EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — After winning their fourth straight game, Tom Coughlin gave the New York Giants a break heading into their showdown with Dallas this weekend.
All they had to do Monday was come in and lift. After that, the afternoon was free. They could get away from football for a few extra hours. They had earned it coming back from a 0-6 start.
Something interesting happened: The captains asked them to stick around to have their usual players-only meetings.
It's a time the guys can sit without the coaching staff and look at the video of Sunday's 27-13 win over the Green Bay Packers. It's a frank discussion and the players didn't want to give it up now that they are back in the playoff hunt.
"I'm pleased with that, but I'm not surprised," Coughlin said Monday of the players' decision to meet.
The Giants (4-6) can't afford another loss, especially one to Dallas (5-5). Because the Cowboys won the first meeting, a sweep of the season series would make it almost impossible for New York to win the NFC East. The Giants need a split.
"Everybody definitely realizes how important this game is," halfback Andre Brown said. "With every division game, it's very important because we're fighting to make the playoffs. Everyone was in there, we all watched film as a unit. Offense watched it with the offense and defense watched it with their players, and special teams came and watched. Even though we had the day off, everyone still sees how important this game is to us and we have to go out there and make sure we're flying around, executing all our assignments and playing smart and fast football."
While beating Green Bay was huge, the Giants' winning streak does have its critics. New York has basically beaten teams playing with either backup quarterbacks or ones that are hurt.
It began with Josh Freeman in his first start with Minnesota. A banged-up Michael Vick lasted a quarter in the win at Philadelphia before Matt Barkley took over. Terrelle Pryor had a sore knee in the win over Oakland and Scott Tolzien made his first NFL start on Sunday in filling in for the injured Aaron Rodgers.
This week, the Giants get Tony Romo and the Cowboys coming off a bye week. No backup.
Giants middle linebacker Jon Beason, who has helped turn around the defense since being acquired in a trade with Carolina, downplayed the criticism.
"People can say we haven't faced the best quarterbacks, but we don't get much props for shutting down the top running backs, either," Beason said. "To me, it all depends on how you want to spin it. Guys are going to say you haven't played anybody, but we know how hard it is to win in this league. A W is a W and injuries are a big part of this game, and the way the championship/playoff teams look at it is, it's the next guy up. You know he's as good as that guy who's going to go in there and step in his place, for a quarterback or any position. Guys have to step up and be ready to play.
"That win yesterday was huge, but it's short-lived, because now it's all about Dallas," Beason said.
One person not surprised about the Giants' ability to bounce back is Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. He knows they lost games early because they made too many mistakes. Dallas' 36-31 win over New York was fueled by six turnovers.
"They've been a good football team for a long time, they've got a lot of good players," Garrett said Monday. "They're doing what winning teams do, and I don't think that's anything of a surprise or a revelation at all. When you play winning football and you have talented players on your team and you're well coached, typically you're going to win more than you don't.
"They've done a good job fighting themselves out of this 0-6 situation, but we've played against them a lot in the past and we know what kind of people they have up there, what kind of talent they have. "
AP Sports Writer Schuyler Dixon contributed to this report.
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