One of the first things Tom Coughlin said about the Carolina Panthers yesterday was that "they do not beat themselves."

No one would say the same about the Giants. That's why this week is not so much about who the Giants are playing or the danger of falling to 0-3. Coughlin's introduction of the opponent this week should have included a snapshot of his own team.

"We gotta get our football right," he said. "It's a challenge for all of us to get this right, right now."

The biggest blemish for the Giants is their 10 turnovers in two games, seven of them on interceptions. The Panthers, by contrast, have just three turnovers in their two losses.

"We can fix a lot by hanging onto the ball," Coughlin said. "A lot of what we can accomplish for ourselves would be to take better care of the ball."

As the team teeters on the verge of their worst start since they opened with three losses in 1996 -- a season in which they finished 6-10 -- the Giants players are very aware that the keys to their success are in their own hands.

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"We start with us first," linebacker Mark Herzlich said. "Something that Coach Coughlin has always said since I've been here and that I really agree with is 'Look in the mirror.' We have to figure out what we need to do better individually. We need to do that in practice. And if everybody improves individually and we come together as a team, the whole team will improve."

Meanwhile, the players seem to have adapted the same message as the British government propagated in 1939 on the eve of World War II: Keep calm and carry on.

"There's no panic," Eli Manning said. "Obviously we know we've got to get going. We've got to start playing better football now. We dug ourselves into a small hole, but there are 14 games left. It's a long season."

Said Hakeem Nicks, "I think things are going to start going our way pretty soon. I'm confident in that and I think everything is going to be OK."

Oddly enough, the Giants could wind up tied for first place after this weekend. If they beat the Panthers and the Cowboys and Eagles both lose -- they're playing the Rams and Chiefs, respectively -- they'd all be 1-2.

"The NFC isn't looking too good right now," Jason Pierre-Paul said. "Hopefully we'll go out there and steal us a win."

Said Manning, "We're still right in the mix in our division and we've just got to get back to playing. Just worry about playing better football than what we are right now."

Many players noted an increased intensity in Wednesday's practice. In recent days, defensive captains Antrel Rolle and Justin Tuck have both decried the team's lack of passion on the sideline during games.

Coughlin agreed with that assessment in general, but had a much more pressing request than seeing more enthusiasm from the players.

"I'd like to see better play," he said.