By Courtesy of the New York Giants
Seemingly everyone outside their locker room expected the Giants to lie down yesterday in Detroit. Instead, they stood tall.
Eliminated from the playoffs and locked into a third-place finish in the NFC East, the Giants ignored the naysayers who said they had nothing to play for, overcame a fourth-quarter deficit and defeated Detroit in overtime in Ford Field, 23-20, an outcome that ended the Lions’ postseason dreams.
So the questions for the Giants quickly shifted from how could they find motivation to how did they?
“I mean, it’s still a job at the end of the day,” rookie right tackle Justin Pugh said today on a conference call. “You have to go out there and fight with your teammates and fight for the fans. There’s no quit in these guys. I think that would just be a negative thing, to say that we quit or we gave up on the season. That’s not something you want going into this offseason and trying to build off of. So I don’t think there’s ever been quit in this team or anyone’s ever giving up. Coach (Tom) Coughlin’s real big on that, so I think we’ve done a good job of going out there and fighting week in and week out and we’re just going to continue to do that next week.”
“Just playing this game, a lot of us play with pride and just being competitors,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “(You’re) always wanting to beat the guy in front of us and Coach Coughlin has always been preaching finish, compete, always playing to win the game and that was our mindset going into Detroit. When things didn’t seem like it was going our way and it looked like it was about to be over, that’s just the Giants way of football. It’s always making a big play to turn things around.”
The Giants are 6-9 and will conclude their season Sunday at home against a Washington Redskins team that has lost seven consecutive games. On Dec. 1, the Giants overcame a 14-0 deficit to win in FedEx Field, 24-17.
No matter what happens on Sunday, the Giants will be disappointed, because they will finish with a losing record and will watch instead of participate in the playoffs. But they will have a much more pleasant takeoff into the offseason if they can finish with two victories.
Coughlin will demand the same effort the team demonstrated yesterday in Detroit.
“The one thing I can say is that I was pleased with the effort and I was pleased with the focus and the resiliency and the idea, which we stressed all last week, about team and being as strong as our weakest link,” Coughlin said. “The fact that our strength is in team and not in individual, and I thought the guys demonstrated that.”
Coughlin strongly disputed, and had grown tired of, the narrative that incentive was an issue for his players because their non-playoff status and place in the standings were secure.
“It’s almost like the media has a series of questions ready to go,” he said. “And as soon as you’re out of contention for that playoff spot, the questions turn to … how are you going to inspire your team, what does your team have to play for? The point that I make is that you have everything to play for. You’re being heavily scrutinized by the powers that be within your own organization. The coaches want to know what you’re made out of.
“For me, it’s a matter of pride, it’s a matter of who you represent, it’s a matter of your teammates depending on you, it’s a matter of your character and who you are. You’re making a strong statement about who you are, whether you’re a fighter or a competitor, how you’re going to be influenced. Competitive greatness is something that we talk about and it starts deep within and it’s the nature of the game. Men are lured to the most difficult of challenges and that’s the game of football completely.”
The Giants demonstrated yesterday they still have a deep reservoir of pride. Coughlin will be counting on them to draw from it one more time on Sunday against Washington.
*Amukamara said safety Will Hill made two huge contributions yesterday. One was very obvious; Hill intercepted a tipped Matthew Stafford pass and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown to tie the score at 20-20 with 4:57 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“That’s huge,” Amukamara said. “Anytime us as a defense can turn over the ball and get it back to the offense, especially with great football position, that’s huge for our team and it’s even more of a plus when we put it in the end zone and we did it yesterday. Will has always come up big for us in games and that’s just another example of it.”
Hill also had a less-visible influence on the Giants and the game.
“In the huddle during the game,” Amukamara said., “when it seemed like Detroit was doing whatever they wanted to do with the run game and moving the chains, Will told us to all huddle up and called us all up and said, ‘This isn’t us. Let us turn this around.’ And then a couple of plays later he made a big play, and I think that speaks volumes.”
*Amukamara covered All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson the entire game and held him to three catches for 43 yards.
“I’m kicking myself because I dropped (an interception), but other than that, I’m very happy overall with how I played all game,” Amukamara said. “I felt like I was very aggressive, came up and tackled him. But I have to hit the jugs machine (to practice catching footballs).”
*The game began with Pugh playing next to Brandon Mosley, the fourth lineman to start at right guard this season. Mosley broke his right hand in the first quarter, and was replaced by guard No. 5, Dallas Reynolds, who had briefly played in just one game this season.
“I think it’s just a testament to how the offensive line has kind of been all year, the next guy up mentality,” Pugh said. “A lot of guys have gotten hurt and we’ve asked guys to step up and they’ve done that. Dallas was the next guy up and he came in and he played great. It’s just communicating and being on the same page and I think that was something that helped us out a lot.”
*Mosley returned to the sideline in uniform with a cast on his hand, but never re-entered the game.
“(The team’s medical staff) said if you needed him in an emergency, to play him,” Coughlin said. “It wasn’t recommended, so Dallas Reynolds, of course, did an outstanding job, figuring he’d have to play some plays, but not the entire game. And he basically played the entire game.”
Reynolds helped limit Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndomukong Suh to one assisted tackle.
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