the game. This week, hopefully it’s different. Hopefully, we’ll be ready and go out there to make those plays.”
The Giants are 8-6, which is actually one game better than they were last season after 14 games. After losing to Washington in Week 15 of 2011, they won their last six games – two in the regular season, four in the playoffs – to win their second championship in five seasons.
Manning was the catalyst as he shattered the team record for passing yards and threw 29 touchdowns passes. But his numbers have dipped this season. After 14 games a year ago, he had 4,362 passing yards, 25 touchdown passes and had thrown 15 interceptions. This season, he has 3,590 passing yards, 20 touchdown passes and has thrown 15 picks.
At his news conference today, Tom Coughlin did not want to compare this year’s Manning with the 2011 version.
“Let’s wait until it’s over and done with and then we’ll talk about that,” Coughlin said. “No question two weeks ago, what we were able to accomplish as a team. Last week, not so well. Eli would be the first one to comment on that and he doesn’t need me to say that. We’re hoping that everyone plays better and with more consistency. We thought that was a big theme last week and, of course, it wasn’t accomplished. So, we’re striving for that again.”
If Manning is feeling pressure to perform well in Baltimore he’s hiding it well, as he always does. He has kept the same routine and exudes the same low-key confidence he always does.
“I think every game, you go in wanting to play well,” Manning said. “As the quarterback, you have the ball in your hands on every play. You’ve got to make good decisions, you’ve got to convert on third downs, and you’ve got to throw the ball well, get completions. When we get in the red zone, make good decisions, have good plays and get good production. So, a lot of the things are going to be what I can do, what our teammates can do, it all comes around to everyone doing their own responsibility. Everybody’s got to play well and do their job. All you can do is understand the game plan, understand what my responsibilities are, what my reads are and go out and make them.”
Manning, of course, has a history of excelling late in the season. He is, after all, a two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player. When the Giants were in a winner-take-all game with Dallas in Week 17 last year, he threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in a 31-14 victory.
The Giants might need him to play similarly well on Sunday.
“You hope the best comes out and it’s just a matter of, hopefully, just playing well,” Manning said. “Hoping that the team understands the circumstances and everybody’s just having a great attitude, being confident, but being relaxed. Just ready to enjoy this opportunity, enjoy a chance to play in big games, enjoy a chance to extend our season and we know exactly what’s ahead of us, what’s at stake and we need to go out there and play our best football. Hopefully, we’ll get that.”
makes his living playing an emotional game. Yesterday, he experienced a completely different set of emotions.
On the Giants’ day off yesterday, the popular wide receiver drove to Newtown, Conn., where he visited with the family of Jack Pinto, one of the young schoolchildren killed in the horrific shooting last week at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“It was an emotional time,” Cruz said today. “I spent a little bit of time with them and we got to smile a little bit, which was good for them. It was a time where I just wanted to be a positive voice, a positive light in a time where it can be very negative. It was a good time. They’re a great family and they are really united right now at this time. It was good to see.”
Like many others, coach Tom Coughlin lauded Cruz for reaching out to the Pinto family.
“Incredibly proud of what he’s done – incredibly,” Coughlin said. “That family will remember that all their days. Somehow, hopefully, at least some of their grief may temporarily be spent in being able to embrace Victor Cruz.
“The fact that he went and did that speaks volumes about what he has in him, inside.”
Jack Pinto, who was only six years old, was a Giants fan. And his favorite player was Cruz, who has touched fans young and old in the two seasons he has been catching passes for the Giants.
Cruz first heard about Pinto’s affection for him via Twitter on Saturday. He spoke with the family that night by phone from his hotel room in Atlanta. The next day, he honored the youngster by writing “Jack Pinto, My Hero,” on his left shoe and “R.I.P. Jack Pinto” on his right shoe. He also wrote tributes on his gloves. But he wanted to do more, so yesterday he drove up to Newtown to meet the family.
“I had no expectations,” Cruz said. “I was a little nervous. I just didn’t know how I was going to be received. You never know when they’re going through something like that how it’s going to go down. Once I got there and I saw all the kids there with my jersey on, the family…the family was outside and they were still pretty emotional, crying. I saw how affected they were by just my presence alone. I got out and gave them the cleats and gloves and they appreciated it. The older brother, he was still pretty emotional, so I gave the cleats and stuff to him. I proceeded to sign stuff for the kids and go inside and just spend some quality time with them.
“I didn’t want to go in there and make a speech or anything. I just wanted to go there and spend some time with them and be someone that they can talk to and be someone that they can vent to, talk about how much of fans they are to the team or different times where they watched the Super Bowl; I was sitting in the seat where the dad watched our Super Bowl last year. It was good.”
Jack Pinto was buried Monday wearing a No. 80 Giants jersey.
“That was different,” Cruz said. “You don’t know whether to say thank you. You don’t know whether to say you appreciate it. It leaves you kind of blank, but I’m definitely honored by it. I’m definitely humbled by it and it’s definitely unfortunate, but a humbling experience for me.”
Cruz said the shooting in Newtown and his interaction with the Pinto family has permanently altered his perspective.
“When you visit a family that’s going through so much and facing so much turmoil in their lives; you meet the family, you see people and the things they’re going through, it helps you look at life through a different lens,” he said. “It really changes your view and the way you used to look at things. It changes your view of it.”
Giants' Hakeem Nicks Returns To Practice, Justin Tuck Remains Sidelined
Excerpt: " New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks made his way onto the practice field today for the first time this week. Nicks has been battling a knee injury since Week two against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has played visibly injured since then. It's not unusual for him to only practice once a week, so it's encouraging that he's going to have time to further develop his chemistry with quarterback Eli Manning.
However, it's not all good news coming out of Giants camp today. Big Blue practiced without Justin Tuck (shoulder), Ahmad Bradshaw (knee), Chris Snee (hip), and David Baas (hip/shoulder). Tuck was seen riding the stationary bike, while there were no signs of the other three injured players.
Ahmad Bradshaw has said on multiple occasions that he expects to play on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. However, that decision lies solely with the team medical staff. Bradshaw missed most of the Giants Week 14 win over the Saints due to a sprained left knee. He also did not make the trip to Atlanta last Sunday.
Where the injury situation gets further clouded is with Kenny Phillips and Prince Amukamara. The Giants secondary looked lost without their two former first-round picks on the field in Atlanta last weekend. Both players practiced today and should be ready to go on Sunday barring setbacks in their condition. However, there is still a lot of time between now and kickoff in Baltimore. "
Giants' Kicker Tynes Hopes To Rebound In Week 16
Excerpt: "Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of the New York Giants second half slide has been Lawrence Tynes' inability to stay consistent kicking some very makable field goals. Tynes is 33 of 39 on field goals this season; however, Tynes has had a miss from inside 40-yards in each of the Giants last two games. For the Giants to have a chance to make a postseason run, Tynes is going to have to get back to being nearly automatic from anywhere inside 50-yards.
It's possible that Tynes is merely reverting towards the mean at this point of the season. He hit 29 of his first 31 field goal attempts of the season, including games against the Panthers and Cowboys in which went 5/5 in each contest. Tynes' numbers benefited greatly from the Giants redzone woes, but he was able to minimize those struggles by making sure the team came away with points on nearly every drive inside the 35-yard line. As of late, that consistency has waned.
"You can sit there and slump about it and be mad about it, but it's not going to do you any good," Tynes said. "I've done that very, very well in my career. I think I've missed two kicks three times in my career and I've played over 120 games. So you just got to look at it for what it is and kind of just move on. I think I do a good job of that. You get (peeved) off a little bit, but you just got to move on." Read more...SITE LINK
BIG BLUE VIEW
Giants' Pass Rush: Delving Even Deeper Into The Lack Of Sacks
Excerpt: "When I posted a look at the decline of the New York Giants' pass rush on Tuesday, I used some radio remarks by former great Giants' linebacker Carl Banks as the starting point for the discussion. Carl has been good to Big Blue View over the past couple of seasons, so I reached out to him just to make sure he knew what had been written.
Carl responded with some further insight I thought I would share. Basically, without sharing the complete contents of our discussion, Banks said that the Giants' poor run defense this season is also a contributing factor in the inconsistent pass rush.Why? Because to release the pass rush -- release the Kracken as we like to say around here -- opposing offenses need to be in long-yardage situations. The Giants' defense has, too often, been unable to win first and second down.If you look at the numbers the Giants are surrendering 4.6 yards per carry, 26th in the league. That, really, is identical to the 4.5 yards per carry they allowed last season. So, while the run defense is an issue maybe it isn't the only one.Let's take a closer look, though, at the final six games of last season -- the glorious run to a Super Bowl title.
Week 16 vs. the New York Jets -- Jets average 4.2 yards per carry, Mark Sanchez throws 59 times and is sacked five times. The Giants offense put the Jets in a 20-7 hole and forced them to pass. Giants win, 29-14.
Week 17 vs. the Dallas Cowboys -- Dallas averages only 3.1 yards per running play. Tony Romo throws 37 times and is sacked six times. Giants win, 31-14.
Wild-card playoffs vs. Atlanta Falcons -- The Falcons average only 3.0 yards per carry on 21 rushes. Matt Ryan is sacked twice and hit seven times. Giants win, 24-2.
Divisional playoffs vs. Green Bay Packers -- Green Bay averages 6.4 yards rushing the ball, but the Giants' offense is dominant. New York puts Green Bay in a 30-13 hole. Aaron Rodgers passes 46 times, is sacked four times and intercepted once. Giants win, 37-20." Read more...
Giants At Ravens: Scouting Report
Excerpt: "The Baltimore Ravens haven't exactly morphed into the New York Jets over the past three weeks, but entering Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium they are struggling even more than the New York Giants have recently.
The Ravens (9-5) have already clinched an AFC playoff berth, but that is no thanks to how they have played recently. Baltimore has lost three straight games, falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos. All of those are good teams, but things are not good in Baltimore right now.
Unhappy with their offense, the team recently fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and replaced him with Jim Caldwell.
"We’re a 9-5 football team, and it feels like we’re 0-14 right now," said quarterback Joe Flacco. Folks at SB Nation's Ravens' web site, Baltimore Beatdown, are even questioning whether the team has begun to tune out head coach John Harbaugh.
Let's take a statistical look at the Ravens.
Overall rank: 339.6 yards per game (21st)
Points: 24.9 (12th)
Rushing: 105.1 (22nd)
Passing: 234.6 (14th)
Running back Ray Rice remains Baltimore's best offensive player, and his 1,031 yards rushing (4.5 yards per carry) make this four straight seasons he has surpassed 1,000 yards. The Giants have been gashed numerous times this season by running backs and are 22nd in the league against the run, surrendering 123.7 yards per game (4.6 per carry). Inability to stop the run has impacted the Giants' ability to unleash their pass rush as they have been unable to consistently put teams in long-yardage situations.
For the Ravens, the passing attack is all about quarterback Joe Flacco. He is completing 59.1 percent of his passes this season with 20 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. His passer rating is 86.2.
Anquan Boldin leads Baltimore with 58 receptions, and tight end Dennis Pitta has 57. Rice has 55. The Ravens' big-play threat is speedster Torrey Smith, who has 44 catches and averages 17.4 yards per reception with seven touchdowns. The Giants have surrendered 64 pass plays this season of 20 yards or more, and only three teams have given up more big plays." Read more...
Prince Amukamara Optimistic About His Progress
Excerpt: "Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara knows that hamstring injuries are tricky, and that if you rush back too soon from the, you can set yourself back.
Still, after finally returning to the practice field for the first time in over a week, the Giants starting cornerback said he was encouraged by how he came through Wednesday’s practice, where he was listed as limited.
“I feel like I made out great,” he said. “I’m a little sore, but I got a lot of reps for the most part and just see how it feels tomorrow and take it day by day.”
Amukamara paused when asked if there was anything he wasn’t able to do physically that he might need to do in a game.
“No, not at the moment. I practices, and I covered well and I got good feedback from the trainers and the coaches, so no, there’s nothing I can say that I was limited to doing today.”
At the same time, he knows that the temptation is there to push through any discomfort he might be feeling and that he has to play it smart, especially if he’s planning to cover speedsters such as the Ravens’ Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, and Jacoby Jones.
“I just have to keep asking myself – you always try to put the team before yourself — but I keep asking myself if there is a situation where I could re-injure it and we make it to the playoffs, and then I’m out the playoffs, that’s going to be very unfortunate for me and the team,” he said. “This is such a crucial game and my team does need me so it’s like a Catch-22. So I guess I just have to be smart about it.” Read more...
Jason Pierre-Paul: Defense Kn ows It Has To Do Better
Excerpt: "The Giants defense recorded 18 missed tackles last week against the Falcons, that first disclosed by defensive tackle Chris Canty on Monday.
To put that number into perspective, consider that the Giants played 67 snaps on defense, their missed tackles resulting in an average of one miss ever 3.72 snaps.
And that’s simply not Giants football according to defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
“We had 18 missed tackles man and that is not acceptable,” he said. “We cannot have missed tackles. That is one major cause of the game, we can’t have a guy and let him break free for more yards. That is not football. That is poor tackling and that is what we did. We have to go out there and wrap tackle.”
They’ll especially need to be vigilant in their tackling efforts against a Baltimore Ravens offense that is expected to unleash a heavy dose of running back Ray Rice on them.
“He is a good running back and he is likes to get yards after the run, after he gets hit. Most of the running backs we face in the league are like that, big running backs and we just got to get him down.”
Pierre-Paul admitted that there has been some frustration among the defense which one week has looked like a championship caliber group and which the next week has looked lost. When asked if the team has found its identity, he said, “Um, I really don’t know. I know one thing for a fact, I feel like we are one of the best teams in the NFL but week after week, we come out on top and then we fall back down and then we come out on top and then we are on a losing streak and then we come out on top again.”
Still, even Pierre-Paul was unable to guarantee which Giants team would show up on Sunday. “It’s hard. Week after week you don’t know what you are going to get from us,” he said. “We are not consistent until I guess somebody is going to get fired or our backs are against the wall or it is either all or nothing. That is where we are at right now. It is either all or nothing or we are going to pack our stuff and get out of here. And I am not trying to go home early. I want to make that run and at least get into the playoffs and showing that we can do it. That is what we are striving for and hoping we can get there.” Read more...
THE RED ZONE.
JPP Doesn't Want To Hear About Last Year
Excerpt: "For the second straight year, the Giants need to win their final two games to make the playoffs.
But Jason Pierre-Paul doesn't want to talk about how the Giants got the job done last year and might be able to lean on that experience starting this Sunday against the Ravens.
"I don’t want to hear that," Pierre-Paul said Wednesday. "To me that’s all bullcrap. Know what I mean? Yeah we have done it before but this is a whole other year. Each year is a totally different year. You don’t have the same guys on the team as last year, who knows who is going to be here next year."
"This week our backs are against the wall, we already start our playoffs early," Pierre-Paul added later. "This is a playoff game for us."
The Giants (8-6) can clinch at least a wild card by winning at Baltimore and then beating Philadelphia at home in their final two games.
"We have to go out there and play ball, man," safety Antrel Rolle said. "Damn everything else. Go out there and win at all costs and make sure we get it done."
Rolle and Pierre-Paul don't want to rely on last year's experience of winning six straight do-or-die games to win the Super Bowl. They don't want to take any chances after seeing the Giants go through the motions last Sunday in a 34-0 loss to the Falcons.
"Go play with fire, go play with passion," Rolle said. "There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be there, especially in a game of this magnitude in the later part of the season."
"Go out there and play balls to the walls and let my play speak for itself," Rolle added, of how he will try to lead the Giants. "Go out there and make some extra-fine plays and do whatever I can do to give myself a spark first and foremost and give the team a spark and we can all feed off each other." Read more...
Victor Cruz Recounts Meeting Pintos
Excerpt: " Victor Cruz hopes that meeting with the family of a 6-year-old boy killed in the Connecticut school shootings has helped it cope with the tragedy.
"The New York Giants receiver on Wednesday somberly recounted his hourlong visit with Jack Pinto's family a day earlier, and says he was most affected when asked about the parents' decision to bury their son in his No. 80 jersey.
Cruz stopped for a moment, his eyes becoming watery: "You never go through some circumstances like this. This was definitely the toughest by far."
Pinto's family said Cruz was their son's favorite player. Pinto was one of 20 first-graders who, along with six adults, were killed Friday in the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.Cruz wrote Jack Pinto's name on his cleats and gloves before the Giants' 34-0 loss to the Falcons. He presented them to the family Tuesday.
"Incredibly proud of what (Cruz has) done," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "That family will remember that all their days. Hopefully, at least some of their grief may temporarily be spent in being able to embrace Victor Cruz."The fact that he went and did that speaks volumes about what he has in him, inside."
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who will play against the Giants on Sunday, also was impressed by Cruz's gesture.
"You've got to be able to put yourself in that family's situation to understand at least what they're going through," Rice said. "That's what it's about. You know, that's something that ... you do it from the heart. You do it from within. What he did was amazing because, honestly, I was affected by that more than I've ever been affected before.
"We play this game of football and we want to be able to please everybody. We talk about winning and losing, but the real losers on that end was the families of Newtown. They've got to wake up every day in a situation where ... and have no answers to unsolved problems that no one can even imagine that it happened." Read more...
Giants' S Kenny Phillips On Track To Play Ravens
Excerpt: "The New York Giants' secondary is getting healthier, as safetyKenny Phillips will practice Wednesday and is on track for returning Sunday against theBaltimore Ravens.
Cornerback Prince Amukamara also will test his hamstring during Wednesday's practice, according to coach Tom Coughlin. The Giants lost 34-0 this past weekend to the Atlanta Falcons without Phillips and Amukamara.
"They will both practice, but it will be limited to the point we will test Prince more than anything," Coughlin said. "With Kenny, we feel he is rested and ready to contribute."
Phillips has missed the past two games with a knee injury, the same injury that kept him out of six games earlier in the season. Phillips said Tuesday on ESPN New York 98.7 that he definitely will be on the field in Baltimore." Read more...
Practice Report: Prince Looks Good
Excerpt: "Cornerback Prince Amukamara tested his hamstring on Wednesday and appeared to be moving well during the media portion of practice.
Amukamara did not play on Sunday during the Giants' 34-0 loss to the Falcons.
Safety Kenny Phillips (knee) was also on the field during the media portion. "We feel he is rested and ready to contribute," coach Tom Coughlin said.
Phillips has missed the past two games with an MCL injury, but said on ESPN New York 98.7 on Tuesday that he will definitely be on the field in Baltimore. " Read more...
Colts, Bengals, Redskins, Seahawks, Giants Can Clinch Sunday
Excerpt: "Four AFC teams have already clinched playoff berths, and the remaining two spots could be clinched on Sunday. In the NFC the playoff picture is more jumbled, but three different teams have a chance to clinch with a win and some help.New York Giants
The NFL has confirmed that the Colts and Bengals are both in the AFC playoffs if they win on Sunday, while the Seahawks are in the NFC playoffs if they win. The Redskins and Giants both have their own playoff scenarios on Sunday, although both teams will need help to clinch this week.
Other teams that have already clinched playoff berths can clinch their divisions, first-round byes or home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs. Here are the scenarios for every team:
Washington Redskins: Clinch a playoff spot if they beat the Eagles and the Giants, Bears and Vikings all lose.
: Clinch a playoff spot if they beat the Ravens and the Bears, Vikings, Cowboys and Redskins all lose." Read more...
Expert Picks: Straight Up
NFL Playoff Picture
Scouts Notebook: Giants SS Stevie Brown
SS Stevie Brown, #27
New York Giants
Height: 5-11½ Weight: 221 Speed: 4.53
Notes: Two-year starter at the University of Michigan, moving from free safety to strong-side linebacker as a senior in the 3-3-5 front installed by Rich Rodriguez. Recorded 186 tackles, 11 pass breakups and four interceptions during his collegiate career. Was selected in the seventh round (251st overall) by the Oakland Raiders in the 2010 NFL draft. Was released on the final cutdown and signed to the practice squad, being elevated to the 53-man roster several weeks later. Saw action in 15 games, starting one, and notched 30 tackles and two pass breakups. Was released by new head coach Hue Jackson at the 53-man cutdown in ’11 and assigned on waivers to the Panthers, where he stayed three days. Was signed by the Colts two weeks later and recorded five special-teams tackles in the eight games in which he played for Indianapolis. Was signed by the Giants as a free agent on April 3, 2012 and moved into a starting role for 10-of-14 games in place of an injured Kenny Phillips, recording a career-best 69 tackles, eight pass breakups, seven interceptions (that he has returned for an NFL-best 259 yards), two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Positives: Is well-built with very good bulk for the position. Good eyes and anticipation playing the ball in front of him. Has soft hands and is a natural interceptor. Highly motivated achiever *— very good work habits and preparation for the game. Good football intelligence *— understands assignments and where he fits in the defense and is around the ball a lot. Has enough range to interchange and get over the top. Well-conditioned athlete. Outstanding football and personal character. Negotiates through traffic well in special-teams coverage." Read more...
NFL Notes: RG III Could Be Cleared To Play