Mathias Kiwanuka points to lack of effort in big losses

Mathias Kiwanuka celebrates a sack of Green Bay

Mathias Kiwanuka celebrates a sack of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers during the second half of a game at MetLife Stadium. (Nov. 25, 2012) (Credit: AP)

Chris Snee looked back on the opportunities lost and stated the obvious about his team simply not being good enough. Mathias Kiwanuka looked back and delivered a far more ominous suggestion about the biggest reason why.

Moments after the Giants' resounding 42-7 win over the Eagles on Sunday, Snee shook his head at his team's 9-7 record that wasn't good enough to get them into the playoffs.

"It's frustrating, and it will be for quite some time," he said. "I believe that we're a better team than 9-7, but I have no ground to stand on. That's our record, and the way we played the prior two weeks, we don't deserve to be in the playoffs."

He's right about that. No matter how good the Giants looked against the Eagles, who looked to be mailing it in for what likely will be Andy Reid's final game as coach, it still didn't negate their back-to-back no-shows on the road against Atlanta and Baltimore. Nor did it absolve them from previous road losses to the Bengals, Redskins and Eagles.

Kiwanuka's assessment, which was just as brutally frank, carried with it the insinuation that the big reason for their failure was that they simply didn't try hard enough.

When I asked the thoughtful linebacker / defensive end if there was one loss in particular that did the Giants in, Kiwanuka said: "I don't think there's one game. There's a couple of them in there where we just didn't come out with the same intensity. There are a number of games I can point to. It's a group effort, it's a decision by a group to come and play our ball, and for whatever reason, we just didn't do it a number of weeks."

The translation: The Giants didn't consistently give the kind of effort that Tom Coughlin demands. So when the coach asks his players in the days ahead about the Giants' inability to get back to the playoffs, Coughlin should think long and hard about what Kiwanuka was implying.

Coughlin still didn't have any answers about the inexplicable two-week meltdown in Atlanta and Baltimore in which the Giants were outscored 67-14 to fall to 8-7. They lost control of their destiny and were left with long odds to get into the tournament.

A win over the Eagles was a start, but they also needed the Bears, Vikings and Cowboys to lose. In the locker room after one of their most complete victories of the season, the Giants learned that the Bears had beaten the Lions. And that was that.

At 9-7, the same record that was good enough to win the NFC East last year and set up a remarkable run to a second Super Bowl championship in five seasons, the Giants were done.

And now, as they reflect on what went wrong, they'd be best served to listen to Kiwanuka's explanation, perhaps the most disturbing commentary of all for a season that fell off a cliff after an impressive 6-2 record halfway through.

"I say if you go out there and give your best effort and lose the game, you can still be proud of your effort," Kiwanuka said. "But there are games in there where you know that wasn't us, and that's what's disappointing."

Which games in particular?

"All of the losses," Kiwanuka said. "The big ones."

Take your pick of any of the woulda-shoulda-couldas: 31-13 in Cincinnati right before the bye . . . 17-16 in Washington . . . 34-0 in Atlanta . . . 33-14 in Baltimore . . . any one of them will do. And don't forget that 19-17 Week 4 loss in Philly, when the Giants took themselves out of Lawrence Tynes' field-goal comfort zone with some curious play-calling at the end.

Season's over. Second-guessing isn't.

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