EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Tom Coughlin did not sugarcoat his description of how the Giants' seven-game losing streak has affected him personally.
"Miserable," Coughlin said today when asked how he feels. "What else can I say? Miserable. But I'm not going to let it get me down."
Nothing ever seems to. Coughlin has coached the Giants for 11 seasons and in the NFL for 19, and when you are in the job that long, losing streaks are unavoidable. A 25-24 loss yesterday to the Jacksonville Jaguars left a Coughlin-coached team with a losing streak of at least seven games for the third time in his distinguished career. His 1995 expansion Jaguars lost seven in a row and in 2004, his first Giants team dropped eight consecutive games.
It's as difficult to endure now as it was when he was a first-year coach. But Coughlin's reaction remains largely the same. He accepts responsibility for his team's shortcomings and focuses on preparing his players for their next opponent. The Giants, now 3-9, will visit the 2-10 Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
"I try to pay attention and do the job to the best of my ability, and my concern is with my coaches and my team," Coughlin said on a conference call today. "Our organization, everybody in the Giants organization, lives and dies with how this football team does. I understand that completely. The responsibility that I have to my coaches and my players and to our owners, we're going to work our ever-lovin' off to try to find a way to win a game. That's all, at this point in time, that we can do."
Coughlin said he spoke to the players today about numerous issues, including what questions they are likely to get from the media. But his focus, as always, was on the next game.
"My discussion with the players this morning was really diversified," he said. "What I really did think was very important is the players know together how frustrated we are, that we do know that the outside world will have a tendency not to speak very kindly of us, and our support comes from each other and that together, we're being tested perhaps like we've never been tested before. I've got some young guys in the room that have never been through anything like this, I'm sure. I referred to them and I referred to the old guy standing in the front of the room talking that's never been through anything like that."
"He wants us to worry about Tennessee, getting a win, be able to enjoy, be happy about we are doing, and be able to celebrate as a team together, and celebrate a victory," quarterback Eli Manning said. "That is what we are going to do, we are going to focus on this week and take it one week at a time, and compete our tails off, and work hard, and that is all we can do, that is all we can control."
The Giants are still trying to make sense of their latest defeat. They outdid the Jaguars in most statistical categories. The Giants scored the game's first 21 points and led by 18 points at halftime. They twice held fourth-quarter leads, only to have rookie quarterback Blake Bortles lead the Jaguars on a late drive that ended with Josh Scobee's game-winning 43-yard field goal with 28 seconds remaining.
The difference in the game was the Giants' three lost fumbles, two of which Jacksonville returned for touchdowns.
"It is a game on paper, if you look at it, except for the three turnovers, two of which were run in the end zone for touchdowns, you wonder who won," Coughlin said. "…The problem is that we turned it over and gave them touchdowns in the second half and didn't score enough points. (We) put ourselves in position to win again, but did not make the critical plays at the time of the game when we had to make the stop."
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It was the second game in a row the Giants took a late lead, only to have the opposing team drive down the field to score the game-winning points. Two weeks ago, the Giants couldn't get the ball into the end zone despite having a first down on the San Francisco four-yard line late in the game. The frustrating losses have taken their toll on the players.
"We have yet to be in sync in all three phases of the game," safety Antrel Rolle said. "It's like when one is playing good, the other's playing bad, and when one's playing bad, the other's playing good. The first half, I thought, offensively and defensively, that we did a phenomenal job. The second half, we did poor.
"We have to have that passion, that heart, that desire to win and close out the game. Period. You have to limit the mistakes, you have to make the plays when the opportunities present themselves. We all know how to win in this locker room. We wouldn't be here if we didn't, but we're not doing what we know gets you toward that winning edge. It's not happening, we're not getting it done."
"We're just not executing," running back Rashad Jennings said. "We have to be able to play through adversity. Not everything is going to go your way in the league. There are going to be some ups and some downs, but that's when the leadership is able to come in and make sure that we find a way to get those close games, finish in the second half, not let one hurdle slow the whole process of the offense down. We didn't do it."
But they will continue to try. A quarter of the season remains to be played. The Giants aren't going to the playoffs, but they can still finish the season on an upswing. But to do that, they must play complete games, beginning Sunday in Nashville.
"I think we have been very close," Manning said. "We have been competing our tails off, and hopefully - we've got young guys, we've got new guys – we've got to figure out how to come together as a team and a group. And hopefully, we can figure that out soon."