Coughlin, Giants focus on strong finish after loss

After going through all the ugly details of the Giants’ debacle
at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons, New York coach Tom Coughlin
delivered a message of hope to the defending Super Bowl
champions.

If the Giants (8-6) win their final two games, they will be back
in the playoffs either as the NFC East champion or a wild card.

While it sounds simple, Coughlin admitted Monday that he didn’t
believe Jon Berger after the team’s senior director of football
information explained the postseason scenario to him while on a
plane. So he had him recheck it.

For the Giants, ironically, it’s the same scenario as a year
ago. Win the last two, play on. The question, though, is this: Can
this talented team once again find that elusive consistency and
become a postseason force? Especially after losing 34-0 to
Atlanta?

New York closes against Baltimore (9-5) and Philadelphia
(4-10).

”Your back is against the wall,” Coughlin said. ”You don’t
have any choice. What we really want is right there for us. There
is only one way to get it and it’s not like playing like we did
yesterday.”

The Giants can clinch at least a wild card berth this weekend by
beating the Ravens, along with receiving help from several
different teams. They could also be eliminated if they lose in
Baltimore, and have several things not fall their way
elsewhere.

But the easier way to look at it, is to gaze at the big picture
across two weeks:

Win the last two. And leave no doubt. Simple.

Of course, it’s hard to figure which team will show up because
the Giants have had Coughlin scratching his head of late. They
posted impressive wins over Green Bay and New Orleans, but also
lost to Pittsburgh and Washington with a lot on the line. The also
didn’t meet expectations against Cincinnati.

And then came Atlanta.

Sunday’s game was about as bad as it gets. New York, which
scored 52 points against the Saints the week before, was blanked
for the first time in the regular season since 1994. The offense
had three turnovers and failed on three fourth-down tries.

The defense didn’t help. It failed to cause a turnover, in fact,
allowed 394 total yards, including 129 yards rushing, and missed 18
tackles.

It was a game very much like the dismal effort New York had in
losing to the Redskins, 23-10, last season to fall to 7-7. All in
all, that was a no-show effort that everyone thinking the team
wasn’t going anywhere.

But just as quickly, the Giants turned things around, won their
final two in the regular season, clinched the NFC East, and won
four playoff games en route to a Super Bowl title.

Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning said that while the
situations are different, he’s excited the Giants control their
playoff destiny.

The key, first, is to make the playoffs.

”In is in,” Manning said. ”You always want to win the
division, that is always kind of the goal at the beginning of the
year because that is the only way to ensure that you make the
playoffs. But ultimately, it is about getting into the playoffs. If
you win these two games, you are in.

”Whether you are division champs or wild card, it doesn’t make
a difference.”

While last year’s late-season run is something to draw upon,
defensive tackle Chris Canty said the Giants have to fix the
problems before time runs out. If they do, history could
repeat.

”There’s no doubt,” Canty said. ”We have the talent and the
ability in this locker room. Confidence comes from demonstrated
performance, and this football team can do it. We demonstrated it
before. So there’s no question about it, that we can perform at the
level that we would need to in order to be where we would want to
be.

”It’s just a matter of the guys in this locker room making the
decision that we’re going to do that.”

In terms of manpower alone, it won’t be easy. Cornerback Prince
Amukamara (hamstring), running back Ahmad Bradshaw (knee) and
safety Kenny Phillips (knee) all didn’t play vs. Atlanta. Starting
guard Chris Snee hurt his hip Sunday and rookie Jayron Hosley, who
filled in for Amukamara, hurt his ankle.

Bradshaw, who hopes to return to the starting lineup this
weekend, said many of his teammates asked him if he noticed
anything missing while watching on television.

”Right now, we’re inconsistent and that’s just something we’ve
gotta work on,” he said. ”Like I said, we play better when our
backs are up against the wall. Playoffs start now and that’s how
we’re looking at it. We lose and we’ll be home for the playoffs. So
we’ve got to keep fighting, keep our spirits up.

”That was a down game yesterday and hopefully, (we) get
everybody healthy for this week and get going.”

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