Giants players defend Tom Coughlin

Updated: December 30, 2010, 8:21 AM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants spent more time on Wednesday answering questions about their head coach than actually discussing this week's opponent.

A third-straight loss this week to the Washington Redskins will not only keep the Giants out of the postseason for the second straight year but it will also make coach Tom Coughlin's seat that much hotter.

The Giants were just eight minutes away from potentially winning the NFC East two games ago. From that point on, the Giants suffered an epic collapse to the Eagles before being routed in Green Bay with a playoff berth on the line. Now, the Giants' postseason hopes, and possibly Coughlin's fate, are dependent on two things happening: The Giants must beat the Redskins in Landover on Sunday and hope for the Chicago Bears to beat the Packers in Lambeau.

The Bears clinched the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs with the Eagles loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night. The Bears have an outside shot at earning the top-seed if the Falcons lose at home to Carolina and the Saints lose to Tampa Bay at home. Both games are at 1 p.m. ET so the Bears might not have anything to play for once they kick off in the late afternoon game at Green Bay.

Even though Bears coach Lovie Smith has said he plans on playing his starters, the Giants are trying to focus on what they can control and that is beating the Redskins and playing hard for Coughlin. The Giants have beaten the Redskins in nine of their previous 11 meetings, including a 31-7 win on Dec. 5.

Several players defended the Giants head coach and took the blame for the Giants' late-season swoon.

"Has he lost the locker room?" safety Antrel Rolle said. "No, he hasn't. If we go out there and take care of business, there won't be any concerns. So I put that on the players first and foremost."

Defensive tackle Barry Cofield also came to Coughlin's defense.

"I don't think he has lost his voice in this locker room," Cofield said. "Guys still respect him and appreciate the mindset and energy that he brings to the table. We don't get to choose our coach but no one in this locker room has fallen out of favor with anyone else. We are still a family and been through a lot and just trying to win a tough game."

The Giants (9-6) are still trying to figure out what has gone so wrong in the past two games. They were riding a three-game winning streak and were punishing the Eagles, 31-10, with eight minutes left. Then Eagles quarterback Michael Vick went off and the Giants defense has not recovered since. The Giants have been outscored 73-17 since there were eight minutes remaining in the Eagles' game.

They not only lost a chance to win the division but also squandered a chance to clinch a playoff berth in a 45-17 loss in Green Bay.

"It's devastating," Rolle said of losing control of their fate the last two games. "No one put us in this position but us. We can't fault anyone but ourselves."

"I just don't feel like we have [been] clicking," Rolle added. "The desire and passion, it seems like it has been escaping us a little bit. I knew guys wanted it. We practiced good and practice hard and everyone is mentally ready for it but for some reason it hasn't been translating onto the field. We are going to find ourselves, we are going to find our way back. No one is hanging their heads."

Still, some have been calling for the Coughlin's head -- which isn't anything new.

In 2006, the Giants needed to win their regular-season finale in Washington to make the playoffs and they beat the Redskins 34-28 before losing to the Eagles in the Wild Card.

The Giants kept Coughlin and he won the Super Bowl the following season.

"So far we haven't played up to our potential and that is not on the coaches," quarterback Eli Manning said. "He may get blamed for it but that is on the players. We are well-coached and well-prepared."

Earlier this season, the Giants lost back-to-back games twice and each time responded with a winning streak. Now they are on another two-game slide and they hope a win in Washington will help them get into the postseason.

Even if the Packers beat the Bears, the Giants want to finish the season with 10 wins. That could help Coughlin's cause.

Cofield said he has friends on the Bears who have told him they plan on playing to beat the Packers. He admitted he will be watching the scoreboard at FedEx Field.

Of course, the first score that matters is the one between the Giants and Redskins, who are still playing hard for head coach Mike Shanahan.

Coughlin told his team to just focus on themselves and move forward from last week.

"Play this game that we're in, pay no attention to anything else," Coughlin said. "All you can do is take care of your own business. There isn't a great example than [the Vikings win over the Eagles]. Take care of your own business and good things can happen. Whatever transpires will transpire."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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