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Giants need answers and help to make the playoffs

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Giants need answers and help to make the playoffs

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Despite throwing away control of their playoff destiny with lopsided losses the past two weeks, the New York Giants aren't giving up.

While perplexed after seeing the defending Super Bowl champions outscored 67-14 by Atlanta and Baltimore, coach Tom Coughlin insists the Giants (8-7) will play hard in their season finale at home against the Philadelphia Eagles.

``We'll just keep hanging in there and working hard and this certainly is adversity,'' Coughlin said Monday. ``This certainly is a difficult time for us, but we're going to fight and we're going to do everything in our power to prepare ourselves for Philadelphia, who played very well against Washington.''

The Giants need a ton of help to avoid missing the playoffs for the third time in four years. They have to beat Philadelphia, have Minnesota and Chicago (both 9-6) lose and have Dallas (8-7) tie or lose to Washington.

While the chances of it all happening seem remote, Coughlin is hoping his team plays well after stumbling down the stretch with losses in five of the last seven games.

Neither Coughlin nor quarterback Eli Manning nor defensive end Osi Umenyiora could explain the collapse, although injuries have played a big part, especially in the second half of the season.

Halfback Ahmad Bradshaw (foot, knee), receiver Hakeem Nicks (foot, knee), defensive tackle Chris Canty (knee), safety Kenny Phillips (knee), offensive linemen David Diehl (knee), Chris Snee (hip) and David Baas (shoulder) all have played with nagging injuries.

Manning blamed some of the offensive woes lately on players not being able to practice much of the week and then showing up for games. Coughlin said the team isn't making many big plays on either side of the ball.

Manning believes this team wants to finish the season on a high note, even if that doesn't get the Giants in the postseason.

``We want to have something we can be proud about, and see how the other games (end up) " Manning said. ``I can guarantee you that the worst feeling we can have is if we go out there and don't play at a high level, and all those teams lose that we need to and we don't handle our own end. All we can worry about is improving our performance and getting back to playing quality football.''

The Giants certainly haven't done that lately. A week after being embarrassed 34-0 by the Falcons, New York dropped a 33-14 decision to the Ravens.

The combined 14 points is their lowest total in back-to-back games since Nov. 28 and Dec. 5, 2004, when they lost to Philadelphia 27-6, and to Washington, 31-7.

The offense was pathetic against a Ravens defense missing Ray Lewis. It gained 186 total yards with just 67 on the ground, was 2 of 10 on third down and held the ball for 20:29.

Baltimore gained 533 yards, the second-highest total in Coughlin's nine years as head coach.

Coughlin was at a loss to explain how a team loaded with veterans from two Super Bowl wins failed to step up and make plays.

``I'm sure it will be an incredible investigation and study,'' Coughlin said when asked if that was something the team would be looking at in the offseason.

Umenyiora said the ball just hasn't bounced the right way this season. They have been close to making plays and just missed or had breakdowns, something which didn't happen in their late-season six-game winning streak that carried them to a title last season.

It has led to a fair amount of frustration, but not anger, Umenyiora said, adding only one team walks away happy at the end of the season.

``Did this year play out the way out any of us wanted it to?'' Umenyiora said rhetorically. ``No, but at the end of the day we still have a chance to go out there and give one last good impression or one good showing of ourselves and I think we're going to do that.''

Umenyiora agreed with Coughlin that the Giants aren't a very confident team right now.

``The pedigree of this group is very, very good and for us to be getting beat the way we've been getting beat these last two weeks, obviously there's something lacking. Is it physical talent?'' Umenyiora said. ``You can't say it's physical talent because we have the ability, but obviously it has to be something, and so the only thing I think you can point to is confidence. It just doesn't seem like we're playing with a lot of confidence and it's showing out there on the football field.''

There is a good chance this will be Umenyiora's final season with the Giants. He said he would like to finish his career with the franchise, but he knows changes are coming if New York's season ends Sunday, and there is a ``high probability'' he would be a casualty.

Manning said the Giants' failure to make another late-season push was disappointing but not really a surprise because every season is different.

``You have to play your best football at the end of the season, especially for those in playoff contention, for playoff chances, you have to put yourself in the best possible position to be playing great football,'' Manning said. ``We haven't done that.''

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

The defensive performance on display by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a 21-0 shutout win was flat out historic. So historic that it's earned linebacker Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

A franchise-record 11 sacks were laid on quarterback Marcus Mariota during the Week 6 matchup, with Smith leading the way with three of them.   

So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. As someone who is in the final year of his rookie NFL contract, he's certainly proving he is worthy of getting paid this offseason. 

"It feels great, man. It's big," Smith said of the honor during media availability Wednesday. "I know when I first found out I called my mom and she was already looking at it. But I called her and she was trying to congratulate me and was like 'who would've ever thought the guy that played one year of high school football would be where he at now and making so many goals.'"

But earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week isn't the only goal Smith has in mind. His performance through the first six weeks and assisting the No. 1 ranked scoring defense is just a stepping stone to the ultimate honor.

"I was telling her, 'Ma you know this is a good self-goal but my main goal is to get us to the Super Bowl.'" 

The road to the Super Bowl for Smith and the Ravens continues this Sunday vs. Drew Brees and the Saints. 

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Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

The Baltimore Ravens' Week 6 dominate performance over the Tennessee Titans is gaining national attention. 

A historic game that displayed the offense and defense firing on all cylinders, it's hard to pinpoint who had the biggest impact. 

So in his latest edition of Football Morning in America, NBC Sports' Peter King awarded not one, but two Ravens with weekly honors.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Za'Darius Smith

Against the Titans, Smith led the Ravens defense with three sacks and five tackles in their historic 11-sack game. On of three Defensive Players of the Week, King explained why Smith's performance stood out.

In the most dominant defensive performance of this ultra-offensive season, the Ravens shut out Tennessee 21-0 and had 11 sacks. Another one of GM Ozzie Newsome’s draft gifts that keeps on giving, Smith (2015, round four, Kentucky) contributed three sacks of Marcus Mariota and five tackles in a virtuoso game. Net passing yards for Mariota: 51.

Smith, who's entering the final year of his rookie NFL contract, has shown over six games he deserves to get paid in the offseason. So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. 

COACH OF THE WEEK: Don "Wink" Martindale

In his first season as defensive coordinator, Don "Wink" Martindale has seamlessly made the transition from linebackers coach to leading the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense (12.8). But what impressed King the most from the 21-0 shutout was how Martindale's squad got to Mariota from every direction. 

When a unit records more sacks (11) than completions allowed (10), the leader gets an award. Those are the rules. Martindale’s pass rushers got to Marcus Mariota every possible way—up the middle, around the edges, in the pocket, on bootlegs, you name it. The total set a new franchise record and was one short of the single-game NFL mark of 12. And it came with a familiar face watching: Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees used to hold the same position in Baltimore. Shout out to the Ravens social media team for renaming the account RavenSSSSSSSSSSS, one ‘S’ for each sack.

This Ravens defense, who has always been known for its dominance, is ranked first in points allowed (12.8), first in yards allowed (270.8), second in passing yards allowed (188.0) and third in rushing yards allowed (82.8) heading into Week 7. In addition, they have yet to surrender a second half touchdown all season. Trusting of the talent this roster holds, the respect "Wink" has for his players is equally reciprocated. 

"It was really emotional when they told us we had 11 sacks," linebacker Patrick Onwuasor said postgame. "We just went out there and we were like, ‘We have to get Coach Wink . We have to put the Gatorade on him.’ So, we tried to turn him around so he couldn’t see it coming, and we had to get him real good."

Martindale will now face the No. 1 scoring offense in the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. 

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