The Giants head into Sunday’s Wild Card matchup against the Falcons in a familiar role — win or else.
The fact that the opening of the playoffs will actually be that same scenario doesn’t faze them one bit.
“No toughness, no championship, that’s a motto that’s across the walls here,” said head coach Tom Coughlin. “That’s important to establish that toughness, because stopping [Falcons running back] Michael Turner [1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns] is going to be a great challenge.”
Coughlin noted that Atlanta is No. 10 in the league in total offense, No. 12 on defense and tops in special teams coverage. All three facets of the game are vital to winning any game, let alone a single-elimination playoff format, so Coughlin said he’s been hammering home the basics to winning football.
The Giants have not been known as a smashmouth team this year, ranking an unfamiliar dead last in both total rushing yards and rushing yards per game. But if they are to have a shot at winning at home (4-4 at MetLife Stadium), a place that’s actually not been too kind to them, Coughlin said they’ll need to establish some semblance of a running game and also take advantage of playing in the Northeast, which is usually a daunting task for southern teams who play in domes.
“We’re gonna have to be [a good cold weather team] and run ball with consistency,” Coughlin said. “Plus, Eli [Manning] has always thrown the ball well in bad weather, which is remarkable.”
The Giants will have to be remarkably tough to withstand a balanced attack. The Falcons may play down south, but they lack hospitality — as evidenced by Justin Tuck calling into question the integrity of the Falcons’ offensive line.
“We know they have that quote-unquote reputation,” Tuck said. “But in a way it kind of is exciting. Most people would call them dirtbags, but it is what it is.”
The players already know it’s going to be a dirty game, just because of the sheer finality that a playoff loss brings.
“Playoffs are different, because it’s win or go home” said safety Antrel Rolle. “You have to turn up the intensity a few notches and bring your best of the best ball.”
Rolle stirred a few commotions in his own locker room recently following a home loss to the Redskins when he hinted that not all of his teammates were sacrificing enough and fighting through ailments to practice. Since then, the Giants have won two straight and are as healthy and focused as they’ve been all season.
Coughlin said he thinks Rolle’s thinly-veiled shots at teammates are what awakened the big blue beasts.
“I ask for more positive peer pressure from the players,” Coughlin said. “This is a big week against a good football team. … All hands on deck.”
Brandon Jacobs summed up the Giants’ surly mood best when asked about the outlook of his team.
“I would not want to face the New York Giants in the playoffs right now,” Jacobs said. “I’ve got the same feeling [that I had in 2007]. … It’s basically the same road as well.”
Big Blue notes
»The Giants’ injury report wasn’t as long as in past weeks, which is a good sign. Tight end Jake Ballard (knee), running back Da’Rel Scott (knee) and defensive end Osi Umenyiora were limited in practice, while running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and linebacker Mark Herzlich (ankle) did not practice.
»The weather forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of some sort of precipitation and Coughlin said he and his staff are keeping tabs. But while any inclement weather will surely affect some of the game-planning, Coughlin said it won’t affect his quarterback, who has been known to brave the elements (think Green Bay, 2007 playoffs): “He’s up to that challenge and any challenge.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.