Giants head coach Tom Coughlin looks on during a game...

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin looks on during a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Oct. 12, 2014 in Philadelphia. Credit: Getty Images / Evan Habeeb

Tom Coughlin has spent a lifetime espousing the merits of good sportsmanship, with one of his primary tenets being that you don't make disparaging remarks about your opponent -- not before, not during and not after a game.

It surely had to grate on the Giants coach to see the back-and-forth between the Giants and Eagles last week, especially when most of the talk was coming from the Giants' locker room. And after what Coughlin saw in one of his team's most humiliating losses in his 10-plus years with the Giants, Coughlin had enough.

The coach reminded his players in no uncertain terms Monday that his long-standing mantra -- "Talk is cheap. Play the game" -- will be invoked from here on out. Which probably is a wise thing, given that the Giants' schedule the next five games likely will determine whether they are a playoff contender or they will spend a third straight season on the outside looking in.

No reason to rile up their opponents with inflammatory comments with this list of teams they're about to face: the Cowboys, Colts, Seahawks, 49ers and Cowboys again.

So to review, that's Tony Romo twice, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.

"Coughlin has already preached the 'talk is cheap; let your shoulder pads do the talking,' " defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. "We had a lot of meetings [Monday], and it's been reiterated that [the talk] didn't get us a win. We have to focus all of our energy only doing things that will help us win. We understand the message."

And if they didn't before the Eagles game, they certainly do now.

"Especially with what went down all week, for [the Eagles] to respond how they did and for us to respond how we did just doesn't sit well," cornerback Prince Amukamara said.

Kiwanuka suggested that fans won't see any more extracurricular activity or pointed comments that might lend themselves to back-page headlines and bulletin-board material for the opposition.

"From the very beginning, this has been a first-class organization, especially when it comes to respecting your opponents and never doing anything to cast a negative light on this organization," Kiwanuka said. "We get it. We understand it. We'll move on from it."

They move on from it without one of their most important players, both on and off the field. Victor Cruz, recently elected a team captain, is done for the year with a torn patellar tendon in his right knee. The Giants do have rookie Odell Beckham Jr. playing at a high level since recovering from a hamstring injury, but Cruz's loss cannot be underestimated. He's one of the team's best playmakers, and his leadership has been invaluable.

"Victor Cruz is a very, very positive and popular young man who has meant an awful lot to this franchise," Coughlin said. "Leaders have to continue to come forward and this is an opportunity for someone else to get themselves into a position of leadership."

The Giants have overcome key injuries before, even in Super Bowl seasons. They lost Kiwanuka and Jeremy Shockey in 2007, and Cruz got his first shot to contribute in 2011 when Brandon Stokley went down with a knee injury. But their margin for error is perilously thin now, especially as they get ready to face the gantlet of the next five games.

Coughlin's teams have been resilient in the past, and they'll have to show some more of that in the weeks ahead. But Eli Manning knows it's not wise to look too far down the road.

"We worry about this upcoming game," Manning said. "We are playing in Dallas. They are playing great football. It is in the division. This is a big one for us. [Dallas is] coming off a big win, beating Seattle, so we have to be prepared to play our best game."

Big game. Big week. But unlike the run-up to Sunday's embarrassment, it looks as though it will be a quiet one, too. Just the way the coach likes it.

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