It’s just one game. No big deal.
Unless, of course, you’ve seen 0-1 grow to 0-2 or 0-3. A few Giants have seen it reach 0-6 in their tenure with the team. But there are two players who were with the 2017 Browns and still carry the scars of 0-16. Those two – safety Jabrill Peppers and guard Kevin Zeitler – know better than anyone how important it is for the Giants to slam the brakes on the losing before it becomes a streak.
“It’s always important to get that first one under your belt,” Peppers told Newsday.
He insisted that no one is thinking about a long-term skid after the 35-17 loss in Dallas.
“Everyone takes punches, you just have to give more than you take,” he said. “We know we [soiled] the bed this game, but we get another opportunity to get that bad taste out of our mouth. That’s the beauty of it. It’s not like anything we did can’t get corrected or we were an inferior team or anything like that. No one’s morale is down, no one is on that kind of, you know, [trajectory].”
One loss doesn’t mean a team is headed toward 0-16 any more than one win means a team is going to be 16-0. But there have been more of the former than the latter in the Super Bowl era. Statistically, it is more common to be winless than undefeated.
That’s what makes this game against the Bills on Sunday so significant.
The specter of what an opening week loss can grow into is hard to shake if you have lived it to its completion. Zeitler physically flinched when that miserable winless campaign in Cleveland was mentioned in the Giants’ locker room on Wednesday.
“All we have to do is attack this week the right way,” he said after shaking off the memory. “We have to prep well, we have to prepare . . .
whatever we didn’t do well last week we have to fix, and whatever we did do well we have to keep improving on.”
Eli Manning has been part of some horrid starts for the Giants. In 2013, they began 0-6. In 2017, they were 0-5 before their first win. The last time the Giants lost an opener and bounced back to win in Week 2 was 2012. Manning, therefore, understands the significance of this game, even if he needs to downplay it a bit.
“There is a difference between stressing and forcing and urgency,” he said.
One of the big things the Giants did not do well on Sunday was play pass defense. Adding to the humiliating numbers, Cowboys receivers were filmed mocking the Giants’ secondary as “lost” and “scared” on their sideline during the game.
“They were kicking our [butts], that bothers me more,” Peppers said. “If we kick their [butt], we’d talk [trash] too. When things are clicking for you, you can talk and say whatever you want to say. The beauty of it is we get to see those guys again.”
First, though, the Bills.
Pat Shurmur said there will likely be some changes in personnel deployment in the defense. That likely means Antonio Hamilton, who started at cornerback, has played his last by-design defensive snaps for a while. Inside linebacker Tae Davis, too, will likely have a substantially reduced role.
But there still will be plenty of players on the field who had a hand in the defensive disarray that doomed the Giants in Dallas. Peppers said players know that they now have targets on their backs for vulnerabilities shown on Sunday.
“That’s the nature of the league,” he said. “You have to chase it off the tape now . . . I think we’re embracing it. We’re ready for the challenge, ready for whatever happens. We’re going to stick together, work hard this week, execute, overcommunicate, and go out there and have a hell of a game on Sunday.”
And try to avoid another hellish season.