Justin Pugh is starting his fourth season in the NFL on Sunday. He wants it to be different from the previous three in one key regard.
Pugh, like almost all of the Giants on the roster, has never been with the team for a season-opening win. The Giants have dropped their last five of them, leaving just five players on the team who have ever experienced being 1-0 here. So how important is it for Pugh to end that streak?
“It’s huge,” the guard told Newsday on Wednesday. “We haven’t gotten out to a hot start and that’s huge for us. Getting off to a hot start really will set the tone. I think it really would be huge for us going into the season.”
You think Pugh wants it bad? Poor Rashad Jennings.
The running back is going into his third opener with the Giants and has never won a season-starting game in his career (0-7). Like a sprinter who always stumbles out of the blocks, Jennings understands how significant a clean start can be. A loss is not the worst thing – the Giants opened each of their two most recent Super Bowl-winning seasons with losses – but a win just makes everything so much better.
“It’s Game One and it sets the tone for the whole entire season,” Jennings said. “The first game does not promise winning a championship or going to the playoffs, but it does set if you’re going to be 1-0 or 0-1. Every team is out there across the board fighting to be 1-0.”
Pugh said winning on Sunday will prevent the Giants from the midseason regrets they typically have had over early blunders.
“Those are the games where you look back and are like, oh, we’re right on the cusp of making the playoffs and you lost the game in the final seconds and you’re like: ‘Damn, I wish we had that one back,’” he said. “We can’t look at it that way. We have to get those right off the bat.”
Pugh said he’s not only focused on going 1-0, but on being 2-0. In a breach of one-week-at-a-time football etiquette, he also wants to focus on the home opener next week against the Saints.
“Those are the two games that last year we lost,” he said. “Dallas was definitely a heart-breaker and we also lost to the Saints at the very end of the game. It definitely gives us a little more to look forward to with these two games coming up.”
What makes Pugh confident the Giants can do it?
“I think we’re a better team than we were last year,” he said. “Obviously it’s a great challenge. We’ve played in Dallas three of the four years to start the season so we’re used to going out there for the first game. Now we have to go out there and win one.”