Tom Coughlin wasn't all that disappointed with his team's performance in the 20-10 preseason loss to Carolina Saturday.
He saw effort from the backups and kids that populated the lineup in the final three quarters. He obviously saw fire from folks like Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka in the first quarter.
But what he didn't see was that igniter, the guy or the event that could produce a points avalanche. Instead, that first-quarter interception return for a touchdown of Michael Boley's basically fell flat.
"In trying to define what that means for me, as I try to say it to you, the language doesn’t give me that opportunity," Coughlin said, trying to put his emotions into words. "It’s not energy. It’s the spark. It’s a spark.
"You’re up seven to nothing, why can’t it be 14 to nothing? Why isn’t it 10 to nothing? The ability to recognize and capitalize on the circumstance as it presents itself to you. That’s more of what I’m talking about.
"There was energy. There was effort. There is a ton of people playing in their first professional game. You don’t think they were excited and a lot of times they don’t really know how to express themselves or even express it in a team way. That’s what I’m after."
This is a nebulous concept, of course. It's something that can't be coached. It just sort of happens. A team has it, or it doesn't. Still, winners tend to have it. It's called getting on a roll, and right now, even after just one meaningless preseason game, Coughlin worries that this team might be missing that key ingredient.
So how does a team find it something that's not written down in a playbook?
"Practice," Coughlin said. "Get better. Get better focus. Get better execution. Better communication. Hone in on some things."
He might start with an offense that was disappointing, to say the least. Eli Manning's failure to produce a point in five series came as especially disturbing, though Domenik Hixon and Victor Cruz (on special teams) did show playmaking ability later in the game.
Another area of concentration will be the kicking game, where Lawrence Tynes' bruised left thigh is feeling much better. Punter Matt Dodge was working with kickoffs, but the Giants are hopeful that Tynes will be ready for the Bears game on Monday.
The offensive line, where C David Baas is trying to integrate himself with his new teammates, will also get a lot of attention. There were some cracks up front, so communication will be the order of the week.
With three preseason games left, times is fleeting. And the Giants need to find a spark.