The NFL is an unsympathetic league, which is why Giants head coach Tom Coughlin noted their upcoming opponent, the Chiefs, will not feel sorry for their current 0-3 standing.
Coughlin began his weekly press conference fired up as he relayed the messages he told his team as they begin their preparation for the unbeaten Chiefs.
“Be physical. I don’t know how you say it any simpler. For us to regain respect, the respect that we’ve always had around the league, we need to be a physical football team,” Coughlin said. “It’s always been about our team. We talk about transitioning from the practice field to the game field. We can’t get discouraged when things don’t go your way. … Continue to play as hard as you can and stay together as a team — which means being able to ward off all the questions that are intended to divide — which you people [the media] are very good at.”
The media, however, isn’t responsible for Big Blue’s woes, as all three phases of the Giants’ game plan have let them down in every game so far. Coughlin acknowledged the Giants will need to get back to the basics and take care of the ball, a paramount task against a Chiefs team that has feasted on opponents’ miscues.
“The difference in their football team is 37 giveaways last year and zero this year. And they’re plus-9 in that category this year with no giveaways,” Coughlin said. “They are a balanced football team on offense, as they’ve rushed the ball 90 times and thrown it 105. Their quarterback [Alex Smith] has made a big difference because he’s their second leading rusher and doesn’t turn the ball over. And defensively they are very stout. They have 15 sacks already and [linebacker Justin] Houston had 4 1/2 sacks last week in Philadelphia, which is an incredible day for him. … They’ve demonstrated that by only giving up 11 points per game you can win a lot of football games. They’re a special team and have contributors at all spots.”
The above accolades makes Sunday’s contest already seem like a no-win situation for Big Blue. But there may be a possible silver lining for the Giants since Coughlin knows the opposing coach inside and out. As former rivals in the NFC East when current Chiefs head coach Andy Reid was leading the Eagles, Coughlin went 13-15 against Reid’s Eagles. While that’s not a winning record, it shows how close these two rivals were, meaning Coughlin likely knows Reid’s tendencies even better than any of Reid’s new peers in the AFC West.
“Philosophically it probably helps,” Coughlin said when asked if there’s an advantage to playing a Reid-coached team. “But this is a football team whose players we’re not very familiar with, so we’ll have to get familiar with them very fast.”
The Giants certainly hope the Chiefs’ vaunted blitz packages don’t get familiar with quarterback Eli Manning, as the two-time champion has looked less than stellar behind an even lesser-looking offensive line.
“We’ve faced good pass rushers before,” said Manning, who was sacked seven times last week in Carolina. “I know [Kansas City] are a good defense and they have some guys who can get to the quarterback and get sacks, so we’ve got to do a good job of obviously protecting … but our guys will do that.”
Manning said the game plan against such an aggressive Chiefs’ defense will likely resemble what any other game plan would look like against an attacking unit like Kansas City’s. The Panthers defense bombarded the Giants offense with basic fronts, relying on a front-four pass rush and the occasional blitz. But the Chiefs employ a 3-4 defensive front which increases a unit’s speed and allows for more creativity in the pass rush.
The Giants are hoping preseason experience against the Jets’ 3-4 defense will help solve the Chiefs’ scheme.
“You try to throw some short stuff, but you still have to have some plays where you’re going to have to stretch the ball down the field,” Manning said when discussing the difference in game planning for a 3-4 defense. “But sometimes they might take away the short stuff to make you throw the ball down the field … but whatever it is, you’ve got to have time to protect or I’ve got to move around. This past game they got after us a good bit and made it tough for the offense to execute. That was unfortunate, but I think our offensive line has good players. We’ve got guys who do take pride in what they’re doing and want to play well and are going to step up and play well. We had a bad game [but] they’ll get better.”
Manning was asked if he thinks the season is already at a crossroads and whether he can feel it slipping away.
“No, I don’t think that [the season is already over]. My concerns are this week, versus Kansas City and making sure we’re getting better and have a great week of preparation. We’re playing against a team that’s 3-0 right now. They’re playing good football and we’ve got to play better football and get things rolling quickly,” Manning said. “I think we’re good. I think the guys know the only way to make a difference and the only way for us to start winning games is to go out there, stick together, be smart in what we say, how we handle everything and how we prepare and practice. … The only way we’re going to win is if we come together as a team and play well as a team.”
Big Blue notes …
»The Giants filled their need for a healthy fullback Wednesday when they signed fourth-year pro John Conner. Big Blue’s incumbent fullback, Henry Hynoski, suffered a fractured shoulder last Sunday at Carolina and was placed on injured reserve. Hynoski will miss the remainder of the season. The 5-foot-11, 245-pound Conner previously played for the Jets and Bengals and will likely step right in as the starting fullback, as well as an immediate player on special teams.
»Among the many key guys who didn’t participate in practice on Wednesday were center David Baas (neck), right guard Chris Snee (hip), tight end Adrien Robinson (foot), cornerback Corey Webster (hip), linebacker Jacquian Williams (knee) and of course Hynoski.
»Coughlin added that cornerback Terrell Thomas (knee) was limited and that the team may have to scale back his weekly workload going forward to give his surgically repaired knee time to recover throughout the week.
»The initial injury report included all the above names and also featured linebacker Spencer Paysinger (hip) and safety Cooper Taylor (shoulder). They, however, were able to participate in practice.
»The Giants reworked their practice squad by adding offensive lineman Steven Baker and linebacker Ty Powell. To make room on the squad, they terminated the contracts of defensive end Matt Broha and wide receiver Marcus Harris.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.