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Giants still have something to prove - to themselves

Ahmad Brdshaw, left, and Tom Coughlin have an

Ahmad Brdshaw, left, and Tom Coughlin have an animated conversation on the sideline in the 3rd quarter. (December 27, 2009) Credit: David Pokress

Chin up.

That's been Tom Coughlin's message to the Giants all week. Their season may have ended last week with a humiliating 41-9 loss to the Panthers, but their schedule still has one game remaining. That happens Sundaywhen the Giants attempt to salvage a shred of dignity against the Vikings at Mall of America Field in Minneapolis.

In preparation for that game, Coughlin and his coaching staff have been focusing just as much on lifting the downtrodden spirits of the team as they are on the X's and O's of stopping Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen.

"Everyone is down, is sad, is disappointed," Coughlin said earlier in the week. "You have to forget all of that stuff. No one wants to hear about your troubles, OK? What they want to hear about is, what are you going to do about it?"

Coughlin said he's seen spirit from the players during the week, and certainly the last few practices have been lively. But it must have been difficult for the Giants' coaches to keep the players excited when they, too, are hurting from last week's loss.

Coughlin did not allow for that.

"That is neither here nor there," he said. "We [the coaches] had our day or whatever to sit up there and stew and lament and be angry and be disappointed, and every word that you can attach to it. We all are. But the example has to come from us and we are going to give it."

The playoff dream has been extinguished, but there are some successes the Giants can accomplish. Coughlin has discussed the momentum that a well-played game can give the squad as it heads into its offseason. He also has told the team how much better 9-7 is than 8-8. With the former record, a team can rightfully call itself a winner.

There also are some milestones for the taking. Eli Manning needs 120 passing yards to reach 4,000 on the season for the first time in his career. Steve Smith is three catches shy of becoming the first New York-based NFL receiver with 100 receptions (neither the Jets nor the Giants have ever had one).

"I want to make sure to get Steve his 100 catches," Manning said. "I know Hakeem Nicks needs four to get 50 catches. That's something that is good for a rookie, to get 50 catches in a season. In the long run, that is not the most important thing, that's not why you play the games. But still, in this circumstance, you try to get those things for your guys."

As for his 4,000 yards, Manning was less enthusiastic. "I guess it's something," he said.

When the Panthers finished kicking the Giants out of their home stadium for good last week, it was Justin Tuck who said that Carolina, which already had been eliminated from playoff contention, was playing for pride . . . "and pride won."

This week it's the Giants who are playing for pride. And it's much needed.

"Everyone is aware of what Minnesota is playing for," Coughlin said, a reference to the Vikings' pursuit of the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs and a bye. "But I think it's important to say that what we are playing for is just as important to us.

"We need to re-establish who we are. Re-establish our own identity and re-establish some pride in the way that we perform and the way that we play."

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