Tom Coughlin in must-win mode

PARAMUS, N.J. -- One day after losing 17-16 to the Washington Redskins and putting the NFC East firmly back into play, a frustrated Tom Coughlin feels his New York Giants have to win out to win the division.

"Knowing full well it's a four-game season, we have to win, literally, every one of our games," said Coughlin, who clearly was still upset about his team's loss to the Redskins. "That's how I look at it."

The Giants (7-5) are clinging to a one-game lead in the division over the Redskins (6-6) and Dallas Cowboys (6-6) with four games remaining.

The Giants' remaining schedule is difficult with games against New Orleans, at Atlanta, at Baltimore and against Philadelphia.

Safety Antrel Rolle wants to see the defending champions show a fiercer disposition after losing three of past four.

"I think we just need to get back to being a little nasty, having a nasty attitude," Rolle said on his weekly WFAN radio appearance. "Don't do anything that's out of the line of football, but have a little nasty attitude, get a little bit more dog in us, and go out there and play the game."

"Play the game physical, play the game tough, play the game hard, and we'll give hugs and kisses after the game," he continued. "But while that game is going on, we respect no one. And that's how the game of football needs to be played."

The Giants control their own destiny. But last season, they had to be pushed to the brink at 7-7 before responding and showing their full potential and winning six straight to take the Super Bowl.

Too often, the Giants don't play their best until they feel like they have to.

"That's what it seems like," defensive end Justin Tuck said at his annual Toy and Book Drive at Garden State Plaza. "I don't know why. I don't know how this situation is going to end up."

"But we've been down this road before," added Tuck, whose toy drive benefited The Boys & Girls Clubs and his R.U.S.H. for Literacy. "We know what it's going to take for us to get where we want to go. Hopefully that happens, hopefully we put things back together. But we can't continue to play inconsistent football like we have."

Coughlin was still seething hours after his team was penalized nine times for 73 yards. Several of the penalties were momentum killers, including two in the fourth quarter that helped stall their final two drives.

"We've been averaging four penalties a game, and now we jump to nine," Coughlin said. "They're the same lessons we preach all the time. That's why the penalties, quite frankly, not only were they greatly disappointing, they were so shocking to me because they're out of character with how we've been playing."

"Probably sloppy, careless play. Everyone knows the rules. Everyone knows what you can and can't get away with."

Rolle would like to see the Giants, himself included, get back to playing with more swagger and attitude.

"I don't see enough dog out there on the field," Rolle said. "I don't see enough dog, I don't see enough manhandling out there on the field and I don't see us putting opponents away when we know we could."

Tuck saw positives from Monday night's game and how the Giants played well in the first half and were in position to win the game. They just hurt themselves with penalties and the defense's inability to get a stop at the end.

The Giants certainly don't want to leave their fate up to tiebreakers at the end of the season. But Tuck isn't so sure the Giants have to win out to repeat as division champs as Coughlin believes.

"I can't tell the future," Tuck said. "I don't know. I would like to win out, but do we need to? I don't know. We'll see."