Those searching for favorable omens in the wake of the loss last night to the Dallas Cowboys will note that each of the last two seasons that ended with a Giants Super Bowl victory began with a defeat to an NFC East rival.
But to overcome their unpleasant start and enjoy a happy ending, the Giants must rely on more than favorable prophesies. They must correct numerous mistakes and shortcomings which surfaced in their season-opening 24-17 loss to the Cowboys in MetLife Stadium. It's going to take better practices, attention to detail and the effort, concentration and will necessary to win games.
Or, as kicker Lawrence Tynes said when asked what he took from the loss, "We better get our butts back to work."
He'll get no argument from Tom Coughlin, who said at his news conference today that he was dissatisfied with two of the team's three practices this week. Coughlin had talked repeatedly about playing this season as the Giants had in their 6-0 finishing kick in 2011, which ended with a victory in Super Bowl XLVI. But in many ways, the Giants reverted to the team that was 7-7 prior to that run, a team that had trouble running the ball and stopping the run and squandered too many opportunities.
"Alarming is probably a good word (to describe his reaction)," Coughlin said. "Upsetting, that we would make the run we did and come back to some of these issues.
"We had many opportunities that we didn't take advantage of. We didn't play well, Dallas played better than we played. We created opportunities for ourselves late in the game, but we weren't able to capitalize on them. We lacked consistency; we lacked fundamental technique play at the position with consistency pretty much everywhere. … Offensively we were sloppy with technique, we were not consistent at all, we had dropped balls. We had some opportunities in the run game, but we didn't seem to be able to push the line of scrimmage enough to crack the runner through the line of scrimmage."
The Giants have certainly played better. Aside from a 33-yard run by Ahmad Bradshaw, they rushed for 48 yards on 18 carries, a 2.7-yard average. They dropped several passes, ran only 54 plays (their lowest total since Nov. 28, 2010 vs. Jacksonville) and owned the ball for just 25:53. Several of Eli Manning's passes were dropped.
"We didn't pass the ball very well last night," Coughlin said. "We didn't catch the ball very well."
"It's frustrating," center David Baas said, "because you work so hard to get to this point and you come away with a loss. I'm not going to sit here and cry. You have to move on, but you have to be diligent in your work, especially out on the practice field to correct those things and make it right going into the next game."
The Giants let too many chances to put points on the board slip through their hands. They gained 58 yards on their second offensive possession, but David Wilson fumbled away the ball on second down in field goal range. Early in the second quarter they had a first down at the Dallas 41-yard line, but Eli Manning was sacked for a 15-yard loss and they punted. Moments later, Michael Boley's interception and 51-yard return gave them a first-and-goal at the one. But Bradshaw was stonewalled twice, Victor Cruz did not get a call on an apparent interference during a third-down incompletion and Tynes kicked a 22-yard field goal.
"We're still very disappointed, obviously, in the goal line aspect of our game, with the ball on the one-yard line and the inability to score," Coughlin said.
From late in the second quarter through midway through the fourth, Dallas scored on four consecutive possessions (three touchdowns and a field goal). The last score was a 34-yard pass from Tony Romo to Miles Austin on first-and-30, a play that particularly frustrated Coughlin.
"For them to score with one play over the top of us that way, which has been done in preseason, and for us not to learn something from that is very disappointing for me," Coughlin said.
While the list of issues seems to be lengthy, the players believe they can and will be corrected before the Giants line up against the Buccaneers in MetLife Stadium nine days from now.
"I think there are some games that you lose and you look at it and you just see where you just got beat in all aspects and had no chance," Manning said. "That was not the case in this one. I thought we had opportunities. We let some plays slip away. We let some opportunities slip away and we just couldn't make them up at the end, so I think there are things that are very correctible that we'll be able to do and play much better. We'll learn a lot from this game, though."
"Obviously after yesterday, it shows we have a long way to go," linebacker Michael Boley said. "We didn't play well. We didn't play up to our standards as a team, not just as a defense. We definitely have a lot of work to put in to build that bridge (Coughlin's theme of linking the end of last season to this one).
"A sense of urgency is starting to set in because we had some high expectations for the game, and team wise, we didn't meet those goals. Guys are coming in today, really starting to re-focus on some things that we need to be better at."
Coughlin has long said a team earns the right to win with its preparation. So he expects to perform better in practice leading up to the Tampa Bay game than they did before Dallas.
"There will be a renewed conviction about preparation and practice, we do know that we have a lot of work to do," Coughlin said. "I think that the players, their eyes are open to the fact that we lost a football game that we certainly thought we had a chance to win. Had our play been a little bit better, we may have been able to do something about the outcome."
"You definitely have to be a lot better and I think there's a lot that you can learn from the first game," Manning said. "I think your first game where you're playing four quarters and you've got a game plan and the first game of the season, they had an offseason to put in new stuff and have a new game plan for you, so there's going to be some adjustments and a learning curve. You have some new players. I think the first game, there's going to be a lot you can learn from that first or second game and we've got to have that mindset and come in next week, have a great week of practice, get better on things and make sure we go and perform better on game day."