EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Victor Cruz has developed a case of selective amnesia regarding the Giants' 0-6 start in 2013.
Even if Cruz's memory had legitimately lapsed, the numerous reminders he received this week of last September would have jarred it back into his brain. The Giants open their 2014 season tomorrow night in Detroit and of all the objectives they've discussed during their practice week, none is more basic and essential than this: they must get out of the gate in better shape than they did a year ago.
For the second year in a row, the Giants are opening with a road night game on Sept. 8. Last season, they fell in Dallas, 36-31, their third consecutive opening night defeat. That started a slide that lasted six long weeks, didn't end until they beat Minnesota on Oct. 21 and eviscerated their chance to make the playoffs. The Giants won seven of their last 10 games, but couldn't overcome 0-6. Now they believe 1-0 is essential to their hopes for a turnaround season.
"We have to get a win on that first week because it's important," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. "You never take for granted wins in this league, because teams are very evenly matched and you know that. When you have the opportunity, you have to go take advantage of it. We're looking for Week 1 to be that chance.
"We just didn't give ourselves a chance with our start,'" defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "If we had given ourselves a chance, we could have made the playoffs at the end there. So we have to look now at the early part of the season and know that you have to set yourself up for later on in the year.'"
The Lions also finished with a 7-9 record last season, but they reached that mark by traveling from the opposite direction. Detroit won its opener and three of its first four games on the way to a 6-3 start. But the Lions lost six of their last seven games. One of those defeats was a 23-20 overtime loss to the Giants in Ford Field. While the Giants celebrated the victory as they would any other, in the big picture it meant little because they had already been eliminated from postseason consideration.
Beginning tomorrow, the Giants can improve their chance to have a happy ending with a more successful beginning.
"I think that means everything, especially with the season that we had last year," safety Antrel Rolle said. "We got off to a horrible start. We just want to make sure we're not repeat offenders. Go out there and get off to a great start and just play hard-nosed football."
The subplot to the main story is the performance of the offense, which has received so much preseason scrutiny under first-year coordinator Ben McAdoo. To Cruz, the two are inseparable.
"Obviously, you want to get off to a good start and get off on the right foot," he said. "And obviously, with this offense, being that it's a new offense, getting off to a good start will help us, help our confidence and help everything else. So that's always the goal, to get off to a good start. We want to come out to a fast start, a good start, and hopefully get this first win."
After playing in Detroit, the Giants will play home games against Arizona and Houston. They'd like to face the Cardinals trying to build on a 1-0 start instead of feeling the pressure of having to win for the first time.
"In years past, we've taken for granted getting that first win," Kiwanuka said. "Getting a win in Week 1 is of tremendous importance. That's what our goal is and that's what we're focused on."
"You just have to focus on the first one," Jenkins said. "Get to 1-0. That's what's been running through my head all training camp, 'What do we need to do to get to 1-0?' Everything else after that, you can worry about when it comes, but we need to be 1-0."
Weston Richburg will play left guard for the Giants, the second rookie offensive lineman in as many seasons to start the season-opener. Last year, Justin Pugh started at right tackle and stayed there for the entire season.
Pugh was asked what wisdom he can impart to Richburg, the team's second-round draft choice from Colorado State.
"The thing Dave Diehl and Chris Snee told me last year – you've got to go out there and be a fighter," Pugh said. "You don't ever want to just sit back and take the blow. If you're going to go down…he's going to make mistakes. I made mistakes, everyone makes mistakes. But go down swinging. You never want to sit back and not be physical or catching a block. Just knowing the type of kid he is, very hard working, very competitive, I know he's going to do well on Monday night."
The Lions have outstanding defensive tackles in Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, both former first-round draft choices.
"You're going to have to be physical, you're going to have to be able to block a really good football player, no matter if it's the first two or even the substitutions," coach Tom Coughlin said. "From a mental standpoint, there's no doubt that there will be some things that will happen in the game that he's going to have to, as a young guy, adapt to right away. I think he will."
- The Giants are opening their season on a Monday night for the first time since a 31-20 loss in Denver on Sept. 10, 2001.
- They are 22-33-1 on Monday night, including 8-8 at home and 14-25-1 on the road. They won their only Monday night game in 2013, defeating Minnesota, 23-7, on Oct. 21.