The Giants’ season is at a crossroads, no matter what head coach Tom Coughlin says, because should they fall to 0-4, that’s a hole out of which not even Big Blue can likely climb.
But with all the adversity, the Giants remain poised and united, with every player confident Sunday’s matchup against the Chiefs (3-0) will be the game that kick starts a winning streak.
“I’m pretty sure we’ll come out with a win this week,” defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. “I can sit here and kid around, [and say] it’s a must-win situation, but that’s been thrown around for a while now. We need to win this game. ... I feel like our team’s going to come together and play in harmony. We have great chemistry here, but we haven’t been playing with great chemistry or harmony.”
Pierre-Paul, who is still working his way back to his old form after undergoing offseason back surgery, feels the pressure is on himself and the defensive line unit to knock off the Chiefs.
“I’m a big part of the defense. Just not getting to the quarterback or not stopping the run is half of the D-line’s fault. It all starts up front,” said Pierre-Paul. “If you can’t get to the quarterback or stop the run, that’s a loss, period. Me personally, I know I’m not playing as well, like I did in the past. But it is what it is. I’m just doing my best. No excuses.”
The Giants, to their credit, haven’t offered excuses for their poor start. And while it looks dark right now, the veterans who have been through a myriad of situations over the years think it’s only a matter of time before they break through.
Coughlin, who was as animated as he’s ever been during Wednesday’s weekly press conference, again had an edge in his voice Thursday, but also wasn’t short on optimism.
“I think it’s a long season. We’ve played three games [and] we have a lot of games to go,” said Coughlin. “Certainly, we want to win, and that’s our entire objective. [But] are we standing on the edge of the cliff? I don’t look at it that way. I see a lot of football to play.”
The Giants hope not to see a lot of Chiefs strongside linebacker Justin Houston — especially in the backfield. Houston leads the league with 7 1/2 sacks, three more than any other player in the league. He’s coming off a career-high performance where he had 4 1/2 sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble against the high-powered Eagles offense. He was named the AFC’s Defensive Player of the Week. Houston has been on such a roll this season, that it was the second time in three weeks he won the award.
As optimistic as the Giants are heading into this game, however, the Houston vs. Justin Pugh matchup has to be of great concern. Pugh is the team’s rookie first-round pick who has been thrust into the starting lineup due to injuries, and will likely face his stiffest test yet.
“He’s similar to the guy I went against last week [Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson]. He’s a very physical player and got a good motor, so it’s a good challenge for me,” Pugh said of Houston. “We’ve got some good guys playing defensive end here, so they definitely give me good looks. ... I think it was great in the preseason playing against the Jets, who have a similar defense.”
The Chiefs lead the NFL with 15 sacks. And under new defensive coordinator Bob Sutton they have an unpredictable 3-4 defense that uses numerous personnel groupings and looks to confuse opposing offenses.
Pugh acknowledged veterans Chris Snee and David Baas have been giving him plenty of advice and tips in handling a 3-4 defense — which is huge considering both aging veterans will likely sit out the game with a hip and neck ailment, respectively.
“When we played [the Jets] we knew they probably gave us the most multiple looks we were going to see all year,” Pugh said. “I remember them saying that when we were down on the field, Snee and some of the older guys. So that was definitely good to go back, maybe look at that film and go from there.
“Whoever’s out there has to go out and compete,” Pugh said. “We’ve played six games in a row, this offensive line, so if they [veterans] come back, we’ll go right back to where we were at. I’m not worried about it.”
Apparently the franchise wideouts agree with the rookie, as both Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz have the utmost confidence heading to Kansas City.
“I see through the storm,” Nicks said, harkening back to a couple seasons ago. “It’s only three games. We were 9-7 when we won the Super Bowl. You’ve just got to see through the storm. That’s how it goes.”
“I think the better Giants team is going to show up this week,” Cruz said. “We’re excited. I think this is where we turn the page and kind of make a good run and get a couple wins under our belt.”
Big Blue notes ...
»Should the Giants lose and fall to 0-4, they’ll be as far away from the playoffs as they have been in the Coughlin era. New York hasn’t lost five in a row since 1979 (the 1987 strike-shortened season withstanding).
»It’s looking increasingly apparent that neither Snee nor Baas will play on Sunday, as both banged-up veterans sat out practice again.
»Also not practicing were linebacker Jacquian Williams (knee), tight end Adrien Robinson (foot) and cornerbacks Corey Webster (hip) and Terrell Thomas (knee). The latter will have his workload scaled back as the season progresses.
»Linebacker Spencer Paysinger, safety Cooper Taylor and offensive tackle David Diehl were all practicing.
»When the Giants signed veteran fullback John Conner, it didn’t affect their dwindling salary-cap space. The team didn’t need to renegotiate any current deals, as their cap space currently stands at $60,066. Conner will be paid $518,823.53 for the rest of the season (a pro-rated portion of a $630,000 salary).
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.