KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With his team sitting with an 0-3 record ― and its season on the verge of slipping away following an embarrassing 38-0 loss to the Panthers ― New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin stuck to the script on Wednesday.
“We just have to keep pounding away,” said Coughlin, whose Giants will face the undefeated Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. “No excuses, no feeling sorry for ourselves. We put ourselves in this position, and we’re the only ones that can battle our way out of it.”
It’s a vintage Tom Coughlin message, the kind that has served him well during his 10 years in New York, where he’s compiled an 83-64 record and won two Super Bowls.
But now, after all those seasons in the pressure cooker that is New York, a defeat that was patently un-Giantslike and his first 0-3 start to a season in his likely Hall of Fame career, perhaps it might finally be time to ask: Have his players tuned him out?
“Obviously, we’ve had a good relationship and run with many of the core players that are here and our memories are good enough to remember ’07 and ’11,” Coughlin said. “The message is strong, it never changes, it’s very true … it’ll never cease. It’s about unselfish commitment to team.”
Not surprisingly, veteran quarterback Eli Manning was giving the same team-focused spiel Wednesday, despite the fact Hakeem Nicks, his best receiver, caused a bit of a stir after a zero-catch performance Sunday by saying, “I can’t throw it to myself.”
Manning, who was sacked seven times and completed 12 of 23 passes for 119 against the Panthers, laughed off Nicks’ comments, adding that he knows his receiver doesn’t mean anything by it. He insisted the Giants remain a unified group, despite the hole they’ve dug for themselves.
“Been proud of the guys, just the way everybody’s handling things and not turning on each other or start making excuses or start blaming other people or coaches or anything else,” Manning said. “We’ve taken a hard look at the performance and there’s no one to blame but ourselves. I think the guys understood that.”
Manning also understands the Giants face a difficult test this Sunday against the Chiefs, who have ridden a mistake-averse offense and one of the league’s best defenses to their first 3-0 start since 2010, when they finished 10-6 and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
“They do a good job stopping the run and getting the quarterback,” Manning said. “They play a lot of man-to-man, an aggressive style defense, so we’ve got to be ready sharp. We can’t afford to turn the ball over.”
Manning said the Chiefs will be the most aggressive team, at least defensively, they’ve faced so far. Coughlin also had some nice things to say about the offense of Chiefs coach Andy Reid ― Sunday’s matchup will be the 20th time the old NFC East foes have met, with Reid holding a 10-9 advantage.
“There’s a definite style of play that Andy believes in and institutes,” Coughlin said. “Sometimes you can get a little away from that thinking that he wants to throw the ball more, but in the end, there’s a running game that’s chopping you up.”
Reid has a similar respect for Coughlin, and was adamant the Giants’ record at this point doesn’t mean anything due to the amount of parity in the league.
“I get accused of putting the blinders on and not knowing what’s going on in the outside,” Coughlin said. “I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but you really do have to be tough-skinned and disciplined enough to not pay a whole lot of attention to what is being said.”
Especially when the going gets tough ... like now. Following the loss to the Panthers, Coughlin said he didn’t deviate from his time-tested game plan, the one that has served him well over the years. He dished brutal honesty to his team on Monday, and started the process of building them back up Wednesday, in hopes for a better result Sunday.
“That’s the process and the cycle,” Coughlin said. “We’ve been doing that for quite a few years.”