As an aspiring high school teacher post-football, let’s allow New York Giants middle linebacker Chase Blackburn to give us a quick lesson about why his team is celebrated for late-season resiliency.
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“It’s just like anything else,” Blackburn told FOXSports.com. “History repeats itself negatively because you don’t learn from it or it happens in a good way because you did learn and continue to do the right things to make it repeat.”
The Giants are hoping the latter will come true again just like during their Super Bowl-winning campaigns in 2007 and 2011. But there is a danger in assuming that will automatically happen just because New York has rallied after a middling start in the past.
Giants veterans are doing their best to insure this mindset doesn’t infiltrate their locker room entering the final four matchups of the regular season that begin with the FOX America’s Game of the Week against visiting New Orleans (4:25 p.m. ET Sunday).
“I think guys know each year is different,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning told FOXSports.com. “We’ve got to handle our business right now in this year. We’ve got to make sure we have a great understanding of what we need to do and how we have to execute it to put ourselves in a situation to win games.”
Winning was something the Giants didn’t do last Monday night against the Washington Redskins.
New York (7-5) had the chance to open a two-game lead in the NFC East and boost its division mark to 3-2. The Giants let that opportunity slip away during a 17-16 loss that included nine penalties, a missed field goal, no sacks, one touchdown on eight offensive possessions and a defense that allowed 207 rushing yards.
The Giants now have little room for error if the Redskins (6-6) and Dallas (6-6) keep winning. Washington and the Cowboys are better positioned to enjoy a tiebreaker edge for the NFC East title based upon division records if there is a deadlock after Week 17. A wild-card berth may also be untenable with Green Bay (8-4), Chicago (8-4) and Seattle (7-5) in the mix.
“We had a great opportunity in front of us and didn’t come away with a win,” Giants right tackle Dave Diehl told FOXSports.com. “This league is all about consistency – playing your best week in and week out.
“People say, ‘Oh, this is something that happens here. Are you guys used to this?’ You never get used to this. You never want to be with your backs against the wall with four games left thinking you need to win out. But that’s the situation we feel we’re in.”
Giants head coach Tom Coughlin told FOXSports.com that he sensed his team was “very disappointed and down from the loss the other night.”
“The first thing I had to do was try to pick them back up,” he said after Thursday’s practice.
To that end, Coughlin lightened practice Wednesday and reminded his players that New York still controls its own playoff destiny by winning out. Coughlin also doesn’t have to worry about his team looking past the Saints (5-7) considering the results of games in 2009 and 2011. Drew Brees threw for eight touchdown passes as the Saints scored almost 100 combined points in two lopsided victories inside the Louisiana Superdome.
“We need to take care of our own business,” Diehl said. “In the NFL, you can’t rely on other guys to do your job for you.”
Additional motivation was provided this week by two defensive leaders. On his weekly WFAN radio segment in New York City, Giants free safety Antrel Rolle said his club needs to resume having a “nasty attitude.” Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul reinforced those comments when describing his unit’s recent play as “soft.”
“I think (Rolle) is trying to send a message to our guys that it’s December and we really have to ball right now,” Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Thursday.
Just like in 2007, last year’s Giants saved the best for last. New York was at 7-7 and on the verge of playoff elimination, then never lost again en route to beating New England in Super Bowl XLVI. That 2011 squad was known for its physicality and discipline, two areas that Coughlin has heavily stressed to his team this week.
Diehl said another focus was on “playing and practicing with energy.” This was a challenge for New York earlier this season. Besides not having a bye until Week 10 and the target that comes with being defending NFL champions, Giants players were forced to deal with the off-field stress caused by damage from SuperStorm Sandy in late October.
“There’s only 24 more days of the regular season,” Diehl said Thursday. “What we talked about was putting everything aside – all the b.s., all the distractions. When you step into this building for the next four weeks and four games, let’s have no regrets. Let’s play the best we can and leave it all on the line. We know when we do that good things come our way.”
The Giants proved that in Week 12 when dismantling Green Bay, 38-10, in prime time.
“We’ve had very good games where you can say we’re up there with anybody,” Blackburn said. “And you can look at us and say, ‘Shoot, we shouldn’t even be .500.’”
We’ll know soon enough whether these Giants make history – or become history.