Tom Coughlin hopes Giants respond to wake-up call

Tom Coughlin looks on from the sidelines during

Tom Coughlin looks on from the sidelines during the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium. (Sept. 5, 2012) (Credit: Getty)

Bob Glauber

Newsday columnist Bob Glauber Bob Glauber

Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He

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On the morning after, the feelings were the same for Tom Coughlin.

"Still disappointed," the Giants coach said after reflecting further on Wednesday night's 24-17 loss to the Cowboys in the opener for the defending Super Bowl champions. "That hasn't changed."

Coughlin's videotape study underscored the futility of the night. The three drops by Victor Cruz. The second-half defense that couldn't stop running back DeMarco Murray. The poor pass protection for Eli Manning. The first-half fumble by rookie running back David Wilson. And more struggles from a running game that finished dead last in 2011.

But looking back on it, Coughlin said he could see the signs even before the game. "Two of the three practices last week, quite frankly, weren't good enough," he said.

Coaches can sense this kind of thing as it's happening. And sometimes, no matter how hard they try and no matter what they say, their message doesn't get through.

But after the Giants were punched in the mouth by the Cowboys, that message no doubt will resonate in preparations for their Week 2 game against the Buccaneers. And if they have designs on becoming the first Giants team to pull off a Super Bowl repeat, they'd better get back to the worker-bee mentality that carried them through last season's nail-biting run to the playoffs on the way to the championship.

"There will be a renewed conviction about preparation and practice," Coughlin said. "We do know that we have a lot of work to do. The players, their eyes are open to the fact that we lost a football game we certainly felt we had a great chance to win. Had our level of play been a little bit better, we may have been able to do something about the outcome."

Coughlin went as far as to say "alarming is probably a good word" to describe the Giants' performance. "Upsetting,'' he said. "That we would make the run that we did [last season] and then come back to some of these issues."

So much for that "build the bridge" message Coughlin had been pumping from Day 1 of training camp. He hoped it would resonate so the players could summon the effort and mentality that marked last season's title run. Instead, his team failed to show the same kind of fire, intensity and, perhaps most important, execution.

They were manhandled at the point of attack by the Dallas front seven, in the running game and in pass protection. And the Giants' biggest strength -- a defense that played better than any other unit down the stretch and into the playoffs last season -- was shredded in the second half. The Giants limited Dallas to 28 rushing yards in the first half, but Murray got into a rhythm and Dallas picked up 115 yards on the ground in the second half.

Tony Romo also settled in nicely in the second half, throwing two of his three touchdown passes on the way to racking up 307 passing yards.

Fortunately for the Giants, they've been down this road before. They started their last two Super Bowl seasons with a loss to an NFC East opponent: Dallas in 2007 and Washington in 2011. But that was then and this is now, and the bar is raised higher.

If the 2011 Giants were good enough to win it all, they should be good enough to rise again with a team featuring the same core of players.

So maybe it's good they got their wake-up call this early. Better for Coughlin to reinforce his meat-and-potatoes regimen of practice, practice, practice.

"You lose a game, it's not a good thing, OK? It's not a good thing," Coughlin said. "There are 15 to go. This is what I told our team: It's how we respond right now that's the critical factor. Get back to work. Grind a little bit. Forget about all the smoke being blown."

Good message. Coughlin hopes his team gets it.

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