New York defensive coordinator Perry Fewell got the attention of the Giants earlier this week with a simple statement heading into the game with the Atlanta Falcons.
When was the last time the Giants (2-2) were above the .500 mark?
The answer is 2012 and it goes a long way in explaining why Tom Coughlin's team has not been to the playoffs since winning the Super Bowl to cap the 2011 season.
After opening the ensuing season 6-2, the Giants have gone 12-16, including 0-6 to start last season and an 0-2 start this year.
The gloom has dissipated in recent weeks with wins over Houston and Washington, and the Giants could move above the .500 with a win over the perplexing Falcons (2-2) Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
"I think that is huge," cornerback Prince Amukamara said of being above .500. "If we do that it's a huge message that we are sending to ourselves, and to the league, that we are for real. That's the type of message we need on this team."
The game is just as important to the Falcons, who missed the playoffs last season for the first time in four years.
"I think we are just very inconsistent," current Falcons and former Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. "We play good one week and then the next week, we don't play quite as well. We have to find a way to be more consistent in our play."
Led by quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons are tied for NFL's top-rated offense. The defense, however, is among the league's worst, struggling particularly against the run.
"First and foremost, we have to stop the run, and I think if we are able to do that, then that will put us in a more (favorable) situation," Umenyiora said. "Three out of the four weeks, we haven't done a really good job of that at all."
The Giants come into the game averaging 120.3 yards rushing in coordinator Ben McAdoo's new West Coast offense. Quarterback Eli Manning threw four touchdowns and ran for another in a 45-14 win over the Redskins in the team's last game on Sept. 25.
With divisional games at Philadelphia and Dallas after the Falcons, Manning also understands the importance of this one.
"This is obviously a big one," Manning said. "At 2-2 you want to keep things going, hopefully get into the winning record territory and keep on pace, and try to catch up with Dallas and Philly, they're both 3-1. It's a huge game, their offense has been scoring a lot of points. They've lost some close ones and been in there at the end in all the games. They're a talented team so we have to make sure we're handling our business."
Some things to watch for in the game:
FALCONS INJURIES: The Falcons' offensive line is decimated. It lost center Joe Hawley and right tackle Lamar Holmes with season-ending injuries last weekend. Peter Konz will replace Hawley and Gabe Carimi will take over for Holmes. Left guard Justin Blalock also has a foot injury and his status is uncertain. Harland Gunn has been working at left guard in practice. Atlanta also will be without strong safety William Moore for a couple of months and rookie Kemal Ishmael is stepping in.
The Giants have not played since Sept. 25 and had everybody practicing this week.
BECKHAM SIGHTING: Giants first-round draft pick Odell Beckham Jr., has been practicing the past two weeks and might make his NFL debut. The speedy wide receiver has not played in a game since injuring a hamstring early in training camp.
"Nice guy to add to the mix," said Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, who has gotten by using Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Preston Parker along with improving tight end Larry Donnell.
PUNT RETURNS: Devin Hester of the Falcons might be the last person the Giants want to face. Hester set the NFL record for all-time returns for touchdowns on kickoffs and punts with 20 when he returned a punt 56 yards for a score against Tampa Bay earlier this season. The Giants have allowed four punt returns for touchdowns in their last 20 games, including a go-ahead 71-yarder by Ted Ginn Jr. in their home opener.
ROAD WOES: The Falcons are winless in two road games and are 1-9 away from the Georgia Dome since the start of last season. Making things worse, Atlanta will play five of its next six games outside of Georgia, although one will be a home game against Detroit in London.
TURNOVERS: In winning their last two games, the Giants have recorded nine takeaways and gone from a minus-6 differential to a plus-1. Atlanta is at minus-3 and its 10 giveaways are tied for the most in the NFL.
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