To the victor goes all the spoils. To the loser comes a disappointing offseason. It's the way the NFL playoffs operate, one game either to advance or go home. In the Super Bowl, the winner is a champion, the loser close but no cigar.
The New York Giants know what it's like to face elimination games. They've already won three in the postseason, and the end of the regular season arrived with the same sort of win-or-it's-over pressure.
During a press conference on Friday, coach Tom Coughlin discussed how his team has used the rising stakes to forge into a cohesive, confident unit.
"As you know, the Washington game, back in the regular season, we did not play well. Washington came in and played very well. Following that game, I simply walked into our team and said, ‘Look, we have two games to go. We have to win two games. If we do that we get into the playoffs and we can be the champions of the NFC East.' From there, it has been one elimination game after another. The players have been responding very, very well. They come together as a group."
Of course, Coughlin admits the Giants' growth from a .500 team in serious danger of missing the playoffs into a crew one win away from being crowned Super Bowl champions has not been all about mentality.
"There's been no question that our confidence building is boosted by the players on defense," Coughlin said. "We all of a sudden were able to get our entire defensive team together. We've made some progress along those lines that's given us the boost. We've played in harmony with all three units in those five games. Of course, special teams came through for us out in San Francisco against a very, very good San Francisco team. We were able to turn the ball over at the end of the game and win it. It's been that way. We've had our backs to the wall. The players have performed very well under that circumstance. Our leader, our quarterback, has been a very cool customer and has done very well late in the fourth quarter, (in) many games this year, and put us in a position where we're going to win."