While no one in New York's locker room will acknowledge a moral victory, as Tom Coughlin's about to explain, there sure is a lot of silver lining material that came out of Saturday night's season finale.
"Nobody wants to hear, ‘we played hard but we didn't win the game,' nobody wants to hear that, not at this level; these guys don't want to hear that," Coughlin explained. "What they do need to hear is that again, they made a great effort, they worked hard, they prepared, they sacrificed, they gave up their Christmas afternoon, they came to work, they had an outstanding week, they wanted to play, they were excited about playing against this team, they looked forward to it, and so I complimented them. Their heart is definitely in the right place."
That much is obvious. As is the fact that this team stood toe-to-toe with the best the NFL has to offer and didn't blink. How much positive carryover or negative letdown will translate to this weekend's playoff tilt remains to be seen. But what the Giants did establish is that when they're firing on most or all cylinders, they can be a very good, very dangerous team. With that said, anything less than a victory in Tampa will be unacceptable. Forget what the Vegas odds makers say; this Giants team should be favored to beat the Bucs.
"That team that was just out there playing, that's the team I have been looking for all season, the New York Giants, and that's the team that needs to be in Tampa Bay," Plaxico Burress said. "We went out and we played hard, and physical. If we can go out and play with that same intensity, we can win a lot more football games."
Burress stated he didn't expect any letdown coming off such an emotional contest.
"I don't think that we are going to have a problem bouncing back to beat Tampa," he said.
Antonio Pierce, as he's known to do, was playfully sarcastic after the game.
When asked what this game showed, Pierce replied, "that everybody will stop doubting, everybody will stop talking about a bad ten and six team, but a playoff team."
Pierce was thankful for the true blue Giants fans that created a raucous atmosphere for the visiting Pats.
"A lot of heart and a lot of character," he said of his team. "A lot of great fans coming out here. Thanks to all those Giants fans who kept those tickets and cheered for us. It was a great atmosphere. It's about getting into that playoff atmosphere."
"This is a pretty good momentum builder coming out of a game like this," Justin Tuck said. "We are still disappointed because you don't want to lose. But I think it gives us the gauge that we wanted. We definitely wanted to win it, but they are 16-0 for a reason."
Perhaps most important to come out of the loss was the fine play of Eli Manning. Forgive us in advance for any of the negative comments in the rest of this issue that were written about Manning prior to the Pats tilt. Who could have known he would have responded at such a high level against such a high level of competition? But he did, and that certainly bodes well for New York in the postseason. The patient, accurate brand of football that Manning played against the Pats is exactly what New York will need if it is to make any noise in January.
"I think it helps," Manning said after a four TD/one INT evening. "It's been a while since we came out, especially on offense, and put up a lot of points and executed well. We finally had a decent day of weather, where we could do that. We were able to make some big plays in the passing game, and we haven't had that in a while. It was good to do, it helps."
Manning said succeeding against one of the league's top defensive units is definitely a shot in the arm.
"Yeah it does, because they are a talented defense," Manning said. "They have good players and we were able to move the ball and make big plays against them. And that is good to see. But, now we need to get our mindset on Tampa. They have a talented defense. We have gone against them before. They do a good job of mixing up looks and have a bunch of talented guys over there. Start to get our mindset and focus on them and hopefully play good football."
Sixteen games have come and gone. Now, as Coughlin always likes to say, this much is true: The Giants' next game is their most important – especially for the coach and the quarterback.
Enjoy the NFL's second season.
Here are a few final notes from the season finale…
Record finish: The Giants started the season 0-2 for the 18th time in their history. The 10-6 finish is their best ever after an 0-2 start. The previous best was 9-5 in 1970. This is the first time the Giants started 0-2 and finished with a winning record since 1972, when they were 8-6. It is the first time they started 0-2 and earned a postseason berth since 1934…
Inside the numbers: Congrats to the Giants, whose 35 points scored were the most against New England all season long. By contrast, though, the Pats posted 27 first downs, which was the most the Giants have allowed in more than two seasons.
Giants Should be Proud of ‘Perfect' Effort
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