No button can be pushed, no magic potion can be swallowed and no football genie is going to escape from a bottle and make everything right.
"We just have to get going," Coach Tom Coughlin said today. "We have to start playing. The mistakes from the preseason – it's not preseason. Nothing else matters but getting it right."
Too much went wrong when the Giants dropped a 28-14 decision to the Washington Redskins yesterday in FedExField. A partial list includes a rushing attack that produced only 75 yards, failing to convert nine of 10 third down opportunities – plus a fourth-and-one - a turnover that was turned into a touchdown, a blocked field goal attempt and allowing six passes of at least 22 yards, including three to backup tight end Fred Davis.
"Everybody feels like there were opportunities left out on the field, opportunities to win the game and we went out there to win the game," Coughlin said. "It didn't happen and there are reasons why it didn't happen. You have to point that out because you have to make progress and go forward."
"It's not how we wanted to start," guard Chris Snee said. "But it is, and we have to move on."
And move on they did. The Giants gathered today and dissected the tape of their first loss to Washington since 2007. They then set their sights on Week 2, when they will host the St. Louis Rams on Monday Night Football. The Rams lost at home to Philadelphia, so both teams will go all out to avoid an 0-2 start.
Although frustrated by their inability to execute as well as they planned, the Giants would not attach too much significance to one loss, particularly on opening day. It's long season and the Giants believe they will quickly and steadily improve. If they do, the Redskins game will be a bad but faded memory.
"We have to play better football – that's what it comes down to," quarterback Eli Manning said. "There are things we need to improve on, things we can look at to see where we need to get better from fundamentals and from doing the right things."
"We still have 15 games left to play and we still have work that we have to do," guard David Diehl said. "You can sit here and make excuses. But we didn't play well enough to win. To have a third and one and a fourth and one and not convert, to start the second half with an interception for a touchdown – those are the things that you can't let happen. When those opportunities come up you have to make the most of them."
The most notable shortcoming was on third down. The Giants needed eight yards on their first conversion attempt of the game. Victor Cruz dropped a Manning pass that would have given them a first down. On their second possession, Manning hooked up with Hakeem Nicks for a 68-yard gain on third down. The Giants came up short on their remaining eight opportunities.
"I think four of those were third and 15-plus," Manning said, correctly. "That's not really a third down problem, that's a first and second down problem. We had the big play, we had a drop, then you had two third-and-ones where you have to run it and pound it and get those. We have to get some of those, but we have to be better down and distance. When it is third-and-two and we're running it, we have to run it. It's a little combination of everything."
Late in the third quarter, the Giants faced a third-and-seven from the Washington 37-yard line. Manning's pass to Mario Manningham gained six yards. On fourth down, Ahmad Bradshaw was stopped for no gain. In the fourth quarter, Bradshaw lost two yards on third-and-one. Lawrence Tynes came on to try a 38-yard field goal attempt, but it was blocked.
"That's very disappointing," Diehl said of the missed short-yardage opportunities. "That's where you can sustain your drives. That's where you keep momentum on your side. You have to control the line of scrimmage. To have that happen is disappointing."
In 2010, the Giants averaged 137.5 rushing yards a game, or 62.5 more than they gained in Washington. That led to questions about the new-look offensive line, which includes center David Baas and left tackle Will Beatty, and whether the unit has had enough time to develop the cohesion to become a top-drawer line.
"It's no excuse," Snee said. "We have to play better and we will play better. It has to start next week. We can't say, 'We have new guys, we get a month's grace period.' These games are for real."
Coughlin refuted a reporter's suggestion that growing pains were responsible for the line's problems.
"We didn't play as well as we can play," Coughlin said. "You can say it anyway you want. There is no excuse for it. We didn't play as well as we can and sometimes the very quick adjustments are not being made exactly the way they should be made."
The key play of the game occurred on the third snap of the second half. The Giants, fittingly, faced a third-and-10 at their own 18. Manning dropped back to pass and tried to throw to the right for Nicks. But rookie linebacker Ryan Kerrigan batted the ball into the air, caught it and ran nine yards to the end zone to give Washington a 21-14 lead.
"You have to find the throwing lane but I'm sure in that particular situation, we were trying to get the hands down and we didn't," Coughlin said. "We weren't able to get them down and his hands came up just as quickly as the ball was to be released. That was a very athletic play by an outside linebacker, but part of the success of the play is that you have to get the hands down and maneuver to have a throwing lane."
Instead of going down when McKenzie tried to cut block him, Kerrigan stayed on his feet and never took his eyes off Manning.
"I think we could have had a big play," Manning said. "They were in an all-out blitz, so I tried to get a little receiver screen and it just didn't (go) that well. … You have to throw it. It's one of those things, usually that guy's hands are down. He made a good play. I'm counting on him being down. I'm trying to hit my receiver in the chest. He's coming back to me. It's a timing deal and just a good play by that guy.
"Sometimes you can see the guy's not cutting so I had to throw it a little higher, but then it's a bad throw to the receiver. It's just a good play by him."
The defense wasn't immune to miscues. Washington quarterback Rex Grossman threw for 305 yards after passing for 336 yards in the 2010 season finale vs. the Giants. Santana Moss caught six passes for 76 yards. Davis added his five receptions and Jabar Gaffney and Anthony Armstrong had touchdown catches.
Safety Antrel Rolle gave the Redskins some added momentum on their final touchdown drive when he was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness after diving and hitting Davis, who was on the ground after a seven-yard reception. Had Rolle not committed the penalty, the Redskins likely would have punted. After the game, Rolle wondered if the call was correct. Today, he didn't dispute it, because his action resulted in a helmet-to-helmet hit.
"After looking at the film I think it was definitely a legit call," Rolle said. "My angle initially was to aim for his back and he began to alligator roll. Once he rolled, my momentum and our heads did collide. It's a legit call. In the heat of the battle you're just trying to help and get over there and get the guy down. He had one yard to get for the first down. My mentality was, he's fumbling with the ball, hit him as hard as I can, knock the ball loose. At no certain point in time was I going for an obvious head-to-head contact, but after reviewing the film I think it definitely did happen. It was a legit call. But I can learn from that. Next time just make sure I go over there and try to, I guess, push him down as hard as I can. Just make sure he doesn't get that extra yard. You know it happens. It's something you learn from. You move on."
Just as the Giants have.
"We need to do a better job of preparing ourselves, and practicing well and putting ourselves in game speed," Coughlin said. "I think, now that we have seen this tape, there can be some development and some drastic improvement."
The players are on board with that.
"It's one game," McKenzie said. "I could see if it was a one-game season and that's all we ever played, that's all we ever built ourselves up for. But it's 16 contests. This was the first one, where unfortunately we didn't make the plays to go ahead and win. We have to correct the mistakes we made, refocus ourselves on our next opponent and play better next week."
"I know this team has a lot of character," Diehl said. "We're going to learn from this one and we're going to move forward. We have a lot of season left to go and believe in one another and we still think that we're a great team."
*Coughlin on the blocked field goal: "The ball doesn't rise higher than about six or six-and-a-half feet. There was penetration, but that would not have been a factor if the ball would have been elevated the way it should be."
*Coughlin said Nicks was having his swollen knee examined. "We know that he does have an injury, but we don't know to what extent," Coughlin said. Asked if Nicks will face the Rams, Coughlin said, "I don't know the answer to that. They are checking that out now."
*Defensive end Justin Tuck missed the game with a neck injury. Coughlin was asked if Tuck will practice Wednesday.
"We will see," Coughlin said. "The plan is to progress. If the doctor gives him the okay, then he goes and practices. I would like to see him practice."
How about Osi Umenyiora, who is rehabbing from his Aug. 19 arthroscopic knee surgery?
"That again has to be something that comes from the medical people," Coughlin said.
*Tight end Travis Beckum missed the game with a tight hamstring, an injury that started to bother him two days prior to the game. His absence probably hurt the Giants on third down.
"I am going to see how it feels," Beckum said when asked about working on Wednesday. "As hard as it is to not play, you still have to look into the best interest of my hamstring and try to get back as soon as possible and help this team win. I don't want to try to push it a couple more days when I can be resting and come back even stronger."
Coughlin said, "I would hope (Beckum practices), but I don't have the answer for that. I didn't have the answer for that Friday afternoon, either."
*The Giants have signed wide receiver Chris Hogan from Monmouth to the team's practice squad.