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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Giants hope for net gain from loss

Tom Coughlin viewing the last-minute action during the

Tom Coughlin viewing the last-minute action during the Giants and Packers game. (Dec. 4, 2011) Credit: David Pokress

The circumstances weren't identical, but close enough for several Giants players and coaches to draw a comparison to the last time they faced an unbeaten team at home so late in the season.

Join us for a trip back to four years ago and you'll see why the Giants expressed hope Sunday that their 38-35 loss to the unbeaten Packers can have the same effect as the loss by the same score to the undefeated Patriots in the 2007 regular-season finale.

Granted, the '07 Giants clinched a playoff berth the previous week and couldn't gain anything in the standings, no matter what the result. And Tom Coughlin was faced with the difficult choice of resting his starters or playing to beat the Patriots, who had a chance to become the first 16-0 regular-season team in NFL history.

Coughlin decided to go for it, and the Giants responded with a terrific effort against the Patriots, taking it down to the final minutes. Only a remarkable comeback performance by Tom Brady saved the Patriots, but the Giants gave themselves a huge burst of confidence by going toe-to-toe with the NFL's best team.

And by the time they earned a rematch against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, they realized that the regular-season loss had served as a springboard to what would become the team's third Super Bowl title. The Giants shocked the Patriots, 17-14, in one of the most remarkable upsets in NFL history.

No one is suggesting the Giants are about to embark on a similar run, not after a fourth straight loss that dropped them to 6-6. But the feeling in the locker room after each game was unmistakably similar.

The Giants can only hope the net result will compare favorably, too.

"I hope that would be the case," Coughlin said a few minutes after Aaron Rodgers drove the Packers for the winning field goal on the final play. "Four big games to go. Every one of these games is critical to our future. I think this pulled us even tighter than we were before as a team."

Now we'll see if it can transform the Giants from a team in the midst of yet another second-half tailspin that has threatened to push them out of the playoffs for a third straight year and take their coach right along with it.

The opportunity certainly is there. The Giants are guaranteed to win the NFC East title if they run the table in their next four games. At Dallas. Home to the Redskins. Against the Jets with a Jets home crowd. Dallas at home.

One month of football to decide whether they will continue in January or endure another miserable ending.

Eli Manning hopes it'll be 2007 all over again. He thought back to that regular-season finale against New England, remembered the energy from that losing locker room and saw a remarkable resemblance.

"We lost that game, but we felt good about the way we played and had a little momentum going into the playoffs," said Manning, who threw for 347 yards, three touchdowns and an interception that was returned for a score against the Packers.

"Now it's going to be a similar feel these next four games, playoff-style games where we need to win. In the locker room, guys were obviously disappointed, but there was a little sense of energy and a sense of, 'Hey, we can get this thing going now. We've played some good football, and we're excited about where we stand.' "

The feeling is much different from the losing locker room last Monday night in New Orleans after the Giants were blown out by the Saints, 49-24. That was a team searching for answers after getting destroyed by Drew Brees and his offense.

But with the first of two games against the Cowboys on Sunday night, this was a locker room that fully understood the opportunity that lies before them. They've lost four straight games, but destiny still is within their grasp.

"This team realizes what we have here," Justin Tuck said. "We get tired of squandering opportunities. Those opportunities are going to stop coming after a while. We have a tough next four games, and we can win every last one of them. That's where our focus is going to be."


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