The Washington Times - December 18, 2009, 03:15PM

Three questions with Giants beat writer Ralph Vacchiano of The Daily News.

Q. The Giants were looking like one of the game’s best teams for a third straight season when they started this year 5-0. What sent them tumbling in the wrong direction?


A. The schedule. That’s the simple truth. They beat up on a bunch of nobodies (no offense to the Redskins) for the most part in the first five games and many of their problems were well-hidden. Back then they had lots of miscommunication in their secondary, they had no consistent pass rush, and their running game was struggling, but it didn’t matter. Then they played the Saints, Cardinals, Chargers, etc., and all of a sudden those problems weren’t so easy to hide.

Q. The Giants have been known for their defense for years. They’ve allowed 32.4 points a game while losing six of their last eight. What’s wrong with the defense? It can’t just be losing Antonio Pierce and Kenny Phillips to injuries.

A: No. They were struggling long before Pierce got hurt. The Phillips injury didn’t help because he might have been the playmaker in their secondary that they don’t currently have. But I can’t believe that’s all it is. The truth is they’ve had LOTS of injuries. LB Michael Boley (knee) and DT Chris Canty (hamstring/calf) were two big free agents who missed most of camp and nearly half the season. CB Aaron Ross (hamstring) missed about four months. And remember, DE Osi Umenyiora, DT Barry Cofield and DT Fred Robbins were all coming off knee surgery. DE Justin Tuck has a torn labrum in his shoulder. Add in a rookie defensive coordinator and … well, as you can see, it’s just not good.

Q. Even if the Giants win out against Washington, Carolina and going-through the motions MInnesota and get into the playoffs, do you see them as a real threat to get to the Super Bowl?

A: No. Then again, I didn’t see them as a real threat to get to the Super Bowl in 2007 either. They were an unheralded fifth seed then and facing three road games plus the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, but look what happened. I think this team has the talent to do some damage. I don’t think they can go into New Orleans or Minnesota and win in January, but if somehow, some way they start playing up to their capabilities then I wouldn’t be stunned to see them win a couple of games and get everyone worried. They have a heck of an offense and their quarterback is having a career year. That’s a pretty good start. And if they can finally, after all this time, generate that pass rush … then hey, you never know.

— David Elfin