EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The message Monday was an upbeat one from New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin. As the players left for their bye week, not required to return to the team facility for practice until next Monday, Coughlin wanted to focus on the positives from the two victories his 2-6 team has posted in the past two weeks.
"I think there's some excitement," Coughlin said. "We're certainly not blind to the issues that we do have. But by the same token, we're excited about having the opportunity to improve on those issues and we're excited about the second half of the year."
The inference with that word "opportunity" is to the well-established fact that the first-place team in the Giants' division is only 4-4, which means their own 2-6 record still affords them a level of hope where an 0-8 or 1-7 record might not. But the reference to the "issues that we do have" is the grounded part of the message. This is still a 2-6 team that didn't score a touchdown Sunday and has a worse scoring differential than every team in the league but the 0-8 Jaguars.
What looms after the bye is what Coughlin called, "a very, let's be frank, difficult schedule," and the Giants are going to have to go 6-2 just to get to .500 for the season. The hole they dug for themselves with the six-game losing streak that opened their season is likely inescapable. But as they survey their chances, they do so with some positives in their heads for the next couple of weeks.
"We can't allow ourselves to think about the past or the future," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "All we can think about is what's next. That's the day-to-day life of a football player. We have to make sure that, once we get back, all we're thinking about is Oakland. Not thinking about what Dallas did or Philly or Washington or anybody else. We can control what we can control, and that's how we play."
The coaches will self-scout during the bye week and come back with what Coughlin called a "worst-to-best" review of what's happened so far. Unfortunately, and in spite of the current two-game winning streak, that list is likely to be top-heavy. The Giants still rank near the bottom of the league in tons of critical statistical categories, not the least of which is winning percentage. The special teams are a weekly wreck. The run game is still fourth-worst in yards per game. Eli Manning hasn't thrown an interception in his last two games, but he isn't exactly lighting up the scoreboard either. The four sacks the defense got Sunday represented two-thirds of the season total they carried into the game.
"It's been a rough eight weeks," safety Antrel Rolle said. "Extremely rough. So we're just looking to come back and go on this run."
The second half begins with a three-game run of home games against the Raiders, Packers and Cowboys, then December brings road games in Washington and San Diego, a home game against the Seahawks, a trip to Detroit and a home finale against the Redskins. Not a lot of obvious wins in there, but the key thing for the Giants' mental state is that at least they know what it feels like to win again. Whether they can or not, in enough of those eight games, is still a daunting question, as they are well aware.
"We're 2-6," Terrell Thomas said. "Now we need to keep getting healthier and get ready to get this thing rolling. We have a tough schedule coming up with the Raiders. They're no joke, and it doesn't get any easier after that."