What it's come to: Giants playing for pride?

December, 26, 2012
12/26/12
5:05
PM ET
For a long time now -- since mid-December 2011, actually -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin has been preaching a consistent message about his team's ability to control its own destiny and opportunity. Until their ugly loss Sunday in Baltimore, it was a message with merit. But that loss robbed the Giants of control of their own fate, as they now need to win Sunday and hope three other teams -- the Vikings, Bears and Cowboys -- all lose if they want to make this year's playoffs.

Coughlin is obviously very disappointed, and he appears confused about why his 2012 team failed to seize its opportunity one year after absolutely crushing it in 2011. And with that control of their own fate out of their hands for the first time this season, Coughlin is left to hope his Giants will play for pride. Per Ohm:
"That is what I talked to our team [about] this morning -- pride, honor, dignity, play the game that we are capable of playing," a stern Coughlin said Wednesday. "Finish the season with a game we can all be proud of."

When asked whether he is proud of the season the Giants (8-7) have had, Coughlin said he can't shake the past two losses to Atlanta and Baltimore after seeing the Giants lose by a combined 67-14.

"Will I be proud of the season?" Coughlin asked. "Right now, I have a short memory and I've got these two games [on my mind]. I am proud of the individuals. I am not proud of what's been accomplished."

There's recent history of games like these for the Giants. In 2009, they stood at 8-7 and had no chance to reach the playoffs, and one week after a 41-9 loss to Carolina they finished their year with a 44-7 loss to Minnesota.

A year later, after consecutive losses to the Eagles and Packers, the Giants entered the final week 9-6 and needing a win and lots of help to make the playoffs. They got the win, 17-14 over the Redskins, but not the help, and they missed the playoffs in spite of finishing 10-6. That prompted Coughlin's famous "they can kiss my [bleep]" speech in the postgame locker room, and it's entirely possible that finishing strong after having their hopes dashed in the previous two weeks helped set a tone for their ability to withstand hard times in 2011.

Even if they beat Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, the Giants will have to sweat out three other games. They could leave MetLife Stadium on Sunday evening not knowing whether their season is over or whether they need to prepare for a playoff game six or seven days later. But Coughlin's coaching style insists on prioritizing that which his team can control. And right now, all the Giants can control is the effort they put forth Sunday in a game that doesn't necessarily have to be the last of their season but certainly will be if they lose it.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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