Tom Coughlin does not think the loss to the Eagles earlier this week should define his team.

"Quite frankly, what happened down in Philadelphia is not the M.O. of this team," Coughlin said. "That's not the way they define themselves, it's not the way they've been playing."

So what does Coughlin expect to see when they take the field on Sunday against Dallas?

"I expect us to fight our butts off," he said. "Scratch with grit and scrappiness every inch of the 60-minute battle. That's what I expect."

The rest of us may be less certain about the kind of Giants team that will show up. And rightfully so. They showed the ability to overcome adversity when they clawed out of an 0-2 hole to win three straight. They manufactured a late-game comeback win over the 49ers. They kept their composure against a chippy and sloppy Bills team.

But none of that was on display in their most recent game.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"This group has identified themselves," Coughlin said, "and if that's true, what they said about what they wanted for their identity, it was a little bit off the other night in one regard [the offense].''

And then there is their recent history, which is eerily close to repeating itself. A year ago they were 3-2 (check), lost to Philadelphia (check), faced Dallas the following week (check) and tanked the next six straight games to drop into the abyss of irrelevance.

None of that has been palatable for Coughlin and the Giants to spend the week chewing on. The best way for them to get rid of it is to simply win. A victory could put them back in sole possession of first place in the NFC East. A loss could drop them all the way to third.

"All you can do is go right back to it," Coughlin said on Wednesday. "We really have been a group that has, as a team, when adversity has struck, we've battled our way through it. We've done that. Now why the other day it became an obstacle? That's very difficult for us to say."

That grittiness has been espoused by the offensive line in particular since the start of training camp. They seemed determined to be a tougher unit, the kind that did the bullying and didn't take the beatings. But last Monday, they allowed three sacks (plus another two intentional-grounding penalties that barely avoided sacks) and could not convert key runs on third-and-1 and fourth-and-inches.

Giants videos

Now they have to face the Cowboys and their new defensive front that includes Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory on the line as well as Rolando McClain at middle linebacker. Hardy, in case you missed it, already has expressed his desire to intimidate Eli Manning.

"Hit him in the mouth," Hardy told reporters of his game plan. "The best thing for any team is to make the quarterback feel pain. You've got to be respectful of the rules of the game and honestly you don't want to hurt anybody, but to make him feel you is to bring his eyes down. You don't want a quarterback like Eli Manning looking down the field, ever. Ever, ever, ever."

The Giants are expecting that kind of mentality. They have to deter that kind of activity. And they have to do it better than they did in their most recent game.

"The front is unleashed, that's how they play," Coughlin said. "They penetrate, so the challenge is there. There's no question that last week it wasn't good enough. So guess what? Here you go again. Line up and let's see. Let's see. Respond to the challenge."