EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The football media and football public might be down on them, but the Giants remain determined and optimistic they will be much more successful in their final 10 games than they were in their first six.
The Giants are 1-5 and have lost three consecutive games, the latest a loss to Philadelphia 10 days ago that resulted in headlines proclaiming the season all but finished. But the Giants believe they are just getting started, a claim they can begin backing up tomorrow night against the 2-4 Falcons in Atlanta.
"Teams fight through adversity and it's in the Giants' DNA to pull this thing out," coach Pat Shurmur said this week. "I've seen it, I've studied the history of it, and I like the locker room that we've assembled. I'm impressed with the guys that we have in the locker room, and I know they're going to fight. I watched the games just like you have and coached the games – these guys fight, and these guys have enthusiasm. We just haven't executed, and I'll keep saying that until we do. And when we win the game, you know what I'm going to say? We executed better, but we still made a lot of mistakes. That's what you try to do until you play the perfect game. I haven't heard any coach take the podium and say their team played the perfect game. That's the goal, and you really don't worry about the results. You just try to eliminate those execution errors and then put it out there. It's a thrill of competition, not to dread. You just go play. That's what drives players and coaches to do what we do."
At another meeting with reporters, Shurmur said, "Despite the outside noise, I think they're staying in the moment. I encourage them to live in the moment."
Those players are certain reports of their demise are greatly exaggerated.
"It's easy to get hot in this league, it's possible," quarterback Eli Manning said. "We just got to find a way to get one. This week on the road, a tough contest against Atlanta, but I think the guys are ready and focused and ready to go out there and ready to play better football."
Have the players been able to block out the outlying negativity.
"That's always a challenge," he said. "It's just a challenge to try to focus on the things that you can control, and that's us and your assignments, the game, going out there and playing well. Keep the focus on that, and we'll be okay."
"I don't think you can pay attention to any of that," tackle Nate Solder said. "I think that's just a life lesson. There's going to be plenty of stuff that goes on and the noise just in general. Everyone else that doesn't really know or is involved and they're always going to be looking to bring you down."
Shurmur has said a dearth of points is one of the Giants' primary issues. The team's scoring output is 27th in the NFL (19.5 points a game), but Shurmur has seen improvement in the execution of the offensive system he brought to the team. So do the players. Now they need to convert that into points.
"When you have new guys and new players all learning a new system, it takes time to gel," Manning said. "It's just a matter of everybody just keep doing things a little better. Just making small improvements around a bunch of areas and we'll be OK.
"We've done good things. We're not having mistakes. We're picking up blitzes and picking up a lot of things and making calls and getting to good plays. It's just a matter of everybody being on the same page and playing that much better. Just a little bit more consistent."
The offense will get a boost from the return of Evan Engram (and fellow tight end Rhett Ellison), who missed the last three games with a knee injury. Engram will provide Manning with another skilled target. And he is particularly motivated not just to return to the field and help his team, but to play for the first time in a Giants uniform in his home state.
"It's a great opportunity," said Engram, who estimates he lives 25-30 minutes for Atlanta, "without traffic. I'm really excited, it's going to be fun. I'm really excited to play in front of all my friends and family. A lot of people are going to be there that have been with me growing up and my whole process in getting to this point, so just coming home and playing in the new beautiful stadium is crazy. I'm really excited. It's going to be fun."
Well, only if the Giants leave town with a victory.
"It would do a lot for us," Engram said. "That's the goal going in it, to win each game. We're 1-5, that's what we are, but a win will be a testament of what this team could be and what we're supposed to be and definitely just keep allowing us to give us some energy, and keep pushing forward for the rest of the year."
"Going into the bye week, we got two games," Odell Beckham, Jr. said. "You can get two big wins for this team and turn it around. We can go in it 3-5 and just like every other team, you make a run. That's how I'm looking at it, knowing that this is the most important game of the season. Can't worry about what our record is. Got to worry about this game, win this game, prepare for next week, win that game, go into the bye week, everybody gets some legs back, get some time off, clear your mind and come back and make a push. That's how I'm looking at it. That's what I could see. We just got to keep our head down, but head up at the same time, and keep working and that's really it. That's all you can do at this point, just keep working. You dig yourself in a hole, you dig yourself out of it."
Tomorrow night would be a good time to start.
*The Giants are 24-38-1 on Monday night, including 15-28-1 on the road. They have played the Falcons just once on Monday night, a 31-10 triumph in Atlanta on Oct. 15, 2007.
*The Falcons lead the regular-season series, 12-11. The teams' only postseason meeting was a 24-2 Giants' triumph in an NFC Wild Card Game in MetLife on Jan. 8, 2012.
*The Giants will play for the first time in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opened in 2017. The Giants most recently faced the Falcons on Sept. 20, 2015, when they led by 10 points early in the fourth quarter before Atlanta scored two touchdowns for a 24-20 triumph. Manning threw two touchdown passes, including a 67-yarder to Beckham.
*The Giants are 8-4 in Atlanta. From 1981-2007, the visiting team won 12 consecutive games in the series, the longest such streak in NFL history. That included seven Giants victories in Atlanta.
*The Giants are 32-25 in regular-season game splayed indoors, including 1-1 this Year (losing in Dallas, winning in Houston). They were 3-1 in the Georgia Dome.