Tom Coughlin's Giants scored a "victory" in defeat against the undefeated New England Patriots in the final game of 2007. In a 38-35 loss that took the 15-0 Patriots to the wire, Coughlin's team laid the foundation for a postseason run that culminated with a rematch victory in the Super Bowl that ruined the Patriots' bid for a perfect season.
"I simply felt our team was not going to be remembered historically as not playing as hard as it could against a team that was trying to go undefeated. I told our team we're going to play to win. I think our guys gained a lot of confidence from that game," Coughlin said in a conference call with Packers media on Wednesday.
This Sunday, at MetLife Stadium, Coughlin's Giants will try to spoil the Packers' bid for an undefeated season. There's one big difference, however, between this game and the one against the Patriots in '07: In the '07 game, the Giants were locked in a wild-card playoff spot; Sunday's game is a borderline must-win situation for a 6-5 Giants team that has to travel to Dallas the following week.
"We've been told we can't many times in the years I've been here. We know the way we play is in our hands. What I'm looking for is a team that's excited about this challenge, a team of individuals that gives great effort. I told them that if we can have outstanding preparation and give a great effort, then I know they've come and they've played and they've done exactly what we planned on doing," Coughlin said.
A win would rejuvenate the Giants, who are a game behind the NFC East-leading Cowboys. A win would send the Giants to Dallas re-energized for a stretch run that concludes with a New Year's Day rematch with the Cowboys. The Giants' plan, no doubt, is for that game to decide the NFC East title.
First, the Giants need to stop the bleeding caused by a three-game losing streak. A few weeks ago, this Sunday's game appeared as though it might go a long way toward deciding homefield advantage for the playoffs. That's lost. Now the storyline is about avenging a 45-17 defeat in Green Bay late last season, a game that ended the Giants' hopes of making it into the playoffs.
"I remember that we didn't play as well as we expected to play and they demonstrated their explosiveness," Coughlin said. "They're obviously a team that's capable of scoring an awful lot of points. We experienced that ourselves a year ago. Rodgers, every place you turn, he's having an outstanding year and he has a lot of weapons to work with. They've had some close games on the road – a lot of games for us to study – but they've managed to win and that's the important thing."
Quarterback Eli Manning is having a statistically sound season, having thrown 20 touchdown passes against 10 interceptions, ranking high among league passers with a 95.6 rating. It was the Giants' defense that collapsed in a 49-24 loss in New Orleans this past Monday, and that's naturally Coughlin's main concern, especially with Aaron Rodgers and company dead ahead.
"We've lost three games in a row, the first two by touchdowns. We had chances to win in the end. Our defense kept us in the game. The other night, in a scoring match, we came out the other side of it. We gave the opponent a couple of point-blank opportunities. They put a lot of points on the board and it was not a very good performance by our defense at all. We're disappointed in that," Coughlin said.
"We're not in the playoffs. We're fighting for a playoff spot and this is a big game. You can't get into that undefeated deal and trying to give them their first loss," Manning said of the mindset for Sunday's game. "It's more about worrying about ourselves and our performance and trying to go out there and play our best game."
That's the attitude that worked for the Giants in 2007. They'll try to get a lift from it, again, but there would seem to be no room for moral victories this year. Additional coverage - Nov. 30