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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Giants still have four games to improve on 2013

Eli Manning #10 of the Giants and offensive

Eli Manning #10 of the Giants and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo stand on the sidelines late in a game against the Arizona Cardinals at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014 in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Cheer up, Giants fans. Big Blue has four more chances to improve upon last season's start!

So things could be worse, as we all found out last autumn. But this also is a good time to remember another thing we learned in 2013: It gets late early out there.

Thus while Rashad Jennings mathematically was correct when he said after Sunday's loss to the Cardinals, "It's a long season; we have 14 more games to go in the regular season," he might not want to count on that.

Remember, the Giants looked like a pretty good team much of last season, winning seven of their final 10 games. But the nagging fact that they lost their first six rendered all of that meaningless.

Now this: An 0-2 start in which they followed a 35-14 loss to the Lions that Tom Coughlin called "a nightmare performance" with a 25-14 loss after which he used the word "nightmare" to describe only the fourth quarter.

That's an improvement, right? Actually, it was, especially on offense, as Coughlin and many of his players noted. But this is not the NBA or NHL or MLB. It's the NFL, and one-eighth of the season already is gone.

What is Coughlin going to do about it before another campaign is flushed away -- and with it, perhaps his job?

"What else do you do?" he said. "You work as hard as you can. You run around like a crazy man."

That was one of several comments that illustrated his exasperation, including a tangent during which he lamented that the team had let down luminaries who were being honored Sunday.

They included Frank Gifford, who was introduced during a halftime celebration of the team's 90th NFL season, and Francis Scott Key, who was unable to attend a recognition of the 200th anniversary of his most famous composition.

"The players were well aware of that, very much aware,'' said Coughlin, who also noted that the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were remembered at MetLife Stadium. "They were excited to play under these circumstances, and very disappointed we didn't give our home fans a win.''

Credit mistakes that included allowing a punt return for a go-ahead touchdown, assorted dropped passes, nine penalties and four turnovers, including a crushing fumble by Jennings with 4:30 left and the Giants trailing by eight and driving.

"It's uncharacteristic of me,'' said Jennings, who stumbled on the play, untouched by a member of the opposing team. "I have to bite the bullet. I know it was a big part of the game and I have to keep moving forward.''

Did we mention that the Cardinals' quarterback, Drew Stanton, hadn't played in an NFL game since 2010?

Despite it all, the Giants attempted to reassure themselves and their fans that things will get better -- presumably meaning at least one victory during a stretch against the Texans, Redskins, Falcons and Eagles between now and mid-October.

"I think we're a better team than last year and I think we'll keep grinding,'' Eli Manning said. Why does he think this team is better? "I think the guys we have out there, the way they're doing things, the way they're playing.''

Said Jennings, "I can see why fans are frustrated -- heck, we're frustrated. We don't expect this. We are better than this, and we know that. But I would say to stick with us.''

Said safety Antrel Rolle, "I believe in my teammates. I believe in what we're doing as an organization and more important, we lost today, no doubt about it, but I saw something in my teammates.''

Fair enough, but what the world will see is 0-2, one-third of the way back to a recurring nightmare.

"We'll be all right; trust me, we'll be all right,'' defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. Why? "I know my team. We'll come together.''

Fine. But keep an eye on the calendar.

New York Sports