The New York Giants defense tackles Ladell Betts of the...

The New York Giants defense tackles Ladell Betts of the Washington Redskins on fourth down late in the fourth quarter on Sept. 23, 2007 at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. Credit: Getty Images / Greg Fiume

You could tell Tom Coughlin had been thinking about it, because when asked about the four-play goal line stand against Washington in Week 3 of 2007 that allowed the Giants' season to pivot from failure to the Super Bowl victory, he made a quick correction.

"It was actually a spike and three plays," he said.

Any Giants fan who's been around for the last decade knows the lore of that series. The Giants had been awful, blown out in two losses to open the schedule, and the team was slow to buy into new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's system. But after those stops at Washington, the Giants were a different team.

The same could be said for Victor Cruz's 99-yard touchdown catch and run against the Jets on Christmas Eve in 2011. That play saved the Giants from falling below .500 and propelled them to another Super Bowl title.

The lesson: Sometimes one series, one play, one moment is all it takes.

"I think it just raised everybody up to what we can do, what we're capable of," Coughlin said of the 2007 stand in particular. That sequence has come flooding back in the minds of many with the Giants at 0-2 and facing Washington Thursday night in eerily similar circumstances that even include the same new defensive coordinator.

Coughlin even said he was "calculating" mentioning it to the players this week. The context of that, of course, would be how close the Giants have been to winning their past two games, how one play can change everything, and how much the Giants need that kind of defining moment.

"That," Coughlin said, "would be nice."

"A win, a certain drive, just something to give the team confidence, can make a big difference," Eli Manning said. "It's something to be excited about . . . Whatever it takes, making plays, someone stepping up to get the win."

So who will it be? A wide receiver? A running back? A defensive player?

There have been a dozen plays in the past two games that could have acted as a hinge for the Giants, swung them from misery to victory. Some have been highly visible, such as Manning not taking the sack on third-and-goal against Dallas, or coughing up a fumble on third-and-2 from the 8 against Atlanta. Others have been more subtle, such as the dropped interception by Jonathan Casillas against Atlanta or the ball hitting linebacker Uani' Unga in the back while in coverage, when if he had just turned around . . . .

"It can come down to one play," defensive end George Selvie said. "One guy gets one sack at the end and time runs out. We need somebody at the end to start making big plays. It can come from the D-line, the secondary. It just needs to start."

The Giants think they're close. Coughlin said he told the team he thought they are "better than 0-2" and even though they had not been playing perfectly and there were areas to improve, "we could certainly be, even under these circumstances, 2-0."

They're just missing something. Maybe just one thing. They found it in 2007, at this exact juncture.

"It gets you confidence, it gets you momentum, it gets you believing," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said of the one-play theory and its ability to morph a team. "And we're in need of that right now."

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