‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
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Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.” He’ll be covering football throughout the season.
From the team that gave us “Talk is Cheap, Play the Game” in 2007 comes a new slogan: “Respect All, Fear None.”
Good thought. Works on two levels for the Giants, including the ground floor they’ll operate on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. See, we all know the Giants of the Tom Coughlin era aren’t easily awed by top competition. It’s the respect part they have trouble with.
Always have, really. They have already played down — and lost — to a clearly inferior Seattle squad this year. But history shows they haven’t always respected struggling opponents like the 0-6 Dolphins, who in reality may not be as putrid as the Peyton Manning-less Colts but are far from world-beaters, anyway.
They’ve paid a price for past arrogance, too.
In 2008, they were riding high on an 11-game road winning streak dating back to the 2007 Super Bowl championship season. They walked into Cleveland at 4-0 to play a 1-3 Browns team that would finish that season 4-12. Of course, the Giants became one of those wins, as the Browns pounded them 35-14.
That was admittedly a football lifetime ago. But a bit closer and more germane to this week’s action, there was that final game at old Giants Stadium in 2009. Carolina came in battered and losing, with the eminent Matt Moore starting at quarterback. What should have been an emotional sendoff for the old place quickly became a disaster in a 41-9 loss to the Panthers.
Coughlin will undoubtedly call back on that game, if only to alert the guilty, still-rostered parties, that they will face that same Matt Moore this week.
Moore hasn’t improved a lot since then. Same backup quality, throwing one decent pass and then blowing an open receiver or tossing a pick. He threw two against the Jets, including one that Darrelle Revis returned 100 yards.
It’s not like Moore gets a lot of help from the rest of the doomed Tony Sparano’s group, either. They’re minus-7 in turnovers and have allowed 22 sacks, which should bring a smile to the faces of Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Justin Tuck, the last of whom went through an entire practice Wednesday for the first time since Sept. 23.
Their overall defense is 23rd ranked, they have just two fumble recoveries and two interceptions and none by a starter. The run defense is a basic, big nothing.
Still, the Dolphins come off a Denver game they had a 15-0 lead in the final three minutes, only to historically blow it and lose 18-15 in overtime. They became the first team since the 1970 merger to suffer such ignominy.
That’s why Coughlin will try to sell Miami as a dangerous team the rest of the week. And given the Giants’ propensity to play down to the weak, he has good reason to.
“‘Respect all and fear none’ is the approach we take,” Coughlin said. “What we’re trying to do is be concerned with our team and making sure that our team plays and takes our execution to another level. We want to eliminate any lull in our play and continue the concept of not turning the ball over.”
They have the fear part down. These Giants may lose games, but it’s not because they’re awed by their opponent. It’s the respect part that has given them problems over the years. Conquer that, and they can beat anybody.
“They have talent,“ quarterback Eli Manning said. “A lot of teams have trouble with them. Teams aren’t going in there and scoring a lot of points against them.”
The players are saying the right things. They usually always do. But do they believe their own words? That’s been the problem in the past.
Now that the Giants had their biggest complement of players back at practice for the first time this year — only FB Henry Hynoski was limited — injuries won’t be an excuse if they do the unthinkable and lose Sunday. The Dolphins aren’t as lost as the Colts. Nobody has put up 62 points against them yet.
But that doesn’t mean they’re good competition either.
The Giants need to take that into account and blow past these guys. Two wins going into the tough part of the schedule would work very nicely for them at this point. But it won’t happen unless they truly view Miami as a dangerous entity.
“Respect all.” Even an 0-6 squad.
That’s the ticket this week.
Is Coughlin taking the right approach against the winless Fish? Let Palladino know in the comments below…