NFL: Coughlin Returns to Jacksonville with Reeling Giants

By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor

The New York Giants were feeling good after three straight wins for a 3-2 start in early October.

Then the wheels began to fall off one at a time.

New York hopes to earn some respect and stop a six-game losing streak Sunday on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Giants lost their first six games of the 2013 season and haven't suffered seven straight losses since an eight-game slide from Nov. 7 - Dec. 26, 2004. 

It was head coach Tom Coughlin's first season in the Big Apple and the Giants went 6-10 that year.

It looks as if the G-men are headed to another disappointing finish and can point fingers in all directions as to why 2014 has been a dud. Quarterback Eli Manning and his interception issue (12), a poor running game (99.3 ypg) and even more porous defense under coordinator Perry Fewell.

Fewell could be looking for a new job at season's end. His unit is 24th in passing yards allowed (253.9), 27th in points allowed (26.7), and 31st in both rushing yards permitted (142.6) and total yards given up (396.5). However, the Giants are tied for fifth in the NFL in interceptions (13) this season.

The defense did show up in last Sunday night's 31-28 loss to the visiting Dallas Cowboys until the final minute, when Tony Romo found Dez Bryant for the go-ahead score. Defensive end Damontre Moore and linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka each had a sack, but it wasn't enough to phase Romo, who had four touchdown passes and no interceptions.

Manning played better with three TD passes to just one interception, a far cry from what he did the previous week in a 16-10 loss to San Francisco in which he was picked off five times and had one touchdown pass. Manning and the Giants are frustrated, and hope to end the slide Sunday.

"I think everybody wants to win," Manning said. "Everybody wants to get that feeling back. I have seen that these last few weeks, we haven't got discouraged, it is frustrating."

The Giants can't take the Jaguars for granted this week.

"We are going to Jacksonville; they have one win, and we have three wins," Manning said. "I don't think we are in a position to label anybody or to think we are better than anybody. We have to play well. We've got to find a way to get a win, we've got to put 60 minutes together and play great football for that whole time."

Manning became the 16th quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 250 touchdowns and is nearing his 10th straight year with at least 3,000 yards.

New York will play its next two games on the road against Jacksonville and Tennessee, two teams from the AFC South. Coughlin was Jacksonville's first- ever head coach from 1995-2002 and won a franchise-best 72 games. Manning, who has made 162 consecutive starts, has four TDs and no interceptions in his last two games against AFC opponents.

The Giants are 1-4 on the road and have lost three straight as the guest.
Jacksonville is mired in a four-game losing streak and fell to a lowly 1-10 on the season after Sunday's 23-3 loss at Indianapolis last Sunday.

The Jaguars amassed only 194 yards of offense and that has been a major issue all season. Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles was intercepted once and threw for 146 yards on 15-of-27 passing with no touchdowns. Bortles has thrown an interception in every game this season (15 total) and hasn't recorded a touchdown pass in the last two games.

"It was hard. The defense played really well," Bortles said of not converting on Andrew Luck's miscues. "They stood up when we put them in some bad situations and they got us some turnovers, so that was good. I thought they did a really good job and obviously we weren't able to capitalize on it."
Bortles knows he has to improve on his end, too.

"There are passes I could get off quicker, and make a quicker decision, so that's all part of it," Bortles said. "That's all part of it. It's a part of getting reps and continuing to learn from it."

Jacksonville hopes to find some success in its first game at EverBank Field since Oct. 26 against Miami. 

The Jaguars have been abysmal on offense this season. They are 24th in rushing yards (96.5), 27th in passing yards (207.6), 31st in total yards (304.1) and dead last in scoring with just 14.6 points.

It gets no better on defense. Jacksonville is 27th against the pass (257.5), 28th against the rush (130.6), 30th in total yards allowed (388.3) and last in points against (27.7). On a positive note for the defense, the Jaguars have recorded 33 sacks in 11 games and have been led by Chris Clemons, who has registered seven sacks. Defensive end Ryan Davis is second with 5 1/2 sacks and DT Sen'Derrick Marks has five.

Clemons had three of the five sacks on Luck last week and has six in his past seven games. Marks has posted a sack in three of the past four.
Jacksonville, which is the best in red-zone defense, will try to get to Manning, who was sacked twice versus Dallas and has gone down at least two times (9 total) in his past four games. Manning has been sacked 22 times this season.

New York is 3-2 all-time against Jacksonville and the home team has won each time. The Giants won the last encounter between the team by a 24-20 score on 
Nov. 28, 2010, when Manning put the Giants ahead to stay with a 32-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kevin Boss. Current Giants running back Rashad Jennings was a Jaguar then and had 53 yards and a score on seven carries.

Rumor has it that Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr had a terrific grab for a touchdown against the Cowboys last week. Beckham, who missed the start of the season with a hamstring injury, grabbed a Manning pass with one hand for a score and set social media into a frenzy.

Beckham has a bright future for the Giants and will give them a solid 1-2 punch when Victor Cruz returns from a torn knee ligament. Beckham will try to continue his success against a weak Jacksonville defense and leads the team with 69 yards receiving. He had 10 catches for 146 yards and two scores versus Dallas and owns three 100-yard receiving games in the past four.

He is currently dealing with a back contusion and said he just had to loosen it up. Beckham has 31 receptions for 503 yards in November, and said he's trying to put his one-handed catch in the rearview mirror.

"It's definitely still there. There's no way of denying that," he said. "For the most part I'm just trying to get ready for this week. We do have another game coming up Sunday. You've got to put it behind you at some point."
Beckham will get behind coverage once or twice Sunday.

Jacksonville hopes to get to Manning before he settles in to make that happen for Beckham and the New York offense. Coughlin knows the Jaguars can cause problem up front.

"Their front is really good. Deep, they've got all kinds of guys that ran rush," Coughlin said. "The kid that comes off the edge with the second group, Ryan Davis, is a pass rusher whether he plays over the guard or outside. They're very fast at the linebacker plateau, very fast. They have good speed at the corners."
Demetrius McCray and Dwayne Gratz are the starting corners and safeties Johnathan Cyprien and Josh Evans provide help on top and against the run.

"At safety, (Johnathan) Cyprien is the leader of the secondary. He's physical, he plays down in the box," Coughlin said. "They want him in the box, they want Josh Evans in the middle of the field."

On offense, Jags wide receiver Allen Hurns leads the team with five touchdown receptions and Denard Robinson is the leading rusher with 508 yards and four TDs. Robinson, who was a passing and running threat at Michigan, is averaging 98.2 yards from scrimmage this season and plays a role in the aerial attack.

Are the Giants counting down the days for a new coach and quarterback? Does Manning still have enough talent and confidence to lead another New York resurgence? 

It's too early to tell, but patience is running thin for the G-men and all they can do from here is play hard and earn respect.

In order to avoid a seventh consecutive loss, the Giants must not overlook the Jaguars and come out firing from the jump. Jacksonville also needs to bounce back and has the home crowd in its corner. Some of the fans can do a better job than some of the players, but let's be realistic.

New York finally gets off the schneid this week for its first win since Oct. 5 and Manning is the reason why.

"They are pretty talented defensively. Their front four, they get a lot of sacks. They are big up front. Their linebackers can really run. They have a good scheme. They get after some teams. They get after the quarterback," Manning said. "We have to be safe with the ball, protect the ball, and try to get into a good rhythm and down and distance and see if we can hit a couple big plays."

Manning said playing a clean game and not turning the ball over will help in capturing a win.

"Finish strong. We have to get this first win," he said. "It has been a while. We have been doing some good things and have been close in the last two. We played it right down to the wire. We had great opportunities, but we have to find a way to get over that hump and get a win."

Sports Network predicted outcome: Giants 24, Jaguars 13

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