The Giants are not a team to revel in a regular season win, no matter how big. It’s not the Tom Coughlin way.
As shocking as it was to see the usually reserved head coach openly show emotion in the locker room at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Coughlin was just as predictable Monday when saying his team was already on to the next one.
“It was a great win over a very good football team. There were people who played outstanding [like] Jake Ballard and Eli [Manning] and Brandon Jacobs,” said Coughlin, quickly shifting gears to next week’s opponent the 49ers. “We’re continuously talking about [moving on] and we never talk about the past. The next game is the most important game of the year, so that’s how we approach it. Keep both feet on the ground and deal with both praise and criticism the same. … The 49ers are a great team, a real physical team. It’ll take great preparation and high energy to go out there and win at their place.”
Coughlin caught many off guard when he led the wild celebration following the victory over New England. He was as rowdy as he’s ever been after a big win. So much so that he was in the middle of a celebratory mosh pit, being thrust into the air by Jacobs.
“I thought he was going to dump me on my head,” Coughlin quipped.
But the “Giants Way” under Coughlin’s eight-year tenure isn’t to sit pat for too long. The Giants watched the New England game tape and the coaching staff corrected the mistakes, but as the meetings commenced, many players already had game tape of the Niners.
“Today was pretty much about the Patriots game. We looked at what we did right but also what we did wrong,” said linebacker Michael Boley. “But I’m already on [the San Francisco tapes]. In this league you have to shave a short memory, whether it comes to winning or losing. We have to put it behind us really quick because everyone knows we have a touch stretch ahead.”
The physical maladies, coupled with the rough schedule ahead, have actually steeled the Giants, according to Coughlin. He said he’s embracing the rough stretch and actually thinks his team is well prepared to handle the rigors, thanks to their innate ability to fend off adversity.
“[Their resiliency] helps because you know what it takes to win. Win the fourth quarter and be a better team in the fourth quarter to be able to finish. The experiences we’ve had in these close games will help us going forward,” said Coughlin of a team that’s had five fourth-quarter comebacks already. “There’s a belief on the sidelines and a confidence that we can get it done, no matter what. Even with 1:36 left [in the Patriots game] there was a belief. When you handle this [adversity] right you know it’ll take a great accomplishment to overcome and it’s a springboard to better things.”
Ballard, who caught the game-winning touchdown from Manning with 15 seconds remaining, is definitely buying into Coughlin’s philosophies.
“It was an exciting locker room afterwards and everyone was pretty excited, Coach, too. But the plane ride home was more subdued,” said Ballard. “It [the team’s focus] is the same as usual. We got to enjoy this for a little bit and it was a good win but we need to learn from our mistakes and move on.”
Big Blue notes
» Jake Ballard has gone from obscure afterthought to the main receiving option at the tight end position in only a matter of months. He’s no longer looked upon as the weak link because he’s made a habit of coming up big when the Giants needed him most. The second-year player from Ohio State, who spent all of last season on the practice squad, said he’s enjoying his newfound success, but remains humbled by his rookie season: “It’s hard to be on the practice squad and bust your butt all week but not play on Sundays. I’m glad that part of my career is over, but I’m also glad it happened because of where I am now. Who knows what could’ve happened if I didn’t have that experience. [The success] has reassured myself that I deserved to be here at this level.”
Ballard also said the team is buying into the “one game at a time mantra” and have embraced this upcoming patch of the schedule. Like Coughlin, he also thinks no game is out of reach, considering their past late-game success: “It gives us a great amount of confidence to know we can beat a good team. … It’s reassuring we can always rally as a team and compete at that level. It was a great way to start off this stretch of games.”
» Boley is also looking forward to the upcoming tests and has not given the collapses of the last two seasons any thought: “We try not to think about those last couple of years that we didn’t finish strong at the end of the year. We try to focus on each game one at a time and not worry about [looking] ahead.”
Boley said he’s not the least bit surprised at how quickly upstarts like Ballard, Victor Cruz and the rookie linebackers have contributed to the team’s success: “We have a pretty close-knit group and we’ve meshed together well. And we’ve had guys fly under-the-radar coming into this season, but I’m not surprised [at their success].”
» Coughlin was happy to praise the work of the younger guysm but added it’s too soon to be building monuments for them: “This is still ongoing. A lot of guys still need to improve. We’ll continue to work and improve because they’re still young. But they’ve developed an attitude and have had great veteran help. This is a process, the experience factor, but they are better understanding what we want.”
Coughlin then took a veiled shot at those who criticized the Giants for their off-season inactivity, saying his confidence never wavered in the guys they already had on the roster: “I think that as the suddenness of the Collective Bargaining Agreement having been settled and having gotten the players in here, there seemed like in the very beginning there were things that were taking place on a daily basis that we just had to stick to the grindstone and continue to do our job. As we say normally, let’s not worry about what we can’t control, let’s worry about what we can control. As I said from day one, we recognized the guys that were injured and felt badly for them. Then we called upon everybody else to have to step it up, to have to take more responsibility for the younger guys that were going to get a chance. ‘Let’s go.’ That’s the way that we approached it and I think the players did the same.”
» Coughlin reported on the statuses of the three starters missing on Sunday — running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), center David Baas (knee) and receiver Hakeem Nicks (hamstring): “I’ve received encouraging signs from the training room, but I wouldn’t guarantee anything until we hear what the doctors say and they guide us. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.