New coach Tom Coughlin has eliminated many of the New York Giants’ bad habits this season. The team’s usual performance following a bye week is Coughlin’s next target.
The Giants look to win their fifth in a row for the first time since 2000, and pick up where they left off before their bye when they host the improved Detroit Lions.
With Coughlin’s attention to detail and emphasis on discipline, New York has been one of the surprise teams of the early season, following up an ugly loss to Philadelphia in the opener with an impressive winning streak. The Giants, who defeated Green Bay and Dallas on the road in their last two games, are one game behind the first-place Eagles in the NFC East and had last week off to rest up and get healthy.
That down time, however, is an area of concern for Coughlin. The Giants have gone 3-12 after byes, and the off week may have come at the worst time possible for a team that is looking to start 5-1 for the first time since 1993.
“I have the same attitude about looking at a game just played as I do with a bye week—it’s over,” said Coughlin, who went 5-3 after byes as coach of Jacksonville. “You’re done with that, let’s move forward now. Let’s get ourselves engaged as much as we can with an opponent that not many players in our locker room know about, so we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The Giants went 1-6 after the bye week under former coach Jim Fassel, and the problem may have been a drop in intensity and preparation during the time off. Coughlin tried to avoid that pitfall by scheduling a full slate of practices and meetings last week, and the players also seemed determined not to repeat their recent history after the one-week break in the schedule.
“We are going to change that,” guard Jason Whittle said Tuesday. “This is a different team, a different coaching staff. We’re going to win this week.”
The player whom the Giants can least afford to have lose momentum is Tiki Barber, the NFL’s fifth-leading rusher with 577 yards. Barber had another big effort in the Oct. 10 victory over the Cowboys, running for 122 yards and a touchdown in a 26-10 win.
The Giants also need to maintain focus on the defensive side of the ball, as they’ve allowed only 41 points since the Week 1 loss.
New York will be facing a Detroit club that’s smarting from a 38-10 home loss to Green Bay last week. The Lions only trailed by seven at halftime, but had fewer yards (18) in the second half than the Packers had points (21).
“That hasn’t been us,” coach Steve Mariucci said Monday. “This is the first time all year that, when things started to go wrong, we didn’t come back. Things just kept going downhill. That’s like last year’s team, not this year’s.”
With third-year quarterback Joey Harrington enjoying a strong season, Detroit is two wins short of matching last season’s total. But Harrington struggled in the loss to the Packers, as the Lions went 1-of-11 on third-down conversions, and Darren Sharper intercepted a Harrington third-down pass and ran it back for a touchdown on Detroit’s first series of the second half. The Lions lost for the second time in three games.
The defeat wasn’t all Harrington’s fault, as the Lions continued to have major problems running the ball last week. They rushed for only 33 yards, with tailbacks Artose Pinner, Shawn Bryson and Kevin Jones combining for 18 yards on 11 carries. Detroit is ranked second-to-last in the league in rushing.
“It is all a matter of execution,” guard Damien Woody said. “We’ve got to find a way to run the ball, because that’s how you get control of the line of scrimmage. If you don’t, the defense can just pin their ears back and come after the quarterback.”
Standout rookie wide receiver Roy Williams, who has an injured ankle, was active against the Packers but did not play. Mariucci hasn’t said whether Williams will see action this week.