EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** The Giants today scattered for their bye week break with a 3-4 record and in third place in the NFC East. That's not what Tom Coughlin envisioned.
In the NFL, you are what you are. The Giants are disappointed they are a team that sits beneath .500 after back-to-back losses to division rivals Philadelphia and Dallas, the latter a 31-21 defeat yesterday in AT&T Stadium. But they are confident they will rally over their final nine games, beginning with a Monday night game on Nov. 3 at home against Indianapolis.
"We just have to come back and everybody's got to be determined," quarterback Eli Manning said. "Everybody's got to have one focus and be determined to get better, to play at a higher level, to win these games. It's not going to be easy, it's going to be tough but that's what we want. We want it to be tough. We want to make it possible. We'll be better for it if we can get through this next stretch and win some of these games."
"I think guys are definitely not pleased with how we finished out the game last night, but I think guys are encouraged," cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "We've seen flashes of what we can do, we just have to make a run after this bye. "
Manning said the break has arrived at a good time for the Giants.
"I told the guys we've had a long stretch with seven games, five preseason games," Manning said. "We've played a lot of football, been at it a long time. I think it's good to get away from it but I just told them, 'Make sure you get away, still get some workouts, still be moving and make sure, when you come back, we know what's ahead of us. We know what the challenge is ahead of us and get ready to make a big run and get to where we're playing our best football.'"
The Giants have several issues to address before returning to the field. Their rushing attack totaled 190 yards in the last two games, their first without injured starting running back Rashad Jennings. Penalties continue to hold back the offense and yesterday, tight end Larry Donnell lost a crucial fourth-quarter fumble.
Defensively, the Giants are giving up far too many yards (871 total to the Eagles and Cowboys) ad have been particularly challenged trying to stop the run.
Coughlin said today the Giants must get back to winning the battles on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
"A lot of it is physical," Coughlin said. "Our defense has been punched in the mouth with the run game, which is not pretty to see. That has to be controlled, you have to be able to stop the run, you have to be able to do that. They (the Cowboys) are running the ball as the number one team in the league and you are certainly well-challenged. Until that gets straightened out, then obviously we are not going to be in position to get the wins the way we want them.
"The same goes with the other side of the ball. We talk about running the ball, we are going to run the ball. We stuck with it. But to this extent you have to remember; we had two fumbles yesterday which resulted in us being minus one in the turnover ratio. We did not have an interception. We haven't had an interception in a couple of weeks and that has been a very important part, I think, of our ability to control our game. If we can get it in control we will do it that way."
One of the team's most influential proponents of the running the ball is the man who is in the team's record book for throwing it.
"It's tough in this league if you sit back there and throw it 50 times in a game," Manning said. "That puts a lot of pressure on the offensive line and me and the receivers because you're going to get a lot of coverages. When you're running it and you have a commitment to run like we were it's going to bring a safety in the box, it's going to give you some better throwing situations. We're going to be committed to doing it, we just have to get back to where we're getting successful runs. It's not like we've got to run for 150 yards, but on first and second down when they're giving you the run looks we've got to get those four and five yards just to keep the down and distance in shape. We're just having too many runs where we're losing, we're getting negative yards. We can't be going backwards. That's what hurts you."
Defensively, the Giants are allowing too many yards and too many third down conversions (13 in the last two games, including nine in Dallas), which resulted in time of possession advantages for their last two opponents.
"Simple mistakes," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "It all comes down to us doing our jobs. We all can't do everyone else's jobs. As an individual you have to do your job and only your job. You can't jump out of your gap. That is your gap, so you have to be there. (We) have to trust one another and we will get it done. That is the thing we have been lacking. People are trying to do other people's jobs. We will get those mistakes out of there and we have to trust each other and come back as a solid defense. We basically let them win. We made mistakes. It cost us big time. They were the more physical team yesterday. We have to come in here and get our minds right. There is a lot more football in the second half to play. We will be ready."
"I think our kryptonite right now is the big play and third downs," Amukamara said. "Hopefully, during this bye week a lot of people do a lot of self-scout and just see how we can get better on those two things."
Despite their flaws and the corrections that must be made, the Giants believe better days lie ahead.
"We're headed in the right direction," said injured running back Rashad Jennings, who hopes to return following the bye. "We see the mistakes… you're talking to the same guy who was asked the same questions when we were 0-2 and I gave my responses where I thought we were at and we won the next three. Again, I'm going to give you the same responses of where I think we're at. We're a team that's growing together. It's a team that, if we play mistake-free and stop the self-inflicted wounds, will be exactly where we need to be."
"I think we are fine," Pierre-Paul said. "It was a tough loss yesterday. As far as the team we know what we can do if we all get on the same path. We spoke to some guys and said do whatever you have to do on your bye week and get away from football. Just focus on something else, but when we come back it is time to turn it on."