When the Giants reconvene today to start preparations for Dallas, they shouldn't do so with a loser's attitude. Despite what happened in Denver -- and there's no downplaying the enormity of how that loss was accomplished -- reality states that they're still 6-5 and well in range of at least a wildcard spot.
Now, they lose to Dallas, it's a different story. They get blown out by the Cowboys in another Denver-like effort, it's an entirely new book, this one with a sad, sad ending. But for now, the Giants should head into the preparation week with full focus after, hopefully, three days of soul-searching. They'll need to dig down deep to get this thing turned around, but it can be done.
"Well we have a five game schedule," Tom Coughlin said. "One game at a time with these outstanding divisional games coming up and then two other extremely good opponents in addition. We always take them one game at a time. We have to see how we come back now and rally back from a loss which none of us are proud of.
"Certainly we will utilize every aspect of motivation that we can to get our guys back on track and realize you are one game away from turning some of this around. But it is going to take a real consciousness effort to change the nature of the way we played the other day and turn it into the kind of physical team we aspire to be."
The one thing the Giants can hang onto is the nature of the NFC. Aside from New Orleans and Minnesota, nobody's running away with anything. Not even the NFC East. Dallas rose to 8-3, two games ahead of the third-place Giants Thursday, but does anybody truly believe they're incapable of falling on their faces down the stretch? Philadelphia, in second place and next on the Giants' three-game divisional stretch here, lost to Oakland a few weeks ago. OAKLAND! And Washington is Washington.
After that, it's Carolina, who should be nearing the end of the John Fox era, and then the Vikings, who might offer the Giants one quarter of Brett Favre after having wrapped up the No. 1 or No. 2 seed.
See how it can all work out? A lot of stuff is going to be happening around the division in the next five weeks, much that can benefit the Giants. Of course, none of it counts unless Coughlin's group shapes up.
Here are a couple of suggestions to that end.
Eli Manning: Get back to the short passing game using liberal doses of Kevin Boss. And for heaven's sake, stop changing the darned play. Get the snap off quickly so as to keep the defense off balance. Live with the play Kevin Gilbride calls once in a while, and keep in mind that there are no perfect play calls.
Brandon Jacobs: This is more directed at Gilbride. Enough with the stretch plays. Get Jacobs going forward from the start. Send him toward a hole and let him hit it and battle for the yards, and let him inflict the punishment a battering ram-type running back should. A steady dose of Jacobs, running downhill, would probably provide a much-needed boost for an offensive line that appears trapped in an emotional quagmire. Give them a chance to do what they do best -- physical run blocking -- and you'll eventually see results.
Osi Umenyiora: A little less yelling, a little more playing. He didn't make a single tackle against Denver, and he's averaged about two plays per game for the longest time. Somebody tell him it's okay to make three, four, five plays. No time to be humble here. The lights are on. Hog the spotlight.
Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard: Anybody home? This rotation was supposed to be the rock of the defense, impenetrable and fearsome. Instead, no push on the pass rush, and opponents run up the middle at will. With the full realization that Robbins and Cofield are coming off serious knee surgeries and Canty is probably still suffering from that calf injury, the fact is they're still out there playing. Time to suck it up, let it all hang out. If they re-injure themselves seriously enough for a trip to the IR, at least they'll have gone down fighting.
C.C. Brown, Aaron Rouse, Michael Johnson, Aaron Ross: That's the back line of the defensive middle. If this was baseball, the hitters would be slamming every pitch off the centerfield fence because there's nobody there to catch anything. Everybody wants to blame Bill Sheridan for the faulty gameplan and communication problems. But there is such a thing as playing above the Xs and Os, as Coughlin likes to say. Nobody's doing that. It wouldn't hurt to play a little instinctually. Unless, and this might just be the case, they have no instincts. If that's the case, then they at least need to get the gameplanned assignments down. And I'm sure a little more studying would help, too.
Notice how there isn't one mention of gimmickry or trickery here. It's basics, fundamentals. Execution. If that doesn't work, then the season is truly lost.
But it's not yet. A lot of teams would sign for 6-5 right now, no matter how they got there.
The Giants just have to realize that.