Tom Coughlin has said all week that the Giants will win when they deserve to win.
In order to do so, the Giants have to put their fourth-quarter woes behind them after six of their seven losses were by a combined total of 18 points.
Nonetheless, they enter the fourth quarter of the season in a three-way tie atop the NFC East. Big Blue, Washington and Philadelphia are all 5-7, while Dallas is 4-8 and the only team with a winning divisional record.
"Just what I said, four games to go, we are tied for the division lead, we will win as soon as we deserve to win," Coughlin said. "And the deserving to win part of it, obviously it comes from being able to finish on a stronger basis than we have. And as you look around, you can find a million reasons why one play has cost us games, and if that's the case, then each one of us—coaches, players—examine your own conscience, come up with those things that are necessary for us to make improvement, and let's get it done now."
It all starts on "Monday Night Football" in Miami, where the Giants are 3-0 as the road team against the Dolphins. Here are three keys to victory for the Giants as they look to stay alive in the playoff hunt:
1. LIMIT THE BIG PLAYS
The Dolphins, who improved to 5-7 last week with a 15-13 victory over the Ravens, rank only 29th in total yards this season. But that doesn't speak to their speedy playmakers who have a knack for big plays. Miami is tied with New England and Green Bay with 51 plays of 20 yards or longer, 42 through the air and nine on the ground. Much of that is due to second-year wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who was a teammate of Odell Beckham Jr.'s at LSU and has eight 20-yard receptions, in addition to a 22-yard rushing touchdown this season. Conversely, the Giants have allowed 55 big plays (fourth-most in the NFL) on defense, 49 of which have been passes.
"You've just got to challenge [Landry]," cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. "At the end of the day, you know what they're capable of, but I think the good thing we have, we go against and see it so much in practice, you're not at 'wow.' So all you can do is just get out there and challenge the guy. He makes the tough catches, you've just got to make it tough on him. Don't shy away from it because he has that ability. You embrace it and just go out there and play."
2. BALANCE THE OFFENSE
The Giants have rushed for 100 yards just twice this season, but they won the two games they did. The most recent time was their last victory on Nov. 8 in Tampa Bay. Now that they're going back to the Sunshine State, the Giants will try to do it again. The Giants are 29th in the NFL in averaging 88.1 yards per game on the ground and 27th in averaging 3.7 yards per attempt. That has resulted in Eli Manning being on pace to break his own franchise record for most passing attempts in a season. He had 601 last year and is on track to throw 625 times this year.
"[All] we can do is keep working at it and working at it and not lose patience with it, understand why it's there in the first place, why it's important for our team for the way in which we'd like to play," Coughlin said. "I thought that the other day we had a very humble amount of yardage but there were a couple runs that could have been even better than they were. Instead of five [yards], they could have been 10 or 12 or whatever. And that's what we've got to keep hoping for and working towards."
3. WIN ALL THREE PHASES
Special teams will be a key matchup on Monday night as both the Giants and Dolphins rank in the top 10 in punt return average. Last week, Giants wide receiver Dwayne Harris scored on an 80-yard punt return to become the third player in franchise history to have both punt and kickoff return touchdowns in the same season. Meanwhile, Landry is the primary returner in Miami and has three punt returns of 20 yards or longer, including a 69-yard touchdown in the season opener. The Dolphins also excel on the other side of special teams. Zach Vigil blocked a punt vs. Philadelphia a year after Miami had five blocks -- three punts and two field goals -- in 2014.
"There are a lot of plusses on both sides, obviously," Coughlin said. "We need to see what we saw the other day from our team and we need to continue to have field position based on our special teams. It was good to see that."
Playmakers on Dolphins first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike