EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Two wins do not make a playoff contender, unless you're in the NFC East.
Despite opening the season with six straight losses, the New York Giants (2-6) remarkably are still in the playoff hunt heading into their bye week.
The Giants won their second straight game Sunday with a 15-7 decision over the Eagles in Philadelphia. Things only got better after the game when Detroit staged a furious last-minute rally to knock off the division-leading Dallas Cowboys (4-4).
The math is simple: New York is two games behind with eight to play. It's not the best position and the chances that the Giants will make the playoffs are not good unless they run the table.
"We won our last couple of games, which is a great thing. Are we back?" safety Antrel Rolle asked Monday, and then answered, "We'll be back once we reach that post-season. That's when I'll say that we're back. Right now we're grinding. We're grinding, we're fighting extremely hard and, you know, being 0-6, like I said several times before, can do a lot of things to you. I've had to dig extremely deep, had to be so mentally tough to overcome it because I've never been in that stage in my life either.
"Right now, as a team, we're grinding. We're grinding and we're pushing ahead and more importantly we're staying together."
The Giants still have a chance because they have corrected some of the errors that led to their worst start since coming out of the gate with a franchise-worst nine straight losses in 1976.
In the past two games, Eli Manning and the offence have not turned over the ball. The defence, which has improved since getting middle linebacker Jon Beason in a trade with Carolina, has not allowed a point. The only major mistakes have been by special teams that gave up a punt return for a touchdown against Minnesota — the third one this season — and handed the Eagles a recovery for a TD late in the fourth quarter with a bad snap on a punt. The only turnover in the past two games was a lost fumble on a punt return.
If they can avoid the turnovers, get the offence a little more in gear and continue to play good defence, the Giants will be competitive.
The problem is the Giants have not been a good team in the second half of the season in recent years, and the schedule is tough even with five home games, including three straight out of the bye — Oakland (3-4), Green Bay (5-2) and Dallas. They also have games with the Chargers (4-3), Lions (5-3), Seahawks (6-1 heading into Monday night) and two with Robert Griffin III and the Redskins (2-5).
"We haven't done nothing yet," said cornerback Terrell Thomas, who made his biggest stride returning from two ACL surgeries by playing every down against Philadelphia. "We're 2-6. It feels great to have two wins. There are smiles around here and everyone is confident. This team has a makeup to make a run. We've been in this position before and we are better when our backs are against the wall."
Coach Tom Coughlin plans to self-scout his team over the bye week and he expects running back Andre Brown, who broke a leg in the preseason, to be ready to return from injured reserve after the bye.
"I think there's some excitement," said Coughlin, who did an outstanding job keeping his team together after the horrible start. "We're certainly not blind to the issues that we do have, but by the same token we're excited about having an opportunity to improve on those areas and excited about the second half of the year."
Defensive end Justin Tuck said the key for the second half will be to continue doing what they have done the past two weeks.
"It's really that simple," Tuck said. "We can't allow ourselves to think about the past or future, 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 once we get back in the swing of things that the only thing we're thinking about is Oakland. Not thinking about what Dallas did or Philly or Washington or whoever else. We can control what we can control and that's how we play."
While it's a long shot, the players still maintain the hope they can be the first team to play in a Super Bowl in their own stadium. The title game at Met Life Stadium, the home of the Giants and Jets, is Feb. 2.
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