New York Giants Struggle Without Plaxico Burress Against Eagles, But Don't Blame Loss on His Absence

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 12, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Jan. 11 -- The New York Giants were dethroned as Super Bowl champions here Sunday, dismissed rudely from the NFC playoffs by the Philadelphia Eagles.

But the unraveling of the Giants' season perhaps could be traced to the late-November incident in which wide receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg at a New York nightclub. The Giants weren't the same team without Burress, and they got little production out of their wide receivers in the defeat to the Eagles that ended their season.

They refused to blame their second-round playoff loss on that, however.

"That's an excuse that we're not going to use," center Shaun O'Hara said. "There were plenty of opportunities out there for us to win that football game."

The Giants once looked like the league's top team, winning 11 of their first 12 games of the season on the heels of their upset of the previously unbeaten New England Patriots in last season's Super Bowl. They won their first game without Burress, who now faces weapons charges.

The Giants reacted to the Burress incident by suspending him for four games for conduct detrimental to the team and placing him on the non-football injury list, making him ineligible to play for the club again this season or postseason.

With Burress, they had been a team capable of winning a game virtually any way they wanted, with defense or running or passing on offense.

Without Burress, the passing game suffered. Quarterback Eli Manning lacked his favorite target. There was more pressure on the running game and defense. The Giants lost three of their final four regular season games, and now they'll watch the sixth-seeded Eagles visit the fourth-seeded Arizona Cardinals in next Sunday's NFC championship game.

"As always, [it's] difficult to see the season come to an end, especially on a game such as today," Coach Tom Coughlin said.

Yet Coughlin and his players rejected the notion the Burress incident had undone their season.

"I don't think it has a whole lot to do with that," Coughlin said. "Those are the questions that have been asked since Day One. The fact of the matter is, Plaxico is not out there."

Still, the Burress-less wide receiver corps totaled only six catches for 80 yards Sunday. No Giants wideout had more than two catches.

"We just didn't play well today," Manning said. "It's not about Plaxico. We had opportunities. We have players that can make plays and do things. It's not the issue. I have total confidence and faith in the guys we had out there today."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company