It seems like an obvious message.
It’s getting late in the year. The Giants are in the thick of a race for the NFC East crown and a playoff berth. They have lost their last two games and played some of their most uninspired football of the season. And on Sunday they are facing a team that not only shares their desperation for a postseason bid but also the stadium itself.
And yet Tom Coughlin took every opportunity to put the verbal spurs to his players during this past week, reminding them that they need to work harder and be better prepared than they have been for the first three-quarters of the season.
Why the need to harp on something so clear?
“It’s better to spell things out,” he grumbled. “Then you leave nothing for misunderstanding.”
So the Giants know what’s at stake as they face the J-E-T-S (better to spell things out, right?). The question is: Do they have the ability to do anything about it?
They seem to believe so.
“The motto is: You only remember what you do in December,” Jason Pierre-Paul said of the late-season intensity that is needed to carry a team across that regular-season finish line with racetrack still ahead of them. “How I feel is we should win every game. We have the talent to do it, and we just have to put it together. We can’t come out and start how we started last week or whatever. We’re out here working hard as a team and we’re going to get it right.”
Odell Beckham Jr. disagreed slightly with Coughlin — “I don’t know if much needs to be said,” he noted — but concurred with the message.
“We all need to play better. Each and every one of us in this locker room needs to be doing more on and off the field to be able to produce and execute better on Sundays,” he said. “We’re taking steps in the right direction. It’s just that there is not a lot of time left, so the steps we need to take need to be leaps. We’re looking forward to taking a leap and progressing and getting better on Sunday.”
The urgency of Coughlin’s urging is not only because it is “December in the NFL,” as he pointed out, but it could be December for his tenure with the Giants. The team has not made the playoffs since 2011. They have invested millions and millions of dollars in a franchise quarterback, and if they miss the party this season, they will have squandered six of seven seasons in his prime without a postseason appearance.
The quarterback is staying. He signed an extension at the start of this season. The coach? He’s on far less secure footing. And he’s making the opportunity of these next five games — and this game in particular — so clear.
“There is no reason not to commit yourself totally and completely to something you have spent your life wishing and hoping for,” Coughlin said. “I do think that because of the nature of our profession, the time of the year, the limited number of games left and the margin for error being ever so slight, that it requires extra. And I want to see it. I want to see the extra. I want to feel it. I want to feel it in the room. So that’s what we stress.”
It’s all spelled out for them.
JASON PIERRE-PAUL vs. D’BRICKASHAW FERGUSON
The Giants’ top pass rusher goes up against the guy who has been protecting the blindside of Jets quarterbacks for 10 seasons. Pierre-Paul has started to use his damaged right hand on the ground, which he believes will help him. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said it should make a difference. “He looks a lot more comfortable to me,” Spagnuolo said. “If he thinks less about it and lets it go, I think he’s a better player. I think he’d tell you that’s what he’s trying to do right now, but it’s not an easy thing to overcome.” Pierre-Paul is still looking for his first sack after three games back. Against the Jets, who have allowed a league-low 14 of them, it will be a challenge. “We hope with his third game under his belt, maybe we start to see the guy that I know he wants to be,” Spagnuolo said.