Listening to Justin Tuck on today's conference call, I suspected Nelly Forbush and the SeaBees were prancing in front of him. That's the kind of cockeyed optimism he was preaching today as the Giants prepare their attempt to escape this 1-5 death spiral against the Cowboys.
Obviously, everyone from outside to the team to those inside the locker room and coaching offices are counting this as a "must-win" game, with good reason. The season is that close to going out of control. But when asked his level of optimism -- scale of one to 10 -- for success in this stretch of three NFC East opponents, Tuck answered "11."
"Call me ignorant and foolish, but that's the only way I know how to approach things."
This coming from one of the leaders of a defense that has given up two late leads, followed by a total annihalation, over the last three games. Too look at such erratic defense and expect it to turn around overnight, as the Giants must somehow make it, is the height of optimism. But Tuck took it to an even higher level.
"To be erratic, you have to do some good things, right?" Tuck said. "We've proven we can play good. We've got to find a way to do it on a consistent basis.
"We've had games where we've played pretty decent. I guess that's why I'm optimistic, because I've seen us do it and I know we're capable of doing it. It's just like when we were 5-0 and everything went south. We're 6-5 and everything goes north."
He can only hope. Little has seemed to work in that regard, save for a fortuitous coin flip at the end of regulation against Atlanta. Players-only meetings, with much the same tenor as the one Denver safety Brian Dawkins held before his team went out and abused the Giants offensively and defensively, haven't done the trick. Whatever adjustments the coaching staff has made to their blocking and coverage schemes haven't helped.
But it was obvious to both Tuck and Eli Manning that a drastic change must hit this struggling bunch over the next week to ensure a sweep of the season series against Dallas and keep fast-fading playoff hopes alive.
"There's got to be a sense of urgency," Manning said. "We don't have time to kind of figure out and slowly become a better team and make strides. We've got to make a jump.
"We've got to jump back to playing good football. We're still capable of playing at a high level. We've got to stick with it, stick with each other. We've got a lot of people doubting us right now, but we've got to fight together. It's about the coaches and players trusting each other and going out there and just doing it."
Tuck said it's a matter of continuing to play with a good attitude, even though that did not appear in evidence against Denver.
"I don't know how you pick your urgency. I thought the urgency was there last week. I thought like we were ready to play," he said. "We've got to do a better job of it this week."
Do that, and a situation that seems hopeless now could turn hopeful in 60 minutes. And that's something this team needs in the worst way, on more than one level.
"We just gotta go out and handle our business," Manning said. "At this point, you say 'Let's get back to winning games, let's get back to playing good football. If anything, because it's more fun when you're playing at a high level.
"We're out here practicing and taking the time to prepare, putting in all these hours to get ready. Let's go enjoy it. That's the fun part, playing at a high level and playing in some tight games and trying to pull out a victory. That's where we stand right now."
Optimism, the cock-eyed kind or not, is about all the Giants have left at this point.
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