EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The skies have darkened around the Giants this week and the long-range forecast is suddenly not as bright as it was earlier. But after two defeats in five days, they believe the personnel, the plan and the positive attitude are in place to weather the storm.
A 28-20 loss in Dallas, coupled with their 31-18 defeat to Detroit, dropped the Giants' record to 7-4. They are in third place in the NFC East. If Philadelphia defeats Green Bay Sunday night, they will be three games behind the first place Eagles. And though they trail the second-place Cowboys by one game, Dallas owns the tie breaker by virtue of its two victories against the Giants.
Next up are four games against teams that are a combined 24-8, the first three against division opponents – a home and home against Washington sandwiched around a game in MetLife Stadium against Philly, plus a Christmas Eve game at 9-2 Minnesota.
"The whole season obviously is in front of you right now," coach Brian Daboll said. "We have a long way to go. Obviously, the rest of December here and the early part of January. So, we have to focus on getting ready to play Washington, but you're sitting at 7-4. You put yourself in a position to play meaningful games in December, which is important. Last year (in Buffalo), I think we were 7-6 after 13 games.
"Look, anything can happen in this league. I've said it before, it's a humbling league. You can be on the top of the mountain one week and fall off the next week. The biggest thing for us is to remain consistent in the things that we try to do each week to give ourselves the best chance to win. Do they always work? No, but I think a consistent approach is the best approach."
The Giants' goal remains securing a playoff berth and despite what has become a more daunting task, the players insist the arrow is pointing up.
"Overall, I think this team is a team I'm proud of," defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. "I think on the outside world, it's going to be easy for the critics or people to say, 'The sky is falling,' type of thing, but we know inside that we have everything we need and everything in front of us."
"We've got a really good opportunity going forward," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "We know that we have some big games down the stretch, and we put ourselves in a good position. We've got to heal up and take advantage of this long week and get back and learn what we've got to learn off this film. We're still confident. We're 7-4. We've got a lot still to accomplish."
No player has been more forceful in vocalizing the team's intentions than outside linebacker Jihad Ward. The player his teammates call Haddy was in his customary powerful and profane posture in the postgame locker room.
"I'm just fighting to get to the playoffs, baby," Ward said. "That's all I'm doing. I'm trying to win. I've been there plenty of times in my career. One thing about this record (stuff) – that (stuff) looks cute, and that's the stuff that we got to fix. I don't care about a record. We got to get into the playoffs, and we got to try to win some games to get to the Super Bowl.
"I'm just trying to win it all. I don't care about the records. I don't care about the stats. I'm just trying to win it all. I don't care about any of that stuff."
But the Giants have some steps to take to arrive at their preferred destination. The first is to get healthy. Their seven-man inactive list yesterday was comprised entirely of players who have started games this season, including cornerback Adoree' Jackson, tight end Daniel Bellinger and tackle Evan Neal. Safety Xavier McKinney and guard Ben Bredeson also remain sidelined.
"I think all those guys are improving," Daboll said. "They'll have three good days of treatment here coming up. We'll see where we're at on Monday."
Improved health won't solve everything. The Giants must rediscover a rushing attack that was among the NFL's best through the season's first 10 weeks. Saquon Barkley ran for an average of 103.4 yards in the first nine games. But in the losses to Detroit and Dallas, he totaled just 61 yards.
"We can do a lot of things better," Daboll said. "Not just in the run game but in the pass game, in the red zone, on third down. That's not just on the offensive side, that's on the defensive side, as well. Certainly, they know Saquon is a player that we like to use a lot. Yesterdaym we tried to start off the game by mixing it up and getting ahead of the chains. Usually, we've been a pretty run-heavy team other than the Jacksonville game early on. Some of the thought process there was to try to protect against those defensive ends, move Daniel (Jones) a little bit. I think we'll look at that like we do every week, evaluate things we can do better and harp on the execution of it, the fundamentals of it, the schematic stuff on the coaches' end of it. It's all encompassing."
The defense has not recorded a sack in consecutive games for the first time in five years. The unit hit Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott nine times, including five by rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux, but didn't tackle him with the ball.
"I do think we're doing a good job of getting him off the spot, making him throw it faster than he wants to throw it," Daboll said. "But obviously, when you can get the quarterback down, you can move offenses behind the sticks and put them in more passing situations on the next down – that's always helpful."
The Giants could benefit from a bit more precision on their execution. The key play in the game yesterday occurred with just more than four minutes remaining in the third quarter, and the Giants trailing, 14-13. Faced with a fourth-and-one at his own 45, Daboll chose to try for the first down. Jones threw behind Barkley, who had an opportunity to catch the ball but didn't. Daboll was asked today if he thought a completion could have resulted in a touchdown.
"You never know," he said. "I never go as far as saying that because obviously you have to execute the entire play, and there's chase. I thought we had an opportunity to convert it and keep the chains moving."
The larger task is for the Giants to make key corrections and keep the season moving forward.
"It's adversity right now," Ward said. "We've been winning games all season. Now what we got to do is how we handle it when (stuff) gets real. So, that's our job. What are we going to do?"
"We definitely have to tighten up and fix things," Williams said. "I don't want to make excuses, but injuries have been a part of our season as well. And I think overall everything is still in front of us. We still have a lot of divisional opponents, and everything is still in front of us, in my opinion."
View photos from the Giants' Thanksgiving Day game against the Dallas Cowboys.