- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2003

From combined dispatches

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Jim Fassel has dealt with disappointment, injuries, weeks of losing and speculation about his future as the New York Giants coach, all without flinching.

Watching the Giants crumble in recent weeks is getting to him.

“It really hurts me,” Fassel said yesterday, a little more than 12 hours after the New Orleans Saints handed the Giants (4-10) their sixth straight loss, 45-7. “Personally it digs at me. It kills me because we’ve been competitive.

“Sometimes we’ve done real well, sometimes we’ve been competitive, but in the end it didn’t work out,” Fassel said. “I feel right now … we weren’t competitive and that bothers me.”

The 38-point loss was the Giants’ largest since a 44-3 defeat against San Francisco in the 1993 playoffs. It was New York’s worst regular-season loss since a 42-0 defeat at Oakland in 1973.

“All I can do is go back, retool it and try to be competitive the next week,” Fassel said. “Every week is a new week, but it bothers me. It grinds at you.”

Life isn’t getting any easier for the Giants.

New York will travel to Dallas next weekend to play the Cowboys (9-5), who are trying to earn a playoff berth in Bill Parcells’ first season as coach.

The Giants, who began the season thinking they were a Super Bowl contender, will finish on Dec.28 at home against Carolina (9-5), which already has clinched the NFC South title for coach John Fox, Fassel’s former defensive coordinator.

Jones thriving with Bucs

TAMPA, Fla. — A bust in Arizona, Thomas Jones is making the most of an opportunity to revive his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The fourth-year running back replaced ex-Cardinals teammate Michael Pittman as a starter two weeks ago and has responded with a pair of strong performances to help the Bucs (7-7) remain in playoff contention.

“I know I’m a starting tailback — a featured back,” Jones said after gaining 134 yards on 34 carries in Sunday’s 16-3 victory over the Houston Texans. “It’s just a matter of me getting the ball.”

Thanks in part to Jones, Tampa Bay has won two straight for the first time all season. He had 89 yards on 20 carries in his first start for the Super Bowl champions, and welcomed an increased workload against the Texans.

Coach Jon Gruden promises more.

“We’re trying to discover just what kind of back he is,” Gruden said. “The only way you truly find out is you give him an opportunity. He’s carried 54 times in the last two games for well over 200 yards. Some eyebrows were raised a little. We’re excited.”

Parcells not satisfied

IRVING, Texas — Bill Parcells isn’t satisfied yet, even though he’s made the Dallas Cowboys winners again in his first season.

While the Cowboys (9-5) are guaranteed their first winning season in five years, they still have to win one of their last two games to be assured a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

“I’m happy about it, but my standards are a little higher than nine wins,” Parcells said, a day after the Cowboys’ 27-0 win at Washington ended a two-game losing streak. “I would like to try to get above that.”

Raiders’ Callahan unworried

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Oakland Raiders coach Bill Callahan has no idea whether beating Baltimore did enough to save his job.

Nor is he worried about it.

“I just try to coach to the best of my ability and hope they keep me one more week, you know?” Callahan said after his team’s 20-12 victory over the Ravens a day earlier. “If I can stay one more week, I’m a happy camper.”

Callahan, who earns $1 million a season, is in the second year of a two-year contract, and Raiders owner Al Davis has a series of one-year club options that could keep Callahan in Oakland through the 2006 season.

The Raiders, a disappointing 4-10 after reaching the Super Bowl last season in Callahan’s rookie year, got the day off yesterday as a reward for their win, which snapped a string of three straight losses and eight of nine.

Bengals have playoff fever

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals are selling playoff tickets.

Really.

For the first time since 1990, the team in tiger stripes has a postseason berth in the palm of its hands. The Bengals (8-6) will clinch the AFC North if they win their last two games, setting up a first-round home game.

The club announced it will start selling playoff tickets this week, its closest brush with the postseason since the days of Boomer, Ickey and Sam.

The Bengals moved into a first-place tie by beating San Francisco 41-38 on Sunday, while Baltimore lost in Oakland 20-12. The Bengals and Ravens have the same record, but the relevant tiebreakers are in Cincinnati’s favor.

If the two finish tied, the Bengals get their first division title and playoff appearance since 1990, ending the longest current streak of futility in the NFL.


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