NEWARK, N.J. — The New York Giants are tied for the best record in the NFC entering their bye week and coach Tom Coughlin is confident their best football is still ahead.
The Giants (5-2) added to the Dallas Cowboys woes on Monday night with a 41-35 victory, winning despite turning the ball over five times, allowing a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown and making a couple of late mistakes that gave Dallas a chance to win.
While the mistakes stand out, Coughlin was quick to point out on Tuesday that this is not the same Giants’ team as a year ago.
Forgotten? That team opened the season with five straight wins and then lost eight of the final 11 to finish 8-8, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
“I think this team is capable of playing outstanding football and being able to support ourselves with all three phases,” Coughlin said in a conference call. “Our return game is not what we want it to be, but I think that our defense has played very well and our offense has played very well. What we have to do is continue to play together and show the quality of team that we are.”
After opening the season 1-2, the Giants have reeled off four straight wins, with two falling in the dominating category. Even the win over Dallas was impressive, considering Eli Manning threw interceptions deep in New York territory on the Giants’ first two possessions, handing Dallas a 10-0 lead.
Down 20-7 after Dez Bryant’s long punt return, the Giants reeled off 31 straight points to open a 38-20 lead and then held on after Manning’s third interception allowed the Cowboys to get within six points.
The concern for Coughlin is the turnovers. While Manning is among the league leaders with 14 touchdown passes, he also is among the tops with 11 interceptions, with at least seven coming on tips by his receivers.
New York also has lost 10 fumbles in seven games.
“There is no question, whatever type of team you are, giving the ball to the opponent in scoring position and adding to the number of drives he could have in the game anyway, you’re only enhancing the percentages in favor of them scoring more than it should happen,” Coughlin said. “There isn’t any question in my mind that this is a critical factor and we were able to overcome it last night. We were most fortunate.”
Coughlin refused to label his team the best in the NFC, saying all the 5-2 record does is tie it with Atlanta for the best mark with nine games to go.
However, he said if the Giants can stay healthy their best football has yet to be played because this is a team that knows how to get ready for games.
“If we maintain a good, solid attitude, a humbleness about ourselves and our recognition of the quality of work that we have to do to put ourselves in a position to win, then we can go forth and play our best football,” Coughlin said.
The Giants are entering the bye week relatively healthy. Backup linebacker Gerris Wilkinson broke his left hand against Dallas and will have to wear a cast when the Giants return to action at Seattle on Nov. 7.
Starting cornerback Terrell Thomas has a sore ankle, but it is not considered serious.
Coughlin had no update on defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who has been sidelined the start of the month with a disk problem.
“We won our last four games and feel like we are doing something really well,” said Manning, who led the offense to a season-high 497 total yards.
“We can’t afford five interceptions and turnovers and those things will lose games for us with some of those tight games when things aren’t going as smoothly,” he said. “Luckily we are not letting it get us down, in a game where we get so down that we have to change our game plan instead we stay with the same game plan and executed really well and got back into the game pretty quickly.”
That never would have happened last season, which is why Coughlin is confident heading into the bye.