The Giants travel to New Orleans, on Sunday, to play the Saints in the Superdome – a place that has been a house of horrors in recent seasons.
Since head coach Tom Coughlin took Big Blue’s reigns in 2004, New York has been drubbed by an average score of 48-25 in New Orleans, including the last two trips in Oct. 2009 (48-27) and Nov. 2011 (49-24), respectively.
The last time they faced off, though, the Giants humiliated the Saints, 52-27, in Dec. 2012, at MetLife Stadium, so they at least know what it feels like to reciprocate. While New York (4-3) would obviously much rather host New Orleans (3-4), the reality is, they need a win against the Saints, no matter the venue.
Sunday is a big game for both teams’ psyches, as they’ve each endured a roller-coaster of a season – starting the campaign losing multiple games in a row, but then briefly righting the ship with mini winning streaks. New Orleans is looking for its third-straight win, while New York is trying to win its fifth in its last six games. This contest is particularly important for a Giants squad that currently has sole possession of first place in the NFC East, so in order to maintain that slim lead, they know they’ll need to exorcise their demons and steal a win in the Big Easy.
Coughlin said his team will need to rally around one another, since many pundits will likely pick against them considering their recent history in New Orleans.
“It fuels us, I think, this particular team,” Coughlin said when asked if they use the rallying cry of no one thinking they can win. “I think occasionally, it does. It’s a known fact that starting out 0-2 and then not playing as well as we had hoped in Philadelphia created more of that thinking. But if that is the case, then that’s a position we’ll take. You have to prove the doubters wrong.”
The Giants will need to start fast, Coughlin noted, particularly so they can silence the raucous New Orleans crowd. He added that focus and effort can carry this undermanned team a long way.
“The issues that we’re having are obvious. We’ve got some guys that are not able to practice full-time and it’s difficult when there’s not practice time [and then] just go on the field and play -- particularly if you’re introducing [a new scheme]. That’s a little bit of an issue right now and hopefully we can overcome it,” said Coughlin. “But still, we play hard [and] it’s not always pretty.But we have a bunch of guys who love the game, like what they’re doing, and play hard. That’s apretty good starting point … Effort is a great starting point for anything. By in large, I think we’re getting very good effort.”
Effort is a great equalizer, but talent also helps. And with defensive stalwarts like cornerback Prince Amukamara (pectoral), linebacker Jon Beason (ankle), and defensive end Owa Odighizuwa (hamstring) not practicing, it could make life difficult for a Giants defense trying to gel in anticipation of quarterback Drew Brees and Co.
All hands will need to be on deck for Coughlin, who hinted that the Giants may need to engage in a shootout to keep pace with the Saints, especially with his defense dealing with maladies.
“It’s a great challenge. He [Brees] is a master of that scheme. They average over 390 yards per game,” said Coughlin. “They’re gonna make plays. So, can we find a way to make game-changing plays ourselves.”
Wideout Rueben Randle is a Louisiana native and starred at LSU, so he already knows the daunting task of trying to stay point-for-point with the Saints in the Superdome. He said his team will need to be as relentless as the host.
“Well, playing there [as a visitor] means that you can’t stop. And we’re not going to stop, no matter what’s thrown in front of us. We’re going to face adversity, but I believe it’s not really going to affect us at all,” Randle said. “We’re gonna stay in the game … and until the clock says zero, we still have a chance to win and that’s why we’re going to keep pushing.”
Big Blue notes:
-Coughlin addressed the return of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who signed an incentive-laden deal, Tuesday: “He can do jog-throughs. And when we go team, he’ll work off to the side with the medical people. … He looked good. He's at 268 [pounds]. … He did an outstanding job at preparing himself. He’s anxious to go right now, but they’re gonna bring him along slow. … I’m hoping he’s still as good as ever. He’ll find a way to use that hand, maybe not as a grabber, but use it more as a club. ... Obviously, he has a ways to catch up on.”
Coughlin also said there’s “no intention about him playing, [even though] I know he wants to.” He then added that he’s still deciding about having JPP travel with the team to New Orleans, just to stay in a “competitive environment.”
The Giants have a two-game roster exemption on Pierre-Paul before deciding when to activate him.
-The Giants injury report included cornerback Prince Amukamara (pectoral), right guard Geoff Schwartz (ankle), wideouts Odell Beckham Jr. (hammy) and Victor Cruz (calf), linebacker Jon Beason (ankle), J.T. Thomas III (ankle), and Uan’i Unga (neck), and defensive end Owa Odighizuwa (hammy).
-Dwayne Harris was selected the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his game-winning performance in last week’s 27-20 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Harris scored the deciding points with his 100-yard kickoff return with 7:01 remaining in the fourth quarter. It was the first kickoff return in Giants history that accounted for the deciding points in the fourth quarter of a game in which the Giants trailed or were tied. It was Harris’ first career kickoff return touchdown, on his 85thcareer runback.