Friday, October 5, 2012

Giants will cause more misery

For lack of a better term, let’s call it opposing-coachspeak.

Maybe it’s in the coaching manual, maybe not, but it never fails when coaches are asked to size up the opponent, the platitudes rain down from the heavens.

No matter how bad your opponent is, they’re world beaters that week. It’s as though they are saying, “It’s all we can do to win this game.”

It happens in the National Football League, the college ranks and even in high school. You never want to stir up the opponent.

The latest practitioner of opposing-coachspeak is New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin, whose club greets the Browns this Sunday in New Jersey. He didn’t waste any time hoisting the Browns a level that exists only in their minds.

“Do not be misled by the (Browns’) 0-4 record,” he said, presumably with a straight face. “To play the kind of defense they’ve played, they’ve been able to compete at the highest level.

“I see a team that plays hard and has created opportunities for itself . . . the quarterback has the ability to handle whatever is thrown at him . . . outstanding runner (an obvious reference to Trent Richardson).”

All the right things. Got ‘em all in. The only thing he missed was that bromide about the Browns being the best 0-4 team in the NFL. He can’t get away with that one. Everyone knows that title belongs to the winless New Orleans Saints.

Their defense competes at a high level . . . a team that plays hard . . . creates opportunities for itself . . . a quarterback who handles whatever is thrown at him.

So why, then, are the Browns 0-4? Happenstance? Bad luck? Injuries? Bad juju? Or maybe they are just not that good and oh and four are the correct won-lost figures for this team

Sure, the Browns play hard. That’s what they’re paid to do. And yes, they created opportunities for themselves, but Coughlin failed to mention they failed more often than not to capitalize on those opportunities.

And of course, Brandon Weeden handles whatever is thrown at him. Only problem there is he isn’t handling it well.

Coughlin undoubtedly went off script privately and told his team not to take the Browns lightly because the more they lose, the more dangerous they become. Don’t look past them. Certainly not with the San Francisco 49ers up next.

The psychology works both ways. Build up the next opponent, while at the same time crawling into the minds of his own players, wagging that finger of caution not to let down even though the Browns are winless in four games this season and 10 straight overall.

Now when you stop and take into account that the Giants are coming off a tough emotional loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday night, then you have a much better idea of just what to expect from the Giants this Sunday.

It doesn’t get much better for a coach to stir up his troops than a tough setback followed by a game against a team that is far inferior to his. Losing a game they thought they had won nags at teams for a while.

Coughlin also has some thoughts on retribution. The last time the Browns and Gants got together, it was on Monday Night Football in Cleveland and the Browns whacked the Giants, 35-14.

This Sunday, it will be almost four years to the day that the Browns welcomed the defending Super Bowl champions to the lakefront and abruptly ended their four-game winning streak.

Just about everything went right on that evening as a national television audience sat stunned at what unfolded. The Cleveland defense held Giants quarterback Eli Manning to less than 200 yards passing and intercepted three of his passes, the last a 94-yard pick 6 by cornerback Eric Wright.

The offense was led by Derek Anderson, who completed 18 of 29 passes for 310 yards and a couple of touchdowns against a very good secondary. Braylon Edwards was his favorite target with five catches for 154 yards and a TD, while Jamal Lewis rambled for 88 yards and a score.

Think Coughlin has forgotten about that where-did-that-come-from performance by the Browns? No, embarrassments like that are stored in the memory bank and recalled later.

Well, later is here now and the venue is quite different. But Manning is still the quarterback and the New York defense is still pretty much the same, although it has underperformed this season.

Last season, the defending world champions had 48 sacks. This season, opposing quarterbacks have been dropped only eight times. Jason Pierre-Paul, who led the team last season with 16½ sacks, has only 1½. Fellow defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who had nine last season, has just two.

Unless Pat Shurmur and Brad Childress plan on attacking the Giants in infantry fashion with Richardson, expect the Browns’ offensive line to be in pass protection mode most of the afternoon with tackles Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz  tested heavily.

The Giants and Browns are in roughly the same injury predicament regarding their receivers. Hakeem Nicks (knee) will miss his third straight game and Ramses Barden (concussion) is iffy for the Giants. That leaves it up to Victor Cruz, rookie Rueben Randle and Domenik Hixon, Charlie Frye’s favorite receiver at Akron, to carry the load.

For the Browns, it’s looks as though Weeden’s wide receiving corps will consist of Greg Little, Jordan Norwood and Josh Gordon with Mo Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin sidelined. That adds up to about four years’ experience against an experienced Giants secondary. Joshua Cribbs says he’s ready after last week’s devastating concussion-causing helmet hit against Baltimore, We’ll see.

The odds are clearly in New York’s favor. Home-field advantage. Revenge. Better personnel. That’s way too many obstacles for the Browns to overcome.  Count on it: The Giants will load the box to stop Richardson and force Weeden to throw.

The Browns might make it a game for a quarter, but there is no way I can put this one in the victory column and end the losing streak, which reaches 11 in a row. Make it:

Giants 37, Browns 14

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