“It’s not going to be over until the five games are over,” he snapped, not allowing the reporter to finish the question.
“The one thing that all of you would like to try to figure into this is you don’t have anything to play for. We’ve got a lot to play for. We’re trying to assert ourselves.”
That’s exactly the message Coughlin tried to drill into his players’ mindset before their game against Washington was to believe in themselves and in each other.
It couldn’t have been easy. After all, Coughlin would later confess during an exclusive interview with Bob Costas on NBC's Football Night America airing prior to the game that the loss to Dallas “took the wind out of our sails.”
However, with the Giants still having a remote chance at the playoffs, Coughlin couldn’t emphasize enough the importance of sticking together.
“Even though our emotions were down, the thing that I had to do, in my job, is encourage them to get back up off the floor,” he told Costas.
“We’ve got a group of guys that just believe,” said receiver Hakeem Nicks after the game Sunday night.
“We know as long as we fight all the way through the fourth quarter and we’re still in that ball game, we feel like we’ll pull it out.”
It might be a case of too little, too late, as despite the win, the Giants still need a lot to happen if they’re to make the postseason, one of which is they’ll have to win their remaining four games and hope for both Dallas and Philadelphia to stub their respective toes along the way.
Right now, however, the Giants aren’t worrying about anything that’s beyond their control. Instead, when they return to work on Wednesday, they’ll delve into preparing for a cross-country trip to face the 5-7 San Diego Chargers, who are also jockeying for a playoff spot.
“We can get better,” said defensive end Justin Tuck. “We will watch the film and see what mistakes we can correct, and that’s how we will approach it.”
“It’s never as good as you think it is and it’s never as bad as you think it is. You always have to have the mindset to come in and get better and that’s what we have to do. We have a tough run here with four games that we pretty much need to win. We have to keep doing what we are doing and improving.”
|Current NFC East Standings|
Dallas Cowboys 31, Oakland Raiders 24
The Dallas Cowboys managed to overcome a fumble return for a touchdown on the opening kickoff, thanks to three rushing touchdowns by DeMarco Murray that led to a win on Thanksgiving.
Murray scored the go-ahead points for Dallas in the fourth quarter on a seven-yard touchdown run as the Cowboys (7-5) regained the NFC East lead from Philadelphia.
The Raiders (4-8) took an early 21-7 lead, but that vanished as Dallas went on a 24-point scoring spree.
The first of those points came on Murray’s four-yard touchdown run that came with 10 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Cowboys’ last points came on kicker Dan Bailey’s 19-yard field goal with 1:56 left in the game.
Quarterback Nick Foles threw three touchdown passes, two of which went to tight end Zach Ertz, as the Eagles edged the Arizona Cardinals, 24-21.
The Cardinals turned the ball over three times including two interceptions thrown by quarterback Carson Palmer.
However, they fought back from a 24-7 third-quarter deficit as Palmer connected on touchdown passes to receiver Michael Floyd for 23 yards and tight end Jim Dray for three yards to make it 24-21 in favor of the Eagles.
With their fourth win in a row, the Eagles (7-5) remain a half-game out of first place in the NFC East behind Dallas (7-5).
The Cowboys currently hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, thanks to their 17-3 win over the Eagles in Week 7.
|New York Giants Injury Update as of Dec. 2. 2013|
|Player||Injury||Most Recent Status|
|CB Corey Webster||Ankle||Inactive, Week 13|
|RB Brandon Jacobs||Knee||Inactive, Week 13|
|DE Jason Pierre-Paul||Shoulder||Inactive, Week 13|
|CB Trumaine McBride||Groin||Inactive, Week 13|
|CB Terrell Thomas||Knee||Active, Week 13|
|WR Hakeem Nicks||Abdomen||Active, Week 13|
|via New York Giants|
The good news is the Giants emerged from their game against Washington with no new notable injuries.
However, they do have a few outstanding issues that will need to be resolved moving forward.
Two weeks ago, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul's shoulder injury was so bad, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he played two snaps on Dallas’ first two drives and just five on the game-winning drive.
After not being able to practice all of last week, Pierre-Paul was declared out by head coach Tom Coughlin and did not make the trip to Washington.
During his day-after conference call with the media, Coughlin said he had no new information regarding Pierre-Paul's status for the coming week.
"I have no idea," he said. "We’re going to have to wait and see."
Switching to some good news, receiver Hakeem Nicks returned to the lineup against Washington after missing time due to an abdominal strain.
“I felt good. I felt real good," Nicks said after the Giants defeated Washington. "I just tried to take advantage of every opportunity that I could.”
As noted last week, the swelling in running back Brandon Jacobs’ knee flared up again after the Dallas game, which ultimately led to Jacobs not being able to practice all of last week.
The good news is Jacobs, who will have to manage his knee the rest of the way, might be good to go, according to Justin Tasch of the New York Daily News, who caught up with Jacobs.
Cornerback Trumaine McBride, who has been nursing a groin injury didn’t practice all last week and was declared out for the game against Washington.
He was replaced by second-year player Jayron Hosley, who dealt with a hamstring injury earlier in the season.
While Hosley didn't have any glaring issues with his play, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) gave him a -1.2 grade for allowing four out of five targets to be completed for 31 yards, 13 of which came after the catch.
Meanwhile, there is nothing new to report as of this writing regarding McBride's progress.
Injured Reserve News
Center Jim Cordle, who last week was placed on injured reserve after suffering a partially torn patella tendon, told Stapleton he would soon be having surgery.
Also, Coughlin was asked about running back David Wilson, and if he's had any follow-up visits with the doctor regarding his neck.
"I don’t think there’s been another since his last checkup, but we see David from time to time and he’s doing the best he can with it," the coach said.
What Must Improve
This Giants offense has been a turnover machine this season, and it’s cost them dearly.
ESPN’s Stats & Info noted the Giants are the only team in the NFL to turn the ball over in each of their games this season, a trend that continued against Washington, thanks to a third-quarter interception thrown by Eli Manning..
Per Pro-Football-Reference.com, the last time the Giants had at least one turnover in every regular-season game was in 2007.
What’s even more alarming is that on 16 of the Giants' 31 turnovers this season, opponents have been put into position to score 13 touchdowns and three field goals.
That kind of sloppiness with the ball is simply not going to get it done, not when a team’s offense continues to sputter.
That's something head coach Tom Coughlin has consistently tried to drill into his team’s collective thinking while trying to get them on track.
"I’ll say it again, the old adage about, 'First, you have to keep from beating yourselves.' That’s the thing that we fought the most,” Coughlin said.
“As the turnovers have diminished—and they aren’t completely gone I’ll grant you—we’ve seen more contributions from different people and from all three phases. That’s what the intent was and the way in which we would play from day one.”
Special Teams Return Game
The good news is there were no turnovers or mistakes made by the Giants special teams that resulted in points for the other side.
The bad news is the return game still leaves a lot to be desired.
In 12 games, the Giants have won the field-position battle just twice, in their first game against the Eagles and against the Green Bay Packers. They also came to a draw against the Cowboys two weeks ago.
Rueben Randle, a very good receiver who provides ball security, looks absolutely lost when he goes back to field a punt.
Averaging just 8.4 yards per return, Randle seems to lack instincts, and that oftentimes leads to bad decisions regarding whether to let the ball bounce, field it or call for a fair catch.
Not surprisingly, Randle’s 18 fair catches are the fifth-most in the NFL, per the stats kept by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Considering he’s been the one who’s fielded most of the Giants punts this season, his average yards per return isn’t even ranked in the top 32.
On kickoff returns, Michael Cox is currently averaging 19.4 yards per return. If your kickoff returner isn’t averaging at least 20 yards a pop, that’s not a good statistic.
Granted the kickoff return seems to be going the way of the dodo bird, but when given the opportunities to bring one out, Cox has looked hesitant and hasn’t always done a good job of following his blocks.
Against Washington, he muffed one of his returns, a sight that certainly gave special teams coordinator Tom Quinn a few more gray hairs.
Want another alarming statistic? The Giants' offensive line has allowed at least one sack in every game this season.
This week, New York surrendered three sacks, two of which came through left tackle Will Beatty, who was overmatched against Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo.
Yet while Beatty clearly was this week’s goat, head coach Tom Coughlin said the pass protection issues that have led to quarterback Eli Manning being sacked a career-high 31 times and counting are not just a result of one man’s doing.
“It’s not just the line; it’s your tight ends, it’s your backs, it’s your ability to get in the right protections,” Coughlin said.
“We’re doing the best we can to try to straighten that out. It’s not always the newer guys who have entered into the picture either, but that doesn’t take anything away from the ability of the people we’re playing against.”
Whatever the cause, the poor pass blocking is a big reason why receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are no longer making the plays down the field that Giants fans have become accustomed to seeing.
This is because this offensive line has yet to show that it can hold a block for more than a couple of seconds, which means Manning can’t take the five- and seven-step drops that would allow for the receivers to run longer patterns down the field.