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.''
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL