Giants know exactly what Broncos are going through
AP Sports Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colorado – The New York Giants just escaped their own month of misery. So they understand the seething frustration and loss of poise in Denver, where sideline shoves, the head coach’s cockiness and players-only meetings are all the buzz.
The Broncos (6-4) have lost four in a row and blown what was once a 31/2-game division cushion. The Giants (6-4) snapped their own four-game slid, which cost them the NFC East lead, by beating Atlanta in overtime Sunday.
The two second-place teams meet Thursday night at Invesco Field as the Broncos host their first Thanksgiving game since 1963 in the AFL.
Denver is at the low point of the season following a 32-3 thrashing Sunday at the hands of the San Diego Chargers, who supplanted them atop the AFC West. Broncos coach Josh McDaniels exchanged heated words with some of San Diego’s linebackers during warmups, then watched his team come undone with silly penalties and an ugly sideline spat while losing both its composure and its fourth straight game.
Although McDaniels has declined to discuss his own trash talking with the opponent, he did say he’s an emotional coach with a team full of emotional players who need to keep their poise.
“You can’t be all over the place emotionally,” Denver defensive leader Brian Dawkins concurred. “That doesn’t usually lead to a lot of success.”
Dawkins called a players-only meeting Tuesday to get some things off his chest.
“It felt great,” running back Correll Buckhalter said. “I think we needed it to get all our players on the same page.”
Cornerback Champ Bailey said some attitudes needed adjusting but he won’t know until Thursday night if the “no coaches allowed” meeting did any good.
“I was fairly encouraged just to talk to some of my teammates,” Bailey said. “But what’s going to encourage me more is if we play better. It’s not really what people say, it’s what they do.”
And lately, the Broncos have been talking a good game but playing bad ones.
Their offense has been stuck in low gear, their defense is springing leaks, especially against the run, and their special teams are dreadful.
Sounds a lot like the Giants before they snapped out of their funk.
Defensive end Osi Umenyiora said New York’s first win in 42 days felt like a brick wall was lifted on their backs.
“We were getting killed around here,” he said. “Coming to work wasn’t as much fun as it used to be when you were winning. Nobody likes to lose. We are accustomed to winning as of late. It was very, very important and we are happy to get that done.”
As much as players talk about putting games behind them and moving on to the next opponent, winning streaks and losing streaks both have a way of lingering.
When you win, Giants quarterback Eli Manning said, “everybody is smiling a little bit easier and they are excited about the win and how everything is going. When you start losing you get down a little bit and things aren’t as enjoyable. People aren’t laughing as easy. You are still practicing the same, preparing the same. You go through the same steps. It’s not as fun when you’re not winning.”
“So it is good to get that win and get that sense of that winning feeling back in the locker room, … kind of see the smiles after the game after a long stretch where you haven’t won a game.”
The Broncos are envious. They haven’t won since Oct. 19.
They went through this same kind of skid last year, blowing a three-game lead over the last three weeks of the season to lose the division title, leading to an offseason of upheaval.
“The good thing about this year is it’s right in the middle of the season,” Bailey suggested. “So, we’ve got time to overcome that. Last year, we slid off at the end.”
The Broncos’ 6-0 start is a faded memory now that opponents have discovered their soft underbelly: running the ball straight up the gut.
Denver has allowed opponents to run for an average of 145 yards during the skid, controlling the second half by grinding out the clock.
Dawkins expects the Giants to try the same tactic that worked wonders for Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Washington and San Diego and hand the ball off early and often.
“Absolutely. Why wouldn’t you? If you were an opposing coach, why wouldn’t you do that? Why wouldn’t you test that out?” Dawkins said. “They’re a running team anyway, so they’re going to do it anyway, but why wouldn’t you?”
Maybe because the Giants will be short-handed in the backfield with backup Ahmad Bradshaw (ankle) sidelined. So, they’ll have to be careful not to overwork Brandon Jacobs and wear him out in the Mile High air.
Several Broncos said they were glad they had a short week to get back on the field for another shot at snapping their losing streak. Not Dawkins.
“Do I like playing on Thanksgiving? No, I would I love to be sitting and watching somebody else play if I had my choice,” he said.
Giants defensive end Justin Tuck doesn’t mind missing out on a big feast, though.
“I eat every day. I am not worried about necessarily eating on Thanksgiving Day,” he said. “Hopefully I get to eat some quarterbacks.”