The New York Giants shouldn’t be entering Sunday’s home game against Tampa Bay at 0-1.
No disrespect to the Dallas Cowboys, which gave an outstanding effort in last week’s 24-17 upset. But as well as the Cowboys played, the Giants did a better job doing themselves in.
Don’t just take it from me.
Giants cornerback Corey Webster told FOXSports.com that defensive players worked “individually” rather than as a unit because of poor discipline and gap responsibilities. Injuries that ravaged the secondary didn’t help either.
Normally sure-handed wide receiver Victor Cruz dropped three passes.
Rookie running back David Wilson fumbled on his second carry and didn’t get another attempt.
And perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the loss: The Giants displayed symptoms of the Super Bowl “hangover” that strikes champions who spend too much time toasting the past.
“I think we came into the game thinking we were just going to come back off of what we did the last six weeks of last season,” Giants defensive end Justin Tuck told FOXSports.com. “I don’t think that was cocky. We were very confident in what we could do. But we didn’t put the time in on the practice field to help that out.”
For this, there is no excuse.
Along with the motivation provided by facing a hated division rival, the Giants should have known that Dallas would enter with added intensity based upon its standing as the reigning NFL kingpin. Enough Cowboys players stressed defeating the “world champions” in postgame interviews to reflect just how much head coach Jason Garrett emphasized the point in his pregame preparation.
The same is happening in Tampa Bay and will with future Giants opponents for at least the early part of this season.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was a member of Bucs teams that faced the defending champions in each of his first two NFL seasons. McCoy told FOXSports.com that you don’t place that opponent “on a pedestal because they’ve won a Super Bowl,” but such prior success creates a “different dynamic” heading into the matchup.
“You have to prepare as if this is the Super Bowl,” McCoy said.
Every other Super Bowl-winning franchise since the 1999 Denver Broncos had gotten the message in time and won its Week 1 opener the following season. Not the Giants.
"I felt like we were pressing rather than being the poised team we were all last year,” said Tuck, who has previously said he was “disgusted” by New York’s outing against Dallas. “I thought we pressed to make plays rather than let the game come to us. Me individually and us as a team, we made mistakes we haven’t made and shouldn’t make.”
Giants right guard Chris Snee said he knows practice is going poorly when "I can hear Coach yelling a lot.” In this case, Tom Coughlin is lucky he didn’t go hoarse.
Coughlin wasn’t just disappointed with the team’s preparation. He believes team leaders should have done more in practice to emphasize the same attention to detail that New York had on its run to winning Super Bowl XLVI.
“I just finished in February with some of the best practices I’d ever been around,” Coughlin told FOXSports.com after Thursday’s session at team headquarters. “For me to go out and be disappointed like that, I wasn’t a very happy camper.
“You’ve got a third of the team that’s new or thereabout (in 2012). But what I’m always after is for the veteran players — the guys who have been there, the guys who know what it takes — to reach out and grab a hold of these people who have no idea and sometimes, quite frankly, don’t come out here and help us set the tempo the way we want it. The veteran guys have to take over.”
Giants quarterback Eli Manning said what Snee described as a “fix-it” message from Coughlin to team leaders was received loud and clear. New York also should be able to draw off the resiliency shown last season when a 7-7 club on the verge of missing the playoffs rattled off six straight victories to capture the Lombardi Trophy.
“I think the mentality of the guys when we came in (last Thursday) was, ‘Hey, we’ve got to pick it up. We’ve got to play better. The things are correctable,’” Manning told FOXSports.com. “That’s a good attitude to have.”
Coughlin is happier with how a healthier Giants squad is approaching Sunday’s matchup against the Bucs (1 p.m. ET kickoff on FOX). He also smiled when I mentioned that a Giants player had told me, “We don’t make it easy on ourselves around here, do we?”
“That’s a fair statement,” Coughlin replied. “We sure don’t.”
It’s now time for the Giants to start making life hard on the opposition and stop digging an early-season hole.