EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants' loss last night to the Philadelphia Eagles was not just another bad night at the office for the home team. They now have an NFL-high five losses, against just one victory. Because they played in the Thursday night game, that solo status is likely temporary. Five other teams have a chance to lose their fifth game on Sunday, including the Atlanta Falcons, whom the Giants will face when they return to action on Oct. 22.
Many outside the Giants' tight circle have suggested the season is over.
But the players and coaches have a different opinion. Instead of dwelling on the six games that have been played, they are anticipating the 10 still on the schedule. They believe they can improve their performance and reverse their fortunes. They believe in each other. And they still have hope for this season.
"Absolutely," coach Pat Shurmur said today. "That's why you do this. We just keep going. Everybody around us is doing the math. We don't do the math, we just keep playing."
Shurmur, of course, is in his first season with the team. Now in his 20th year as an NFL coach, he has been with five teams (including two stints with the Eagles), and has been a part of teams that have qualified for nine postseason berths, won seven division titles, and advanced to one Super Bowl. Last year, he was the offensive coordinator of a Minnesota Vikings team that finished 13-3 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game.
Every team has a unique set of circumstances. What has remained constant from his first pro season in 1999 until last night is the belief that every time you step on the field, you're going to walk off with a victory.
"When you come into a new situation, you don't know what to expect, because every situation is different," Shurmur said. "I don't know what my expectations (were). I expect us to win every week, and I think we have a team that can go out and win every week if we play the right way. That's what I expect."
So do the players.
"I feel like guys really care about each other in here and we want to see each other succeed, and we just want to get things right," cornerback Eli Apple said. "It's about communication, that's what it starts with, and we're going to get it going."
"You never expect it," quarterback Eli Manning said of the team's record. "You expect to go win games. We're not playing as well as we need to. We'll work on fixing that."
Manning has absorbed much criticism for his play during the team's disappointing start. Last night, he completed 24 of 43 passes for 281 yards. He did not have a touchdown pass, but did throw an interception on the game's second play that led to an early Philadelphia touchdown and a lead the Eagles never relinquished. The Giants also continued to struggle on third down (four conversions in 14 attempts after going 0-for-7 on Sunday at Carolina), and in the red zone (no touchdowns on three trips inside the Eagles' 20-yard line).
"I know I can play better," Manning said. "I didn't play well last night. I got to make better decisions, and get back to just doing my job, not trying to do anything more, not trying to force things. Just find completions and move the ball, and try to score more points."
Manning was asked if it ever "bugs" him that that team is 1-5 and "there are people calling for your head."
"It bugs me that we're 1-5," Manning said. "What people say never got to me, never bothered me. But you work extremely hard to go have a big year and you're excited about things, and to be in this situation, yeah it bothers you and it's tough. But the only thing you can do is keep working and keep grinding. Try to bring this team together. It's a new scheme, a lot of new players and it's just a matter of everybody just making those improvements. Everybody just doing their job a little bit better, knowing exactly what your assignments are, knowing exactly what you need to do and working on it and perfecting that craft."
Shurmur dismissed the notion of someone other than Manning playing quarterback.
"We believe in Eli," Shurmur said. Later, in response to another question, Shurmur said, "We're not talking about a quarterback change."
It's not just Manning that Shurmur has faith in. He remains confident in his team, and in his belief that better days lie ahead.
"I know these players enough now to know that they're going to keep fighting and try to get better," he said. "We're certainly not where we want to be record-wise, I will acknowledge that, but I do know this – this group of players is going to stay in there, keep working, keep fighting to win a game, and our next one is against Atlanta on Monday night.
"We lost games. I think what's important is we keep trying to improve, we keep working, and we keep doing what we can to win the next game. I don't know anything about expectations. I know there's reasons why there's new coaches, I happen to be one of the new coaches in the league from last year, and you've got to do what you can to get your locker room right, get everybody playing the right way and coaching the right way, and do it in a way where you can win games."
*Asked about injuries, Shurmur mentioned wide receiver Cody Latimer's hamstring. "We'll have to see where that goes," Shurmur said.
*The practice squad contract of kicker Marshall Koehn was terminated. Koehn was signed early in the week, after Aldrick Rosas strained his quad Sunday at Carolina. Rosas kicked two field goals last night but was short on a 52-yard attempt.
"When we talked to him, he was healthy enough to kick for us," Shurmur said. "It looks like he just mishit it a little bit. It was on track, it was just a little short."