To call this a must-win game would be silly. It's still the preseason. It doesn't count. There is nothing at stake in the result of Fridaynight's game against the Jets except for a Snoopy trophy and some theoretical bragging rights that no one will remember two weeks from now anyway.
But it is a must-perform game for the Giants. After showing virtually nothing on offense through the first three games of this preseason, this is their final chance to squeeze some production from their new system. This next-to-last preseason game is usually a tuneup, but this year's circumstances add an unusual level or significance.
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"We have to approach it as if this is our game,'' wide receiver Victor Cruz said Wednesday. "We have to play to win and act like this is the last chance that we get to rehearse before Week 1.''
Earlier in the week, coming off the moribund showing by the starting offense against the Colts, Tom Coughlin was asked if the players shared his urgency. "They'd better,'' he said.
Coughlin may never have specifically expressed that desire to the players (at least not in writing) -- "I didn't get the memo,'' defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said of Coughlin's directive -- but Cruz said they understood his implication.
"He has a way of saying it that makes it very loud and very clear, so we got the message and we understood that,'' Cruz said. "He didn't even have to say anything for us to know that we had to play better and we had to perform better from an earlier standpoint in the game. We understand that and hopefully we can change that come Friday.''
The changes actually began Monday.
"You can see kind of a renewed energy out there on the practice field,'' Cruz said. "Everybody's getting things done on the right pace, everybody has an energy about themselves to know that we've got to change the current mood that's around here offensively. We've got to get things going, we've got to get on the right track. You can see a difference out here on the practice field. Everything was clicking. Everybody was on the same page. There were a lot less mental errors out here and you can see a change.''
The pregame banter, of course, has included some of the usual back-and-forth between the teams.
"We both are in New York and we want to know who the best team is,'' Pierre-Paul said. "I say the Giants are.''
But this game isn't really the Giants facing the Jets. It's the Giants (and their fans) facing their own doubts, their own insecurities about the new offense. Cruz said the Giants are still confident in their ability based on past accomplishments. They do have a two-time Super Bowl MVP at quarterback and a host of playmakers from their last championship team three seasons ago.
"But from an offensive standpoint you definitely want to make some plays, to have some success to kind of build on that confidence and build on that going into the regular season,'' Cruz said. "We feel good about ourselves and our confidence is high, so everything is clicking.''
Coughlin said the Giants' starters will play about half of tomorrow's game. It will be up to them to determine if they come out of the experience half empty or half full.