by Jeff Miklos
It will be very easy to blame the absence of Plaxico Burress for the embarrassing ending to the Giants season. When I was walking out of the stadium on Sunday I heard many people doing just that. The fact of the matter is that this team was done in by an inefficient red zone offense and a deteriorating pass rush.
This season, even with Plaxico in uniform, the Giants were a miserable red zone offense. The Giants ranked first in the league in plays run in the red zone, but twentieth in touchdown percentage. The Giants have long suffered from terrible play calling; can the Raiders please hire Kevin Gilbride? If anyone did not understand why Buddy Ryan clocked him in the mouth during a game, three straight pass plays when the Giants had first and five on the Eagle 21 yard line should have ended that mystery. The other problem with the Giants offense is that outside of his Super Bowl MVP performance, Eli Manning has always been an up and down quarterback. You saw the bad Eli yesterday. This was a team that struggled to deliver the kill shot before Plaxico had his, ahem, troubles, for a variety of reasons that have plagued the franchise for many years, so the Giants continually settling for field goal attempts on Sunday was the rule of the season, not the exception.
The pass rush also fell apart as the season progressed and they finished Sunday's game with no sacks. I think this was more important than not having Plaxico. The Giants won last year because they got after the quarterback. They only scored 17 points in the Super Bowl and ended the Patriots quest to increase the population of Perfectville to two because the defensive line blew up the Patriots offense. Yes the defense forced an interception and a safety by generating some pressure, but does anyone think last year's defense let's McNabb have the time to complete a third and twenty pass play? I don't think so.
Sure not having Plaxico was a factor, but he has been gone for quite some time now. It was not like everyone found out he would be unavailable five minutes before kickoff. Sunday was a microcosm of the season, the pass rush was nowhere to be found and the offense could not finish drives.
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