*Coach Ben McAdoo spoke with the media a day after the Giants' loss to the Buccaneers: *
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants have played just one-quarter of their season, but they have already reached a decisive juncture.
With an 0-4 record, they still have the opportunity and enough time with 12 games remaining to make this a season of high achievement. Their next game should provide a clue to whether or not that will be the case; on Sunday, the Giants play host to the Los Angeles Chargers, who have also lost their first four games.
"It's fight or flight time," coach Ben McAdoo said on a conference call today. "We have talented men of integrity in the locker room. It's not going to be easy. But we have to go out there and we have to fight. I expect us to fight. We have character in the building upstairs and down. I expect us to go out there and fight. The biggest thing that I get concerned about is guys going numb. We can't go numb. Can never accept this. You got to fight through it. You got to work for that first one. Work for the first win."
The Giants had their chances to get it yesterday. But despite twice holding fourth-quarter leads, they suffered their second last-play loss in as many weeks when Tampa Bay's Nick Folk kicked a 34-yard field goal for a 25-23 victory. The Giants have lost their last two games by a total of five points.
Many of the same issues that plagued the team in the first three games contributed to the defeat, and all three units were involved. The Giants have yet to score a first-quarter point this season. Although they ran for a season-high 91 yards they rank 31st in the NFL in rushing yards per game (59.3) and 30th in yards-per-carry (3.2). Defensively, missed tackles and blown coverages – most notably on O.J. Howard's 58-yard touchdown reception – hurt the Giants' cause. On special teams, Aldrick Rosas missed a 43-yard field goal attempt and Brad Wing kicked a 15-yard punt that helped set up a Buccaneers touchdown.
McAdoo calmly dissected it all on his call with reporters.
"We are 0-4 and our film verifies it," he said. "A lot of problems that are all correctable and it starts with blocking, tackling, catching the football, kicking and punting, especially in the fourth quarter. At times, we look like we are pressing, other times it looks like we're hesitant. Really, we were fortunate to be in the ballgame yesterday. Tampa missed two field goals and a PAT. We started slow on offense, which has been a theme for us. We battled back. Expended a lot of energy battling back in the second and third quarter to get back in the game and take the lead. We had some opportunities after we got the lead to extend the lead, which would have been huge for us. We didn't do that and we didn't finish strong on defense. We had four times in the last two ball games to do that and we failed to do it.
"We're the only ones that can do anything about it. We got to get back out there on the practice field, and we got to work through the fundamentals. We can't get numb. We can never get used to this feeling or accept it. We have to get back to work."
The players are eager to return to the field, put the Buccaneers game behind them, and begin working to achieve that first victory.
"We got some prideful guys in here," defensive tackle Damon Harrison said in the postgame locker room. "We are going to come back to work after the off day (today) and work our butts off like we are 4-0. Nothing else will be acceptable. You won't see any drop off from anybody. We got some guys in this locker room that hold each other accountable, and we just keep chasing that first one."
"(We're) frustrated, I guess, in a sense that I feel like we are doing some good things, but just not playing our best football," quarterback Eli Manning said. "You can tell it's out there on drives. We are leaving plays out there. It's not one person, it's not one thing, it's not one group. It is just everybody kind of has their part in that. Good teams find ways to overcome those and make plays in critical moments to win games."
The Giants have yet to do that. One shortcoming that both defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and McAdoo have discussed is tackling. The Giants are giving too many extra yards to their opponents because they don't get them to the ground when they have the opportunity.
"It's something that we're going to take a look at this week and find ways to change it up, and make even more of an emphasis of it," McAdoo said. "But it's a fundamental part of things. We got to bring our arms. A lot of the tackling that you are seeing out there on the missed tackles is block tackling. We are not bringing our arms and wrapping up. And that's a fundamental part of the game. But we need to work on when we work the drills on the practice field they show up. We have to carry it over to game day."
Undeterred by the season's difficult first month, McAdoo is confident his team can do that, reverse course, and enjoy a successful season.
"I don't see anyone playing scared out there," McAdoo said. "We may be pressing or may be hesitant, depends on which part of the game or which phase you're talking about. I don't see that. Confidence is always an issue. It's a game of confidence and you build confidence through the way you practice. And then it has to transition to game day, and that's really been where we're struggling. Falling behind early and then hanging on late. Second and third quarters we're playing some pretty good football. We just have to start better and finish stronger."
*Injuries: Center Weston Richburg is in the NFL concussion protocol. Defensive end Olivier Vernon aggravated his ankle injury in Tampa. Running back Paul Perkins has a contusion, and wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. is "fighting through a bunch of things." McAdoo said.
*D.J. Fluker played the entire game at right guard, is the five-year veteran's first action on offense this season.
"I think Fluker did some good things in there," McAdoo said. "He's a big man. He works at playing physical. He did some good things."
But McAdoo did not commit to staying with the same line configuration, which included Justin Pugh at right tackle and John Jerry at left guard.
"That's something we're going to talk about," he said. "Obviously, we had some guys, we had Weston get nicked up. So we have to sit down as a staff and talk about rotation this week, how we're going to work guys in."