EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York Giants are talking a different game now that they are back in the NFC East playoff hunt.
When the Giants (3-6) started the season with an horrendous 0-6 record, safety Antrel Rolle wasn’t afraid to say Tom Coughlin’s team had the talent to run the table and make the playoffs. It was a far-fetched idea, but it made headlines.
Now that the Giants have moved within 1 1/2 games of Dallas and Philadelphia in the division, the bravado has stopped.
Everything is one game at a time. There is no big picture or thoughts of the playoffs.
“With winning comes more confidence,” Rolle said Monday, a day after the Giants stretched their winning streak to three with a 24-20 decision over the Oakland Raiders. “I think that’s a no-brainer. But, like I said, we’re just going out there competing as Giants. This team has shown a lot of resiliency. We’ve overcome adversity. We’ve been the lowest of the lows and we are just trying to make sure we climb up out of it.”
Coughlin said this team is serious, and that’s what the players were Monday.
“They’re well aware, as I told them yesterday, the reason for the outcome was because we believed,” Coughlin said. “We kept on believing, and that’s a process.”
The Giants also have been a little lucky. They beat Minnesota in Josh Freeman’s first game as Vikings starter and knocked off Philadelphia and Oakland when quarterbacks Michael Vick and Terrelle Pryor were not 100 percent.
“We’re 3-6, we start looking ahead of ourselves and we’re going to find ourselves behind,” Rolle said. “One game at a time, that’s our only approach at this moment. We’re not really worried about a race. The only thing we can control right now is what we do as Giants and go out there and compete each and every Sunday. We’ll let everyone else worry about that because there’s still a lot of football left to be played.”
This week, the Green Bay Packers are hurting at quarterback. Aaron Rodgers missed Sunday’s loss to the Eagles (5-5) with a shoulder injury and his backup, Seneca Wallace, left the game with a groin injury. Third-stringer Scott Tolzien finished and was 24 for 39 for 280 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
It’s another potential break for the Giants, who will face the Cowboys (5-5) in two weeks. Dallas saw linebacker Sean Lee (hamstring) go down with an injury on Sunday night.
“I wouldn’t say necessarily we’re back in it,” Giants defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. “We’re taking steps. We’ve gotten some positives here. We’re building. We have some wins and we’re able to build off a little momentum we have going for ourselves now. It’s still a long way to go to the point where we’re right back or to say we are tied for the lead. We can’t get too anxious now because we are closer.”
Veteran placekicker Josh Brown said it’s too early to jump to any conclusions about the Giants, whose 0-6 start was their worst since a franchise-record 0-9 beginning to the 1976 season.
“Right now we’re just looking in the mirror,” Brown said. “Let everyone else worry about us. We’re going to worry about us. That’s all you can do. If you steer too far in front, you lose focus of what is right in front of you and veer off the path.”
The Giants can’t afford to do that. What the Giants do need to do is improve.
Coughlin doesn’t want his team thinking about the playoffs — or talking about it.
“It’s one game at a time,” he said, joking that there’s a gag rule on discussing the NFC East race. “Where are you, you’re right where you are. Obviously you keep your dreams alive, but you focus on the task at hand. I hope that’s what we’re doing.”
The defense is carrying the team right now. The unit has given up one touchdown in the past three games, and that followed a fumble on the opening kickoff Sunday that gave the Raiders the ball at the 5-yard line. While special teams blocked a punt for a touchdown in the 24-20 win over the Raiders, it also committed the fumble that gave Oakland the early score. That’s roughly three weeks in a row special teams has allowed a touchdown.
Eli Manning and the offense were supposed to carry New York this season. They haven’t: the 165 points are third lowest in the league.
Tight end Bear Pascoe said the positive is that the team has never stopped working.
“We’re not out of it yet, and we’re not planning on it,” he said.
NOTES: Coughlin said DE Jason Pierre-Paul will need time in the training room for the shoulder injury he sustained, but is expected to play this week. … Coughlin quipped that running back Andre Brown might carry 40 times this week. Brown, coming off a broken leg, had 30 carries for 115 yards in his first game of the season. … Josh Brown wore an ice wrap on his left shoulder after tweaking it lifting Monday. When Coughlin was asked about it, he called it a “sympathy wrap.”
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