EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Brian Daboll coached in 30 postseason games as an NFL assistant, so he won't exactly be stepping into unfamiliar territory when the Giants visit Minnesota Sunday in an NFC Wild Card Game. He knows that while the prize gets bigger, the game at its core remains the same.
"It's what we do this week and ultimately how we go out there and play in the game," Daboll said. "Because what wins in Week 1 wins in the playoffs. And what loses in Week 1 loses in the playoffs."
So, Daboll will prepare his team this week as he did prior to each of the 17 regular-season games, meticulously studying the opponent and leaving no detail to chance.
"I think everybody just has a job to do," Daboll said. "It's the same Week 1 as it is Week 5 as it is the end of the year. Obviously, the stakes are a little different. If you lose a game, you go home. Every year is different. Every year that I've been privileged to be part of the playoffs has been different. A lot of different circumstances, different games, how many you played. And what I've learned is none of that really matters. What matters is how you go and play the game on Sunday.
"So, our preparation, our consistent way we do things, that's all going to be important to us in terms of the process. And then ultimately going out there and executing. Again, I've been part of a lot of them. But they're all different. The losses really hurt; they probably hurt more than the happiness of the wins in the playoffs. But in terms of my overall experience, I'd say there are a lot of coaches on our staff that have some, too. But I talked to those guys already. It's what we do this week. I think everybody understands that."
The Giants concluded their regular season with a 22-16 loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia. Daboll played almost exclusively reserves for the entire game, notably quarterback Davis Webb, who ran for one touchdown and threw for another in his first extensive NFL action.
Daboll's virtual news conference with reporters Monday began with a tongue-in-cheek query about whether he'll play his starters in Minnesota.
"That's a good question," Daboll said. "I'll say this: We'll do what's best for the team."
See, nothing changes.
The Giants will make a return trip to Minnesota, where they lost to the Vikings, 27-24, on Dec. 24. Greg Joseph kicked a team-record 61-yard field goal as time expired. The Giants gained a season-high 445 yards and Daniel Jones completed a career-high 30 passes and threw for a season-best 334 yards. But the Giants hurt themselves with a lost fumble, an interception and a blocked punt.
Minnesota won the NFC North with a 13-4 record. The Vikings are seeded third in the conference, the Giants sixth. After the first meeting, several Giants players said they might get another shot at Minnesota. Now they do.
So how does Daboll feel about a return match with Minnesota?
"Next team on the list," he said. "When you get to this time of year, you don't really focus on brackets. You knew going into the game yesterday it could be one of two teams. Both teams (they could have played, including the San Francisco 49ers) are very good with very good records. One we have played and are familiar with. Much like I said earlier, kind of the Washington three-week kind of deal there where we played Washington then another team then Washington again. But it's a great environment up there. Really good team, good coaching staff, competitive, won a lot of football games. So, we've got a lot of work to do."
Just as they always do.
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