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Giants want to have no regrets after Sunday's game

Dallas Cowboys' Ryan Cook keeps focused on the

Dallas Cowboys' Ryan Cook keeps focused on the Giants defensive line as he prepares to snap to Tony Romo during a game in Arlington, Texas. (Oct. 28, 2012) Credit: AP

The Giants lost to the Cowboys in last year's regular-season opener and then saw the Eagles and Redskins win later that weekend. Suddenly the Super Bowl champs had gone from the top of the league to all alone in last place in the division.

It was way too early to panic, of course, and the standings were more of a curiosity than any kind of statement about the season that followed. There was even some lightheartedness about the oddity, the first time in Giants history they trailed every team in the division by a game after one game was played.

But by the time the Giants got to the end of their 16-game schedule, the lightheartedness had long ended. Wouldn't you know it, they were out of the playoffs. By a single game.

Lesson learned. The Giants do not intend to have that happen to them again.

"The playoffs start now,'' defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said of the urgency the team has in Sunday night's opener against those same Cowboys in Dallas. "If you want to get there, you have to get there starting on Day 1.''

Last year's Giants were in strong position despite their early missed opportunity. They had a lead in the division race heading into December but were undone by disappointing losses to the Ravens and Falcons down the stretch.

Those losses were indicative of the lack of consistency the Giants showed, and that has been a point of emphasis this preseason. The Giants don't want to just be good some of the time, they want to be good all of the time.

To do that, they'll have to make a statement in the opener.

"Start fast,'' newly minted defensive captain Antrel Rolle said of his inaugural message to the team. "This will definitely set the tempo for our season, get the bitter taste out of our mouths with how we finished off ... We know that we're a great team. We just have to prove that we're a great team consistently.''

The opening loss to the Cowboys last year was just one of the games that haunted the Giants when they looked back on the 2012 season and tried to figure out what went wrong. There also was the loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia and the lackluster showing in Cincinnati that gnawed at the team throughout the offseason.

"You never know which game is going to be the one you needed when you look back, and we don't want to be in that position,'' Kiwanuka said. "At the beginning of the season, everybody is undefeated, and we have a chance to keep it that way. That's our goal. We don't want to be looking back like last year saying, 'Oh, had this gone this way, had that gone that way.' No. We don't want any of that going on.''

In a division that is considered to have the most balance in the NFL and has traditionally been decided on the last day of the regular season, every opportunity counts and division games count twice as much.

A loss Sunday night would not doom the Giants' season any more than last year's did. The Giants have faced the Cowboys five times to open the regular season and have lost all five of those games. In two of those years, though, they went on to win the Super Bowl.

That's not a bad consolation. But it's not something the Giants care to count on.

"Job number one,'' Kiwanuka said, "is making sure we come out of this weekend with a win.''

And not something they might regret four months from now.

New York Sports