EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The gloom of four straight losses has been lifted and for the first time in more than a month, the New York Giants can see the finish line in this injury-riddled season.
With their 37-34 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, the Giants (7-6) are in control of their postseason hopes.
Believe it or not.
It was hard feeling that way coming off losses to San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Green Bay over the past month, but pulling one out in Dallas with yet another fourth-quarter rally has made the picture clear.
"I don't think it mattered how we did it, I think bottom line was about just getting a win," center Kevin Boothe said. "We haven't won in a long time and our opportunities are getting short. So, it didn't matter who we were playing and how much we won by. We always would like to win by a lot more but just getting back in the win column and putting ourselves in the position to have an opportunity. That is what we play for, to have meaningful games in December and here we are with everything in front of us. We just have to take advantage of it."
If the Giants beat the Redskins, Jets and Cowboys, they are heading back to the playoffs for the first time since after the 2008 season.
Remarkably, Tom Coughlin spent most of this season talking to his team about the importance of finishing after second-half collapses led to missing the postseason the last two years.
Doing it this year would be special since the team lost cornerback Terrell Thomas, linebacker Jonathan Goff and second-round draft pick Marvin Austin to injuries in training camp and starting left tackle Will Beatty to an eye injury during the season. In all, New York has 12 players on injured reserve.
"I'm pleased that they're fighting and working their tails off and I'm happy that they were reinforced last night, but it certainly doesn't stop here," Coughlin said. "There's a lot of work to be done."
The Giants are also going to have to deal with more injuries. Defensive captain Justin Tuck, who has missed four games with neck and groin injuries, has been slowed by a toe problem the past two games and he told WFAN in his weekly interview that he does not know whether he'll be able to play against the Redskins at MetLife Stadium.
Coughlin also disclosed that left tackle David Diehl (hand), tight end Jake Ballard (wrist) and backup tight end Travis Beckum (bruised chest) might miss a little practice this week but they are expected to play against the Redskins, a team that beat the Giants to open the season.
The Giants don't have to win their final three games to make the playoffs. If they finish at 9-7 and sweep the season series with Dallas, they will capture the division.
"It is not about style points, it is about having the opportunity to accomplish what we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the season, which was win the division," defensive tackle Chris Canty said. "Now we are in a pretty good position, but we have three tough ballgames ahead of us. We know that we are going to have to finish. Coach Coughlin started it in training camp with the motto of 'finish' and that is the mentality.
"That is the mentality of our football team for the next few weeks."
Eli Manning and the offense have carried the team, posting six fourth-quarter wins this season. The defense has struggled and that didn't change in Dallas, where they blew a coverage on 50-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Dez Bryant to fall behind 34-22 with 5:41 to play.
Manning, however, hit Ballard on an 8-yard scoring pass with 3:14 left and Brandon Jacobs scored on a 1-yard run with 46 seconds to go after the Giants defense forced a three-and-out by Tony Romo and the Cowboys.
"I've always been a huge believer in you have to take care of your own business," Coughlin said. "Whenever you start to drift and to think that perhaps other people are going to help you out, I think you get in trouble. You have to take care of your own business.
"We realize how difficult each one of these games will be, but we put ourselves in position where if we can take care of our own business then what we've wanted all along will present itself as an opportunity for us."