EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Tom Coughlin today concluded the opening statement of his conference call with the media by saying, "we're happy to win, we have a lot of work to do."
The Giants head coach says something similar after almost every victory, but his point is well-taken today. The Giants defeated the Dallas Cowboys yesterday, 27-20, but were significantly surpassed in many statistical categories. One notable exception was turnovers; the Giants had none, and forced four. That and interception and kickoff returns for touchdowns by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Dwayne Harris, respectively, enabled the Giants to successfully rebound from their poor performance last Monday night in Philadelphia.
But as they begin preparations for their visit to New Orleans and a game against the Saints, Coughlin and the Giants have several numbers in their heads they're uncomfortable with. Like 233, the Cowboys' rushing yardage total. Or 13, Eli Manning's final completions total. And 27 and 38:04, Dallas' first downs total and time of possession.
Coughlin still disagreed with a reporter who suggested some might consider it an unimpressive or lucky victory.
"The luck part - there's a lot of hard work that went into winning that game," Coughlin said. "It had nothing to do with luck, it had to do with us being in the right spot at the right time. Again, I attribute that to the turnovers and to the lack of penalties (just three) and us not turning it over. That's not luck, there's a lot of hard work involved in that. So we won the football game, we won it in a forthright manner. I'm not overly concerned with any of those other comments."
But as Coughlin and the players conceded, plenty of room exists for improvement. The offense wants to score more points and gain more than 289 yards, and no defense is satisfied after giving up 233 rushing yards.
"It's something we talked about today, and we've definitely got to address," linebacker Devon Kennard said. "We're a defense that takes pride in being run-stoppers and we've done that all year, but we have slowly let it creep in to where Dallas was able to do that. It's something we need to address and it just comes down to everybody doing their job and making plays."
Darren McFadden carried 29 times for 152 yards, the highest total by an individual back against the Giants since Carolina's Jonathan Stewart ran for 206 yards on Dec. 27, 2009, in the final game in Giants Stadium.
"We made some mistakes in terms of our responsibilities and how we play certain aspects of the run," Coughlin said. "There were some things that Dallas did coming off of a bye week, which you knew was going to happen. They introduced a couple of different thoughts in there. By in large, they blocked us and we've got to find a way - and they're a good offensive team, don't get me wrong - but we have to do a better job of holding the point, of being where we're supposed to be from a gap responsibility, of recognizing the style run that's coming. We lost leverage on the corner consistently.
"One of the reasons was that as much as you want to tell somebody how fast an individual is, McFadden did just run around us a few times. When he hit a couple of plays off-tackle, we were holding our breath there to try to get him down, particularly when he got started through the line of scrimmage. It's a number of things: they blocked very well, we were sometimes out of position, and sometimes not maintaining our leverage and our contain responsibilities. Our tackling at times was shoddy. We didn't get away with block tackles, which you don't like to see anyway, but some of the people in the secondary were trying to implement that and it wasn't successful. There's a bunch of reasons why."
Offensively, the Giants ran for a season-high 132 yards. Odell Beckham Jr. and Larry Donnell led all receivers with four catches apiece, but they totaled only 53 yards. Rueben Randle and Harris each had two catches, for a combined 111 yards.
The key to improvement, Beckham said, is, "just everybody being on the same page, making contested throws, making contested catches, and just making plays. Bottom line is us as receivers, we have to make plays when we have opportunities. We got the W, so nothing is more important than that. I think things will come along when they come along. … This team is so explosive and so dynamic that it's only going to last for so long before we just break out and just start making plays."
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Coughlin agreed the Giants need more production from their passing attack going forward.
"I don't think there's any doubt about that," he said. "The issue that we're having is obvious. We've got some guys that are not able to practice full-time, and it's difficult when there's not practice time to go ahead and just go out on the field Sunday afternoon and play as if you've had all those days and those opportunities that you normally get throughout the course of the week where you communicate well. Particularly if you're introducing something a little bit different, you don't have that. That's a little bit of an issue right now, and hopefully we can overcome it."
Beckham has been a notable absentee from practice the last two weeks because of a sore hamstring. He's worked on a limited basis at the end of the week, and played in the games. Randle has also been dealing with a hamstring issue.
When it was suggested he's "not quite on the same page" as Manning, Beckham disagreed, but conceded more practice time would be beneficial.
"I definitely think that practice helps," Beckham said. "You get to see it before you see it, and that's just kind of one of those things, definitely understand as far as practicing and being on the same page, but I don't think it was the difference."
The hamstring, he said, has "kind of gotten better. It's being able to recover, and heal up, and it's definitely doing better. It's just something that you just have to maintain it. It's a maintenance job."
As Coughlin suggested, that's true of many facets of the Giants' game. They'll spend this week working on all of them.