The Giants are introduced before a preseason game against the...

The Giants are introduced before a preseason game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium on Aug. 28, 2014 in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: Mike Stobe

Of all the harsh lessons the Giants learned last year, perhaps the most important was the significance of a fast start. Or at least a decent one.

Losing the first six games of 2013 put a hole in their hull before they could untie from the dock, which is why this year's team is putting so much emphasis on Monday night's opener against the Lions.

"Every game is a must-win in this league, especially the first one,'' Victor Cruz said. "You want to start the season off on the right foot and a positive note. So the first one is definitely a must-win.''

That's not the kind of rhetoric that teams usually carry with them into Week 1 of the season. And it usually hasn't been an issue for the Giants, who during Tom Coughlin's tenure have been known for their late-season collapses after strong starts. But the scars of 0-6 have created an urgency that usually manifests itself in post-Thanksgiving games, not post-Labor Day games.

"In years past, we've taken for granted getting that first win,'' Mathias Kiwanuka said. "Getting a win in Week 1 is of tremendous importance. That's what our goal is and that's what we're focused on.''

Getting off to a winning start won't guarantee success for the season, but 2013 showed the Giants that a losing start can preclude it.

"We just didn't give ourselves a chance with our start,'' defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "If we had given ourselves a chance, we could have made the playoffs at the end there. So we have to look now at the early part of the season and know that you have to set yourself up for later on in the year.''

That's not to say the Giants' season will be over if they lose to the Lions. They'll still have 15 games left. They famously won Super Bowl XLII in a season that started with two blowout losses and a first-time coordinator whose unit had not yet jelled to match his scheme. That kind of scenario could unfold in the next two weeks with Ben McAdoo's offense.

But being 0-1 will be a strong psychological detriment to a team that had so much trouble breaking the ice in the win column last year. There are a lot more who remember 2013 than 2007.

"You have to stay focused, stay motivated and know that last year was last year,'' Jenkins said. "Use it to keep you motivated, but at the same time, you can't dwell too much on it and let those feelings start to creep back into your head.''

Jason Pierre-Paul noted that unlike last year, when the Giants went 1-3 in the preseason, this team went 5-0. It wasn't pretty, but it did allow the team to get a taste for winning.

"We want them all to be wins,'' Pierre-Paul said. "Forget losing. It's important. We were 5-0 in the preseason, let's continue doing it. One game at a time. We can't go far, just one game at a time, and we'll be OK.''

"That's always the goal to win, especially early on,'' Cruz added. "We want to come out to a fast start, a good start, and hopefully get this first win.''

The longer it takes to get it, the more difficult it becomes. That's why the Giants want to notch one as soon as they can. That's Monday night.

"You just have to focus on the first one,'' Jenkins said. "Get to 1-0. That's what's been running through my head all training camp, 'What do we need to do to get to 1-0?' Everything else after that you can worry about when it comes, but we need to be 1-0.''

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