JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tom Coughlin's much-maligned defense has a chance to look considerably better Sunday.
The Giants (3-8) play at Jacksonville (1-10), which is averaging an NFL-low 14.6 points and managed just a field goal in a lopsided loss at Indianapolis last week. It appears to be a favorable matchup for the Giants, who will try to end a six-game losing streak.
Coughlin has preached to his team about finishing games, which was the primary problem in losses to Seattle, San Francisco and Dallas the last three weeks.
"That's about the story of the season," Coughlin said.
The Giants were tied at 17 heading into the fourth quarter at Seattle three weeks ago before losing by 21. Trailing 16-10 late in the fourth against San Francisco the following week, New York had first-and-goal at the 4-yard line before Eli Manning threw an interception.
Last week's loss to Dallas may have been the worst of the bunch.
The Giants scored to take a 28-24 with three minutes remaining, but then surrendered an 80-yard touchdown drive that dealt Coughlin his second six-game losing streak in as many seasons.
So closing out games has become a trend and a concern.
"Definitely; I think that is obvious," Giants linebacker Jameel McClain said. "We haven't completed a game, and finishing is the most important part in football. The cliché statement is 'It's not how you start, it's how you finish.' It is really the most important part we have been missing out on."
The defense has been the biggest culprit, giving up nearly 400 yards a game and recording just 19 sacks.
The unit could enjoy a turnaround against Jacksonville, which has lost four in a row by double digits.
Rookie Blake Bortles continues to struggle. He leads the league with 15 interceptions and looks less comfortable in the pocket than he did in his first start two months ago.
Granted, Bortles is playing behind a shaky line that includes two rookies and two second-year pros. And he's without leading receiver Allen Robinson, who is out for the season with a foot injury.
But the third overall pick has shown little, if any, progress since taking over the starting job in Week 4.
"You can't replicate games," Bortles said. "There are mistakes happening, but it's kind of going into the memory bank of, 'I can't do that again. I can do that here or I can do that there.' I think every game is a huge learning experience."
Some things to know about the Giants and Jaguars heading into Sunday's game:
COUGHLIN COMES HOME: Coughlin has a home near Jacksonville, holds his annual charity golf tournament here, and plans to move back when he retires. He has plenty of friends in the area and still has numerous ties to the expansion franchise he built into a Super Bowl contender in the 1990s. He's 1-0 on the opposing sideline, winning his first return trip in 2010.
"It's always special," he said. "To get there, to come to the stadium, to see many faces that have been friends for a long time, to stand on the sideline, those are all things that are very emotional. My whole family will be there."
JENNINGS RETURNS: Coughlin won't be the only one feeling nostalgic Sunday. Running back Rashad Jennings spent the first four years of his career in Jacksonville and is excited to "come back where I started, my beginnings." Jennings has 507 yards rushing and two touchdowns this season, but no bitter feelings about Jacksonville not re-signing him. "I have nothing but great things (to say) about the organization for believing in me and giving me a chance," he said. "I don't have a chip on my shoulder for the organization."
MONTH AWAY: The Jaguars are playing at home for the first time in five weeks. Jacksonville last played at EverBank Field on Oct. 26, a 27-13 loss to Miami. Since then, coach Gus Bradley's team has faced Cincinnati on the road, played Dallas in London and followed a bye week with a trip to Indianapolis.
BECKHAM'S ENCORE: Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. got Jacksonville's attention — as well as just about everyone everywhere — with his one-handed catch last week. The first-round draft pick finished with 10 catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns. "He's playing at a high level," Bradley said. "His athleticism, his route-running, the ability to accelerate and get out of his breaks."
RISING SACKS: One thing the Jaguars have done well this season is sack quarterbacks. They rank third in the NFL with 33 sacks, including five last week against the Colts. New York has yielded 24.
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