The Giants won’t make the playoffs and won’t even finish .500, but that won’t deter them from playing as if everything is still on the line.
Perhaps that’s because head coach Tom Coughlin won’t allow them to think otherwise.
“The questions started coming in from the media of ‘what do you have to play for?’ But for me, you still have everything to play for. You’re playing for the powers that be. You’re playing for the coaches who want to see what you’re made of. You’re even playing for the former players who played for us,” Coughlin said. “It’s always about a matter of pride, who you represent and your character. [It’s about] who you are, whether you’re a fighter and competitor or not, and whether you have competitive greatness. … A man is who he is and for all time to be recorded — your family name is represented, too.”
The Giants (6-9) represented the New York area well as they came off a comeback overtime win in Detroit — a victory that also knocked the Lions (7-8) out of playoff contention.
And for rookie right tackle Justin Pugh, ruining someone else’s postseason plan was gratifying because it meant his team still had the will and professionalism to do their jobs.
“It’s still a job and at the end of the day, you have to fight for your teammates and your fans. There’s no quit in these guys, so you don’t want that label of saying we quit. You don’t want that following you into the offseason,” Pugh said, adding the Giants were fired up to avenge last week’s shutout loss to the Seahawks. “The way we played last week made us prepare harder this week, play physical and play with the right effort that you need to win a football game.”
Big Blue’s win was all the more impressive considering so much was mounting against them. The Lions were at home and coming off a last-second loss the previous week. The Giants rarely fare well in domed stadiums. Their offensive line was in tatters. Their best receiver, Victor Cruz, was home after undergoing knee surgery. And they had just two running backs in uniform – Andre Brown, before he bowed out in overtime with an injury, and rookie Michael Cox.
The running back situation was so bad for the Giants that the final carry by someone other than quarterback Eli Manning was tight end Bear Pascoe.
Coughlin appreciated the sacrifice of players that were either performing a different role or stepping in cold off the bench to give it their all.
“We’ve been able to stay focused and touch on some real deep values that get overlooked when people are telling you [that] you have nothing to play for. We’ve still got everything in the world to play for. I’ve done a lot of reading on men like Vince Lombardi and John Wooden and they had similar thoughts [on playing for pride]. Everybody has those [tough] situations in life. It doesn’t always go the easy way or the privileged way,” said Coughlin. “Like John Wooden wrote, it’s all about effort. That never changes and that’s what we preach here. … The most difficult times can sometimes be your best of times, because it comes down to how you handle it [adversity]. I take that stuff very seriously.”
Big Blue notes …
»Coughlin said now is not the time to think about the offseason, as they’ll prepare for the Redskins in earnest: “I think all you can do is focus on one week at a time and the circumstances that surround the team. Of course we’ll be extremely critical of the first six [losses], but you evaluate and take a look when the season is over — and make the decisions that have to be made.
»Coughlin was unable to give any updates on those injured in Detroit, saying he had yet to talk with team doctors: “I don’t have anything for you, right now, but I’m naturally concerned.”
»Overall, the Giants are 19-14-2 in regular-season overtime games since they were first played in 1974. They are 11-5-2 on the road and 8-9 at home. Coughlin is 8-4 in regular-season overtime games, including 6-2 with the Giants.
»The Giants have won their last five games in Detroit (1988, 1996, 1997, 2007 and on Sunday).
»New York finished 3-1 against the NFC North, defeating the Vikings, Packers and the Lions, but losing to the Bears.
»When the Giants led at halftime, 13-3, it was the fourth time this season they did not allow an offensive touchdown in the first half (Minnesota on Oct. 21, at Philadelphia on Oct. 27 and versus Green Bay on Nov. 17).
»Big Blue could only muster 41 rushing yards against the Lions — their third-lowest total of the season (23 yards against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 15 and just 25 last week against Seattle).
»The Lions, conversely, rushed for 148 yards —the second-highest total allowed by the Giants this season. Carolina was tops with 194 yards on Sept. 22.
»If the Giants commit a turnover next week against Washington in the finale, they will finish with at least one in every game for the first time since 2007.
»Manning’s interception was his 26th of the season, a new franchise record. It broke a tie with Frank Filchock (1946) and Charlie Conerly (1953).
»The comeback win over the Lions was the 25th time that Manning has led the Giants on a game-winning drive. He currently ranks fifth among active quarterbacks, behind brother Peyton (50) in Denver, Tom Brady (35) in New England, Drew Brees (31) in New Orleans and Ben Roethlisberger (29) in Pittsburgh.
»Kicker Josh Brown’s 45-yard walk-off winner was his ninth career game-winning field goal. His last game-winner was on Dec. 23, 2012, when his 43-yarder with four seconds left gave Cincinnati a 13-10 victory over Pittsburgh. Brown’s 52-yarder was not only his longest field goal, but his longest attempt of the season. His previous long try and success was a 46-yarder at Philadelphia on Oct. 27. It was Brown’s 30th career field goal of 50 or more yards (on 46 attempts), but just his second in the last four seasons. The 52-yard field goal was the longest by a Giants kicker since Lawrence Tynes kicked a 53-yarder at Dallas on Oct. 25, 2010. It was the first 50-yarder by a Giant since Tynes kicked a 50-yard field goal against the Steelers on Nov. 4, 2012.
»Safety Will Hill had a pick-six late in the fourth quarter. It was the Giants’ second defensive touchdown this season (defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown against the Packers on Nov. 17).
»Defensive end Justin Tuck recorded his second career interception when he snagged a Matthew Stafford pass with 47 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
»Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka had both of the Giants’ sacks, raising his season total to six — second on the team behind Tuck’s nine. Kiwanuka now has 36 career sacks, tying him with Carl Banks for eighth place on the team’s official career list.
»Brandon Mosley made his first career start at right guard for David Diehl, who was inactive with a knee injury suffered last week against Seattle. But Mosley broke his right hand with 3:43 remaining in the first quarter and never re-entered the game.
»Mosley was replaced by Dallas Reynolds, who was signed to the roster for the second time on Oct. 24 and made his Giants’ debut last week. Reynolds became the Giants’ fifth right guard this season following Mosley’s injury.
»Diehl had started the previous 10 games at right guard. He sat out the first four games of the season after undergoing thumb surgery on Aug. 21. It was just the 12th game Diehl missed in his 11-year career.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.