Having lived through last year's ignominious 0-6 start to the season, the Giants know how slippery the path is from 0-1 to oblivion. Which is why many of them likely came away from Monday night's 35-14 loss to the Lions with a sickening feeling of deja lose.
Like almost any Giants fan watching at home, the players had to be thinking the same irrational but natural thought:
Here we go again.
But how to stop it?
"It's just a matter of being clear with the team and letting them know that this is not something where we're going to carry ourselves the same way as last year," Victor Cruz said Tuesday on a conference call, discussing one of his first challenges as a newly minted team captain. "This is completely different."
It's just one loss. A road game against a good team in a season opener on national television. If this happened in Week 5 after the Giants had won a game or two (or more?) it wouldn't be as unnerving. But if you've lived through 0-6 like the Giants did, it starts to get in your head.
Like Lord Voldemort's name or George Carlin's seven infamous words, Tom Coughlin even deemed last year's pitiful start too vile to be spoken about.
"There was a thought in my mind as a motivational thing to talk about last year as we got into this week, and I decided it was for the best not to go there," the Giants coach said. "Everybody is aware of what was last year . . . Do I have to hit them right between the eyes with last year and what we certainly don't want to see happen? I don't think so. Quite frankly, this is a new year, it's a different team."
Unmentionable does not mean that it does not exist. In his weekly WFAN appearance, another team captain, Antrel Rolle, was asked if he is worried that some of his teammates are spooked by the specter of 0-6.
"To be totally honest with you, yeah," he said. "I'd be lying if I didn't say that was a concern. Last year left such a bitter taste in our mouth, you want to get off to an early start so you can erase that memory. The way we looked [Monday] night, we didn't look good. We didn't look good under any means."
There were lots of reasons for that. Rolle said he'd like to see more "fight" from the team.
"I feel like we're lying on our heels a little bit way too much," he said. "I think we're relying on our talent way too much as opposed to going out there and being dominant, being feisty, having that dog . . . We're a little bit too lax out there."
Linebacker Jon Beason called it "a lack of collective execution." Cruz said there was a "lack of rhythm and a lack of continuity" in the game.
Coughlin noted that so many of the players on the field were in a Giants uniform for the first time. "You saw things occur which I think was a result of a lot of new parts," he said. "That is not going to be used as an excuse. It's perhaps a reality, but we need to perform better, no matter what the new parts are."
No matter how different those pieces are, the Giants will be living under the cloud of last year's start for at least one more week. And there's only one way to end that morbid comparison.
"I'm definitely still confident we can do the things that we set out to do this season," Cruz said. "[We] just have to keep the team in the mindset that this is correctable, that all these mistakes are correctable. We can come out of this with some positivity with a win now in Week 2."