EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - In some ways, Tom Coughlin has come full cycle with the Giants.
Coughlin spoke of restoring Giants pride when he took over an underachieving team in 2004. His message Wednesday heading into what might be the final week of a suddenly very disappointing season is again about restoring that pride.
It's not what he or anyone expected after the defending champions started the season 6-2. But this team has no semblance of being either a champion or a contender, especially after losing the last two games to Atlanta and Baltimore by a combined 67-14.
"Whatever it is, the football has not been what we expected it to be," Coughlin said. "I'm calling it execution; perhaps I had a bad choice of words. That's what I talked to our team about this morning, was pride, honor, dignity. Play the game the way we're capable of playing the game. Finish this season with a game we can all be proud of."
The Giants (8-7) seemingly can't play any worse than the last two weeks. The offense has produced little, and the defense has stopped no one as New York has lost control of its playoff destiny.
New York needs to win, have Minnesota and Chicago lose, and have Robert Griffin III and Washington either beat or tie Dallas to make the playoffs.
Defensive captain Justin Tuck, who sat out the Ravens game with a shoulder injury, plans on returning this weekend. He said it was hard watching the team play like garbage.
The defensive end insisted, however, that the team didn't quit.
"Watching the film, you see guys hustling, but something is off," Tuck said.
Offensive tackle Will Beatty said the mistakes can be corrected with just a little more effort.
"Coach is emphasizing that this is the last game. If this is your last game, go out with a bang," Beatty said. "Don't hold your head down. Make sure you're doing everything you can and build on this game."
The problem for the Giants is they have prepared well the last two weeks, and it has not carried over to Sunday. The result: five losses in their last seven games. The 21/2-game lead they had in the NFC East disappeared, and the division will be won by either Washington (9-6) or Dallas (8-7). The best the Giants can do is get a wild card.
"Every Wednesday you come in and put the last game behind you, and it can't be any different," guard Chris Snee said. "We haven't played well. It's hard to explain. It's hard to understand, but that's what's happened."
The Giants can't afford not to show up. The Eagles probably are going to be trying a little harder to win one for coach Andy Reid, whose job clearly is in jeopardy after winning only four games.
A third straight loss would leave the Giants out of the playoffs for the third time in four years.
Four separate things have to happen for the defending Super Bowl champion Giants to make the playoffs:
The Giants have to beat the Eagles.
The Cowboys have to lose or tie vs. the Redskins.
The Bears have to lose vs. the Lions.
The Vikings have to lose vs. the Packers.