Giants coach Tom Coughlin warned anyone who’d listen that the five-game winning streak which came to a screeching halt Sunday was part mirage.
Coughlin extolled the value of ball control and not being so cavalier with the pigskin. But following the 33-20 beatdown at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, Coughlin hopes that was some sort of wakeup call, as they prepare for the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday night.
“We’ve got to re-establish who we are, sink our feet into the sand a little bit, and come out swinging,” said Coughlin. “We’ve got a lot of issues that have to be straightened out. We’ve got to clean up these penalties, the missed assignments…I don’t want to turn the ball over any more. I’m tired of that stuff. When you look at them [Eagles], they’re plus-12 and we’re minus-five [turnover differential].”
The Giants [6-3] were certainly humbled at home – by a hated division rival, no less – so they know they have to get back to the basics. This week’s matchup is no ordinary game -- partly because it’s the nationally-televised night game but more importantly because the winner takes sole possession of the NFC East. The Eagles are also 6-3.
To a man, they came to work yesterday reiterating what Coughlin expressed to them in morning meetings.
“In this league, penalties and turnovers are the fine line from winning and losing,” said offensive lineman and former Eagle Shawn Andrews. “It [turnovers] kind of puts us in a hole. We just have to start fast and finish strong.”
Coughlin is hoping the Cowboys loss, coupled with a winner-takes-first-place game, has put his team back in the right frame of mind.
“Resilient, I hope,” he said when asked about the team’s mindset this week. “That’s our word. We’ve got to do a good job of understanding that we have to go on to the next one. And we do that with great preparation, energy, work ethic, extra time, and all those things. This game’s got to be a game of detail, there is no margin for error.”
Quarterback Eli Manning agreed, adding the Giants have to play near-flawless against such a talented and aggressive team as the Eagles because if they don’t the Cowboys game could repeat itself.
“When you play Philly, you have to play perfect. Everybody has to be on the same page and everybody has to see things the same way. Routes have to be perfect and the offensive line has to know who they’re blocking and be ready for their blitz packages and everything they’re doing,” Manning warned. “You can’t afford to make mistakes and when we get opportunities, we have to run with them and take advantage.”
Manning, who has 13 interceptions and six fumbles, including four lost, added the onus is on an offense that has gotten sloppy with the little things.
“We can’t afford to take points off the board,” Manning said of the mistakes that haunted them on Sunday. “It is those things that kill you. It is the penalties, the drops here or there, just doing a lot of things wrong. We have to come in and fix some things that we’ve gotten away with in the past, that you know eventually are going to bite you.”
Although their collective antennae are up, no one is ready to think last season’s late collapse can rear its head again.
“I feel as though we have learned from that,” said defensive lineman Justin Tuck. “I am actually kind of glad in a way [sloppily losing to Dallas]. Maybe this is that wakeup call we can use. Maybe this is a chance for us to kind of look at ourselves and say that we aren’t as good as we thought we were and it gives us an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and continue to go out there in practice and work.”
Tuck said if anything, he and his teammates had to fight complacency during their five-game winning streak.
“Sometimes in this game you win games like we have in the last month and a half and you are complacent and you start not going through your daily routines and crossing every ‘T’ and dotting every ‘I’,” Tuck said. “For us it gives us an opportunity to go back to the grind, go back to where we were after that Tennessee game. That is how we are feeling right now, that is hopefully how we respond to this.”
Safety Deon Grant said he still believes this team is elite and added in order to not let history repeat itself, they’ll need to have amnesia.
“I told them, ‘If we don’t hurry up and wash that [Sunday’s loss] out of our minds and get prepared for the rest of the season, it’s going to be a long season,’” said the experienced Grant. “That’s the main thing. That’s one loss and we’re still at the top of our division. So, at the end of the day, you have to let that loss go.”
Grant said although Tuck might’ve had a good point about the complacency, he won’t allow that to happen again.
“I’m one of the oldest guys in here and I won’t even allow that,” said the 11-year vet of eliminating overconfidence. “We work hard every day and we stay humble. We don’t see us in the media with our chests out and with an ‘S’ on our chest like Superman. That’s not even in our character.”