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News » Spark is almost out

Spark is almost out

Spark is almost out
Just about a month ago, after the Giants had manhandled the Baltimore Ravens, 30-10, I wrote that the toughest opponent remaining on the Giants' schedule was their own complacency.

Four games, one nightclub shooting and a succession of increasingly dismaying performances later, it looks as if complacency is winning.

There is no more difficult job for a coach, especially one as tough and unrelenting as Tom Coughlin, than to keep his team's interest, particularly when it is winning.

Up until three weeks ago, it seemed as if Coughlin had the Giants' undivided attention.

Now, I'm not so sure.

Whether they went on to beat the Carolina Panthers last night or not - and in the fourth quarter, they trailed 28-20 in a game that did not bode well for a potential rematch in the NFC Championship Game a month from now - the Giants no longer looked like a sure bet to do anything besides get a week off to begin the postseason.

Where once they stood alone as the class of the NFC, last night the Giants took the field as co-favorites with Carolina, who came in with an identical 11-3 record and a similarly explosive rushing game. And even though they took the field already assured of a first-round bye, thanks to the Atlanta Falcons' victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the afternoon, last night's showdown still shaped up as a must-win if the Giants hoped to avoid having to accomplish what no other NFL team has been able to do so far this season, namely beat the Panthers in Carolina.

For this, the Giants had no one to blame but themselves, having blown the opportunity to wrap up the conference's top seed two weeks ago against Philadelphia and last week in Dallas.

It was a grim reminder that no NFL team wins anything worth winning in November, or even December for that matter, and that it is easier to win the Belmont Stakes wire-to-wire than the Super Bowl.

There's little doubt that the 2008 Giants are a better Football team than the one that upset the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl XLII. But there is plenty of question about whether this is as tough a team or as confident a team, and now, little doubt that while last year's team charged into January, this one will limp its way in.

In many ways, Coughlin was the glue who held this team together last year and the engine that drove them to a league-best 11-1 record following their win over the Washington Redskins here three weeks ago.

Now, it is up to Coughlin to rekindle that spark, to remind his team that so far this year, they have accomplished nothing, and that after the kind of start the 2008 season had, anything less than a bang-up finish will be a disappointment, if not a failure.

And that would be a shame, because when the Giants had real, tangible problems to overcome, they came up big. Now, needing only to finish up strong, they seem to be shrinking.

This year began with twin tremors, the retirement of Michael Strahan and the season-ending injury to Osi Umenyiora. They survived. They shipped out Jeremy Shockey. They survived. Plaxico Burress shot himself in a nightclub and Antonio Pierce (allegedly) hid the weapon. They survived. Brandon Jacobs went down, came back, went down again. They survived.

For a time, anyway. Now, with much less in front of them, they flounder.

Say what you will about Bill Belichick, and he deserves most of it, but credit him with this - he has managed to keep his teams interested year after year, despite success, failure, salary-cap casualties and injuries that would have brought lesser teams and lesser coaches to their knees. If Coughlin wants to be considered in that class, he has to show that he can do the same with the Giants.

If he thought winning that first Super Bowl was tough, he is now finding out how much tougher it is to win the second.

Through Week 13, the Giants provided nothing if not evidence of their toughness, their focus and their single-minded determination to accomplish what no Giants team has ever accomplished, and few NFL teams ever do, back-to-back Super Bowl championships.

After they steamrolled the Ravens, rolling up 207 rushing yards against, at the time, the league's stingiest run defense, it looked as if no team in the NFC could stop the Giants from what appeared to be their scheduled destination, Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa on Feb. 1.

Nothing but their own complacency.

Right now, complacency is leading, and the time is getting short.

Time for coach Coughlin to make an adjustment to his team. An attitude adjustment.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 22, 2008

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