As much as Giants head coach Tom Coughlin wants to spread the praise aroundfollowing Monday night’s thrilling win in Miami, even he knows that the remainder of Big Blue’s season is directly tied to the duo of quarterback Eli Manning and wideout Odell Beckham Jr.
Following their victory over the Dolphins, the Giants (6-7) are once again tied with the Eagles and Redskins atop the NFC East. And with three games remaining, Coughlin acknowledged he’ll need those two to duplicate their otherworldly performances, but also reasoned that he needs all hands on deck to win-out and take the division.
“We have to be even better than we were [in Miami] because we’re playing an undefeated team [Carolina] on Sunday. We need every man possible, [and] we can’t make any mistakes. Miami is a very talented team, [but] we were able to close it out ... that was a tribute to all the players,” said Coughlin. “Our goal is to play 60 minutes and finish, and not to be discouraged by [adverse] things that may take place during the game.”
The Panthers (13-0) have been the ultimate team this year. While arguably not as talented on paper as other upper echelon teams, Coughlin marveled at how cohesive and well-rounded they are.
The coach can only hope his team plays as complete a game as their opponent usually does, and that by dissecting Carolina’s film all week, Big Blue may be inspired to reach such heights on Sunday.
“We’ll use whatever motivation we can. This is a very good football team we’re facing. They’ve been extremely productive. They’ve won some close games and they’ve won some games that were going away,” said Coughlin. “We’ve asked for well-rounded contribution from all. Facing an undefeated team, and knowing full well what the situation is in our division, is a challenge. All of those things combined, we would have to make a great effort, and I think it’ll help us play very well.”
The Giants will definitely need Manning and Beckham to do what they normally do, but also need everyone else to play above their means. It’s already a daunting task to beat a team like Carolina when fully staffed, but for the Giants, they’ll be hosting an elite team undermanned, particularly along the offensive line.
The men responsible for giving Manning enough time to get the ball in Beckham’s hands will likely see another lineup shuffle – not a recipe for success when facing a front seven that ranks near the top of the league with 40 sacks. Left tackle Ereck Flowers exited the Miami game with an injured ankle and did not return. His status is questionable, as he wasn’t even able to go through the team’s jog-through on Wednesday. Flowers’s spot was taken over by left guard Justin Pugh, who saw his customary position filled by veteran Dallas Reynolds.
Coughlin said he “doesn’t know much about Flowers yet,” but is hopeful the “efficient” rookie recovers enough to contribute.
Whoever is on that field on Sunday, Beckham said the Panthers won’t feel sorry for Big Blue’s plight, so they might as well give it their all and see how it all pans out on the field.
“That’s life. Opportunities present themselves for the next man up. It’s just a matter of which opportunities that you seize and which opportunities you can take advantage of,” Beckham said, adding the final stretch is the most important of this uneven season. “We’ve definitely lost many, many opportunities. But it’s still right there for us. We gave ourselves another chance [in Miami]. We know there’s only three games left. They’re all important, so we just have to give it our all, have everyone contribute, and put our best foot forward.”
Everyone is indeed needed. But it all starts with the dynamic duo.
Big Blue notes:
-Manning was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season after his record-setting performance in Miami. He also won the award in Week 5, after leading the Giants to a comeback victory over San Francisco. Manning eviscerated the Dolphins when he completed 27-of-31 passes for 337 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. His completion percentage of 87.1 seta Giants’ single-game record (minimum 20 attempts). The former mark of 84.6 percent (22-of-26) was set by Kerry Collins at St. Louis on Sept. 15, 2002. Manning’s passer rating of151.5 on Monday was also a career high for a full game.
-The win in Miami had a domino affect on the primetime schedule. Big Blue’s Week 16 game against the Vikings, that was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. EST, has been turned into a Sunday night game, as it’ll likely be a battle of two teams still fighting for their respective division crowns. The matchup bumps the original slotted game between the Steelers against the Ravens.
-Coughlin already ruled out linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring/foot) for a third-straight game, and fifth overall.