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Defensive end Justin Tuck found his inspiration from the other direction.
“The last thing you want to be is embarrassed,” Tuck said. “And this is a team that, if you’re not ready to play, they’ll embarrass you - and then laugh at you about it.”
Beason and Tuck are each correct. If the Giants can defeat a Seahawks team that could well return to MetLife Stadium in seven weeks to play in Super Bowl XLVIII, it would be a signature highlight in an otherwise disappointing season. But a non-competitive defeat on their home field would be another forgettable outing in a year that’s seen too many of them.
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So how will the Giants react and perform? Their preseason goals are no longer in play. But this is a chance to prove that they can play with, and beat, an elite team.
Coach Tom Coughlin expects his team to play as it would if the teams could switch places and the Giants were trying to clinch a division title and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“We are the New York Giants, we are playing at home, we are playing against a very good football team,” Coughlin said. “We’re going to try as hard as we can, we’re going to prepare as hard as we can, and hopefully we’ll play as well as we can.”
The Giants’ playoff dream expired last week, when they lost to the Chargers in San Diego, 37-14. Coughlin and the veterans on his team are unaccustomed to being out of the postseason equation with three games to play. If the players experienced a decline in motivation or desire, it wouldn’t be an NFL first. But Coughlin believes they have rebounded from the disappointment, prepared well and are ready to take on what most consider the NFC’s best team.
“They’ve done a real good job of that all year long,” Coughlin said. “They’ve overcome disappointment in terms of going back to work and having enthusiasm. Our morning meetings are very good. Our practices have been good, with good enthusiasm, people really focusing on their job. We’ve had our one or two incidents, but overall the practices have been good. I do think that the guys come back from disappointment and they recognize the importance of the next game and they go and prepare themselves for it. That’s a tribute to them.”
“Coach Coughlin did a great job of motivating us this week,” cornerback Terrell Thomas said. “That’s the mindset that we have going on – our season may be over but we’re going to go out there and fight and give them everything we have. If we do beat them, it’s a great gauge of what could have been.”
The Seahawks will have plenty of incentive on Sunday. A victory over the Giants and losses by San Francisco and New Orleans would clinch the top seed in the conference playoffs. And with the wintry conditions expected, they get the unprecedented opportunity to play in conditions they could well find here if they advance to the first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl.
“If I’m them, then definitely I’m thinking that this is a place where we could be hosting the Super Bowl and playing in it, so let’s prepare, let’s go out there and get a win,” Thomas said.
For the Giants, motivation is a little more amorphous.
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“Every time you go out there and put on this uniform and put on this Giants helmet, you represent the people that played before, you represent the people that are going to play after you,” wide receiver Victor Cruz said. “So you want to be able to understand that this organization and this team are built around pride and character and that’s what you want to exude no matter what the scoreboard is, no matter what the record is every time you put this jersey on.”
The Giants can erase some of the sting from their unsatisfactory season and walk away with one more good memory by beating the high-flying Seahawks. Seattle’s total defense and pass defense are ranked No. 1 in the league. The offense is tied for third in points scored and the special teams, particularly the punt coverage unit, are outstanding. The Seahawks have numerous players who are among the NFL’s best at their positions, including running back Marshawn Lynch and quarterback Russell Wilson on offense and cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor on defense.
“I think it’s a great challenge for us to go against, on paper, the best defensive team in the NFL right now,” Manning said. “Their offense is explosive, it scores a lot of points and they’re playing about as good as anybody. I think that’s motivation for us and to try to go out there and play against one of the best and see if we can get a win.”
“We made our own bed and now we have to lay in it, so I guess now we’re trying to make it a little neater,” Thomas said. “They’re a good team and this is a great gauge for us. Our season is over, unfortunately, so we’re fighting for ourselves, for our pride, for our organization, for our fans. We’re going to go out there and give it everything we have. Come Sunday, I think it’s going to be a great football game.”
*The Giants and Toyota, in partnership with the United States Marines, will hold their annual Touchdown for Tots toy drive at MetLife Stadium, when the Giants host the Seahawks this Sunday. Fans are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys to any of the collection vehicles and volunteers located at each entrance to the stadium prior to the game. Uniformed Marine Corps Reserves will be on hand to assist in collecting gifts.
All gifts collected during the drive will be donated to Touchdown for Tots, the premier community action program of the United States Marines. Over the last 50 years, the Marines have distributed more than 272,000,000 toys to children across the country during the holiday season. Since the late 1970’s, the Giants have participated in this program and hosted an annual Touchdown for Tots drive, helping to bring the joy of Christmas to children across the tri-state area.