EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – These are the kind of experiences the Giants would prefer not to have.
For the sixth time in the Tom Coughlin/Eli Manning era, the Giants have lost at least four consecutive games. Only twice did those losing streaks extend beyond four games – in 2004, when the head coach and quarterback were each in their first season with the team and the Giants dropped eight in a row; and last year, when the Giants lost their first six games.
In 2006, 2009 and 2011, the Giants ended their slump at four games and finished .500 or better each time. In the last of those seasons, they won three of their last four games and went on to win Super Bowl XLVI.
Now the Giants are again mired in a losing streak. Last week in Seattle they lost their fourth in a row, 38-17. They have been outscored in the past four games, 136-62. Their record is 3-6, their defense is ranked last in the NFL and seemingly everyone outside their locker room believes the season is a lost cause.
But the players and coaches are conceding nothing and are confident they can rally and make this a successful season. Believing is the first step to getting it done. On Sunday, that belief will get a stern test in MetLife Stadium, where the Giants will host the San Francisco 49ers, who are 5-4 and have appeared in the last three NFC Championship Games (losing the first to those 2011 Giants).
What will it take for the Giants to excavate themselves from this hole?
"It's just about finding a gut check," Manning said. "You never know what's going to spark it. I think the guys know we can play better, we can make plays and feel good about what we're doing. It's just taking things to that next level and playing a little bit better.
"You see the character of guys and how we're going to react to this tough stretch. We have to stick together and keep fighting, keep working and keep our heads up, but also understand that changes have to be made. We have to make changes to enable us to play better."
And they must do it immediately. The NFL this week sent out a press release listing the 20 teams since 1990 that have made the playoffs despite having a losing record after nine games. But only three of those 20 teams were 3-6. And each one – New England in 1994, Detroit in 1995 and Washington in 2012 – won its final seven games. So history suggests if the Giants lose Sunday, an already longshot proposition will become almost impossible.
Coughlin this week spoke to the team about "standing tall" and not being affected by anything said or done outside the team's tight circle.
Keep an eye on these 5 players as the Giants face the 49ers on Sunday
"That is all we have at this point, stand tall and go out there and fight," safety Antrel Rolle said. "Fight at all costs; try to get a win at all costs. That is what this league is about. It is still seven games left to play. We've got to go out there and play ball."
"In tough situations, you have to fight through it," Manning said. "You can't duck away, you can't have any give-up. Keep fighting, you have to stand up for what you're doing, raise your level of play and keep the other guys around you, their spirits upbeat, and turn this thing around."
Attitude is one thing. Execution is quite another. The Giants can talk the talk, but nothing will change if they don't perform better than they have in their last four games.
"We have to remove the self-inflicted wounds," said running back Rashad Jennings, who will return to action after missing four games with a knee injury. "That is really what is hurting us. One penalty here, one penalty there, jumping offside, missed assignment here, missed hole, dropped ball, whatever it may be. Those (are) the reasons why we are losing. We've got more than a little bit of talent in this locker room when you look around. Nobody needs to press, play beyond themselves. Execute the X's and O's and I think we will be okay."
"We would like everybody," Coughlin said, "the coaches, the players, everybody do a better job to get ourselves out of this hole."
History suggests that's exactly what it's going to take.