The Giants got back to work on Wednesday, with the Panthers clearly in their sights. But before head coach Tom Coughlin could delve into that, he was forced to rehash his thoughts on the sloppy loss last week and how the team can improve before their Week 3 matchup.
“I’d like to see better play. The fact of the matter is we need to play better,” Coughlin said. “Through three quarters the other day [against the Broncos], it was still a very good football game. ... Finish the game is what we’ve talked about [and] playing four quarters. It’s a challenge for all of us to get this right. I understand the [team’s] leaders want to see more fire, but all I care about is playing better.”
Coughlin also had a terse message about the team’s fight going forward. When asked why franchise quarterback Eli Manning was still in the game late in the fourth quarter, despite it being over for all intent and purposes, Coughlin sneered and evoked his inner Herman Edwards.
“At one point it was 30-something to 23 [actually 38-23], so we’re trying to score a touchdown and make it [closer]. Maybe we get the onside kick, too,” Coughlin said. “We’re trying to win a game. I don’t know any other way [to coach]. ... I don’t know what you’re asking? Want me to take him off the field?”
Manning will need to be on the field for every snap possible to help the Giants break into the win column against a feisty and competitive Panthers squad.
According to Coughlin, the Panthers are no ordinary winless team, as they were just a handful of plays from being unbeaten. The coach marveled at how few mistakes the young Carolina team makes.
“They’ve lost two games by six points. Their defense has given up only 36 points and held Seattle to just 12,” said Coughlin. “They’re sixth in rushing and over the past two seasons, they’ve had the most plays in the league over 20 yards, so they have big-play capabilities as well. They don’t beat themselves, as they’ve only had seven penalties and three turnovers. ... They’ve also had a couple things go against them, as most teams in their [winless] position have done. But their games have been very tight and competitive and [they] have had chances to win both games.”
The Panthers are a physical team on both sides of the ball, and keep their mistakes to a minimum — something the Giants have not done.
“I think it’s just going to come down to us coming together as a team. I think that’s going to take care of a lot. Playing with that extra enthusiasm, that passion and emotion — that’s also going to carry over and take care of a lot,” safety Antrel Rolle said. “We need that. We need that as a team. I think that’s something right now that we’re lacking and we need to find a way to get back to it.”
Fellow team captain, defensive end Justin Tuck, agreed with Rolle’s assertion that the team needs to jell better and get on the same page.
“Honestly, we have to stop beating ourselves. We have a lot of opportunities in these first three games to kind of rewrite what this 0-2 is — the reality of this 0-2,” Tuck said. “We had a lot of opportunity to win both of these football games and didn’t do it. Granted we played two pretty good football teams, but like I said, we had opportunities to play better than what we did.”
Most of the Giants’ opportunities have come via the air, as New York leads the NFL in passing yards (427 yards per game), but are last in the league in rushing (36.5 yards per game). In order to better capitalize on opportunities, Big Blue will need to find better balance.
“I believe it is [possible]. I believe we've got a lot of work to do to get there, obviously, but it’s something that we have to have,” Coughlin said. “That [balance] is critical to the ability to be in position where we can at least hold the defense at bay. It’s very important. We’ve understood that. We have not had a lot of success. That means we really do have to put more emphasis into it. ... We’ve just got to get our football right [and] we’ve got to stop hurting ourselves, play as one, finish the fourth quarter and play four solid quarters.”
Big Blue notes ...
» The Giants only had two players on their preliminary injury report: tight end Adrien Robinson (foot) and right tackle David Diehl (thumb).
Diehl, though, was able to at least go through the team’s walkthrough reps before embarking on a running workout on a side field away from the team’s practice.
» Wideout Hakeem Nicks was making one-handed catches that seemed routine during the media portion of the practice. He was likely protecting the dislocated finger that he suffered in the Denver game.
» The Panthers are so banged up in the secondary that undrafted rookie safety Robert Lester was the starter at strong safety on his very first day on the Panthers’ active roster. Carolina head coach Ron Rivera said he “most certainly” feels that Manning will attack his team’s depleted secondary.
» Coughlin shed light on his abrupt absence Monday afternoon, as the coach’s family was dealing with the sudden death of his brother, John, who was 63 years old.
“Our family is thankful for the expressions of sympathy and prayers for our brother John’s passing. We all appreciate them,” Coughlin said. “John was a friend to all. He loved life, and he will be greatly missed. He left us way too soon.”
The team announced that Coughlin will be with the Giants through the game Sunday. The viewing will be Monday night and the funeral will be on Tuesday in Waterloo, N.Y.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.