Antrel Rolle invoked one of this year’s biggest NFL stories in describing the challenge the Giants face in the final quarter of the NFL season.
“We just have to find a way to win,” said Rolle, the two-time Pro Bowl safety. “Like Tim Tebow going out there and finding a way to win, we have to find a way to win.”
The man spelled it out clearly and correctly.
The Giants came together just hours after their heartbreaking 38-35 loss to the undefeated Green Bay Packers yesterday in MetLife Stadium. Mason Crosby scored the game-winning points on a 31-yard field goal as time expired, negating a Giants comeback from 11 points down in the third quarter. Any loss is tough to accept, but particularly one in which a team fights valiantly against the defending champions, a team that is all but unanimously acclaimed as the NFL’s best, only to lose at the end. The Giants had tied the game on Eli Manning’s third touchdown pass, a two-yarder to Hakeem Nicks, and a two-point conversion with 58 seconds left.
But Aaron Rodgers completed passes of 24, 27 and 18 yards in that condensed time frame to set up Crosby’s game-winner and sent the Giants to their fourth consecutive loss.
The Giants had two choices. They could continue to lament their lost opportunity or they could look forward to a better last month of the season. They unanimously chose the latter.
“It’s more the fact that we can build off of it,” said Nicks, who scored two touchdowns against Green Bay. “We can take nothing but positives out of that game. It was a hard-fought game. It went down to the wire. It was two teams battling.”
“Hopefully, we can take some momentum from the game,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “A lot of good things, a great fight, great determination coming back from being down at times and fighting back and tying up the game. Those are the things you like to see. You like to see that competitiveness amongst the players. I thought there was great energy, great enthusiasm and great confidence throughout the whole game. We have to make sure we take those things into practice this week and into the game next week.”
Although the Giants have lost four straight, they are in a better position than most NFL teams, because they can win their division without relying on help from anyone else. With a 6-6 record, the Giants are one game behind the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East. The teams will face each other Sunday night in Dallas, the first of two meetings in the season’s final four weeks.
That will be the Giants’ final game away from MetLife Stadium. They will have home games against the Washington Redskins and the Cowboys sandwiched around a game against the Jets in which they will be the visitors.
If the Giants win their final four games, they will be NFC East champions, no matter what anyone else does. That is what the Giants focused on today, not the sting of a last-second defeat.
“Our goals are still in hand,” Coach Tom Coughlin said. “Everything that we wanted to achieve at the very beginning of the season, having played 12 weeks, they’re still there. This is obviously a big game in the division, in Dallas, for first place in the division.”
“Obviously, we got off to a fast start in the season and won a lot of games,” Manning said. “That’s helped keep us in position to be fighting for the division. A lot of times that’s all you can ask for. When you get into December you want to be playing important games and everyone is important right now, none bigger than this one. We’re playing against Dallas, who is the leader in the division right now, but we have a chance to change that. This is going to be a fun one.”
Coughlin today reiterated what he said in his postgame news conference: the loss to Green Bay can make the Giants a closer team because they rebounded from a poor performance last week in New Orleans and stood tall when many outside their locker room expected a game as lopsided as the loss to the Saints.
“I think it will be,” Coughlin said. “I mentioned that because of what they’ve been through here. I think it brings you a little bit closer together when you set your eye on something that nobody believes that you can do and you believe it and you play that way. It’s very, very difficult, and I mentioned last night, there’s no solace to playing well and losing. … I’m just saying they have to gain something from knowing that together they were able to accomplish it. For the most part all three phases did support one another.”
If the Giants can continue to do that and play as they did against the Packers, they can reverse their fortunes yet again and seize a division title that is there for the taking.
“We control our own destiny,” Rolle said. “We just have to make sure we play ball and take it one week at a time.”
“We know where we want to be, we know what we want to do,” Nicks said. “We just have to get the job done.”
*Coughlin said center David Baas was undergoing tests to determine the source and the seriousness of headaches that prevented him from suiting up yesterday.
“He is going to spend a great deal of today with various medical people in trying to decide that,” Coughlin said.
After Baas was unable to play on short notice, Kevin Boothe moved from left guard to center and Mitch Petrus saw the first extensive action of his career as the starter at guard. Coughlin praised both players today.
“There is an example right here of a guy who was ready when the opportunity came,” Coughlin said. “When he came to the stadium, I don’t know if Mitch Petrus knew if he was going to dress, but not only was he going to dress but he is now starting at left guard and plays the entire football game. It wasn’t perfect, but you see his power, you see his ability and you see him up against some really good defensive people who are really big, sizeable defensive linemen. He plays well against them and I like his attitude and the way he went about it. There were no big eyes or anything, he just went to work. He trusted himself, he trusted his preparation. You know now that he does prepare and when given the opportunity, he played well.
“The other guy is Boothe. How do you not recognize what this guy has done? Whatever you ask him to do, he does it. With five minutes notice or with no notice, he just goes and plays. I said to him that there was one time that you notice where Eli was bobbling the snap when he was up under the center and then he threw a 67-yard touchdown pass, so I would take the bobble if the result was going to be that every time.”
*Coughlin said offensive lineman Stacy Andrews will not play again this season. Andrews was hospitalized Saturday with a pulmonary embolism in each lung. “It is a very, very serious medical condition,” Coughlin said.
Coughlin did not say who will take his roster spot.
The Giants had to adjust some offensive plans when Andrews was unable to play.
“Because Stacy worked all week as the big tight end and we had him in all of those blocking formations as the big tight end,” Coughlin said. “Then when we lost him it was a question of who’s active offensively, to be honest with you, and then it was a question of how are we going to maintain these different formations. And if we do, is it better to utilize the tight ends now? And that’s what happens. So now (Henry) Hynoski becomes someone who’s really important because Bear (Pascoe) can play some of the tight end spots. It became a numbers game.”
*Coughlin lost both of his replay challenges yesterday, but said he had seen photographic evidence that he should have won the first one. That occurred in the first quarter, when Eli Manning threw a pass in the end zone for Jake Ballard, who was ruled out of bounds – on the initial ruling and after referee Jeff Triplette reviewed the play. Coughlin said it was twice called incorrectly.
“I just saw a picture which made me sick to my stomach, which FOX produced and showed that he’s in,” Coughlin said. “Don’t ask me about that because I really don’t know why, but I did see the picture. And the second one (on a reception by Green Bay’s Donald Driver in the third quarter), I really shouldn’t have challenged. It was right on our sideline, but it was a third-and-three and I was very much aware of where the ball was going, where it was headed and if there was any way that could have been turned around and they were hurrying up to the ball to snap it. So I really didn’t get a great call from upstairs. I’ve been overly aggressive with those calls, not waiting for any kind of advice from upstairs.
“It seems like we’ve had a series of things that have not been clear and even when the pictures are there, not been really clear, that I’ve gone ahead and challenged anyway. I’ve done so for a number of reasons, but last night I challenged the Ballard thing. No question about that. I wasn’t going to not challenge that and then have somebody tell me, ‘Did you know he was in?’ And then, as I said, the one on the sideline, I was upset, I really was because it was third-and-three. I thought we had them stopped.”
*Coughlin had no update on safety Kenny Phillips, who sprained his left knee in the first half and was undergoing tests at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan.
Rookies Prince Amukamara (ankle) and Spencer Paysinger (hamstring) were “nursing in the training room,” Coughlin said.
*Asked if Osi Umenyiora would practice this week, Coughlin said, “The original prognosis would be no, but we’ll see.” Umenyiora sprained his ankle last week in New Orleans.
*Coughlin said linebacker Michael Boley and running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who returned to action after missing time with hamstring and foot injuries, respectively, were both sore. “To be expected,” Coughlin said. “Bradshaw is telling me it’s not as bad.”
*Dave Tollefson has a contusion in his knee. “He’s a tough guy and if there’s any way, he’ll go,” Coughlin said.