The Giants take their 0-2 record into Philadelphia Sunday for a crucial NFC East matchup:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – "Every game is a must-win game."
Those words, or some slight variation of them, have constituted the most-frequently uttered phrase in the Giants' locker room this week. The 0-2 Giants will play the 1-1 Philadelphia Eagles Sunday in Lincoln Financial Field, knowing they will face an uphill fight to make the playoffs if they started the season with three consecutive losses. Thus the questions about whether the Giants must win this game. And the Giants' consistently answering that this is as important as any other game, and the season won't end if they lose.
"They're all must-win games," center Weston Richburg said. "The first game in Dallas was a must win. To get where we want to go, we want to win every single game."
"It's the same thing every week," defensive tackle Damon Harrison said. "We're professionals. We know we have a job to do. We go out there and do it, no matter what, wins or losses. The next game has to be played. You can't sit there and think about anything in the past and you can't think about the future. You just have to be in the moment."
Of course, someone is always going to deviate from the company line. And it probably can't hurt to have one of your best players bring a heightened sense of urgency to the game.
"Honestly, it's a must-win game," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "We know we need this game. It's a division game. I don't see us going 0-3. We've started 0-6 before (in 2013). This team – we have good talent on this team. We just all need to come together."
Last week, the Giants celebrated the 10th anniversary of the franchise's victory against New England in Super Bowl XLII. As the current players well know, the 2007 Giants started 0-2 before winning their next six games and eventually bringing home the Lombardi Trophy.
"I don't really see any panic," wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. said. "There is no fear in my heart about being 0-2. It's just a time to dig deep, make plays when you need to make them, turn things around. You can go 0-5, win the next 11 and you never know. I think the Giants won a Super Bowl when they were 9-7 here (they did, in 2011), something like that. So, I don't really count us out."
Nor does anyone else on the team. But the Giants must accomplish two goals if they are to enjoy their first victory of the season. They have to play better on offense and improve their performance in Philadelphia. Those objectives are not mutually exclusive. The Giants have scored just two touchdowns in their last four games in Philly. They have lost three in a row and four of their last five in the Linc, where the Eagles will play for the first time this season.
"I was thinking about it the other day - every time I've gone to Philly, we've lost," Beckham said. "They beat us at home, they just for some reason they've had our number. But this is our opportunity for a new year and to turn things around. This is a big game for us. We need a win, and what better team to beat than Philly?"
"They've gotten up on us," offensive lineman Justin Pugh said. "We turn the ball over down there early, and you go anywhere with a crowd in a ruthless environment and you get down early, it's not a great recipe for success. I think that's what it's been. So we got to go out there and we got to play tough, we got to play physical, and we got to take it to them."
The offense wasn't able to do that in the season-opening losses to Dallas and Detroit. The Giants have scored just one touchdown, they're last in the NFL in rushing yards (48.5 a game), and have converted only 33% of their third-down opportunities (eight of 24). Eli Manning and Philadelphia's Carson Wentz have each been sacked an NFC-high eight times.
"I think you've just got to believe that going through tough times will make you stronger, will make you stronger as a team," Manning said. "But you've got to get through them. That's kind of the situation we're in. There's always going to be ups and downs of a season, hopefully we've kind of hit the rough patch and we'll work ourselves out of it. But it's just going to come through our hard work, our dedication, our commitment to fix things."
Well said, but what about the original question – is this a must-win game?
"I think you look at all games as must-win," Manning said. "Obviously, it's an important game in the situation, the little hole we've dug ourselves in. But, you can't put more pressure on yourself than what's needed. We've got to go out there, play hard on offense, make more plays and play better, score more points."
"Each week is a new challenge," coach Ben McAdoo said. "A lot of people are counting us out, and so be it. We hold ourselves to a high standard in the building. We have a great challenge this week and we're looking forward to it."
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants head to Philadelphia