While his team has secured home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the team will play smart in its final regular season game on Sunday.AP FILE PHOTO
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — While Tom Coughlin plans to be smart with his injured players in the New York Giants’ regular-season finale against the Minnesota Vikings, the Super Bowl champions are not going to change their basic goal — just win.
If there is any question about that, recall the Giants’ final regular-season game last season against the then-unbeaten New England Patriots.
New York had clinched a playoff berth the week before and had nothing to gain against the Patriots.
Coughlin didn’t agree and went all out to beat Tom Brady and company, eventually dropping a 38-35 decision. The loss, however, showed the Giants they would play with the best in the NFL and they rode that momentum to an NFL title.
Expect the same this week, even though many believe that the risks of injury outweighed anything that might be gained going all out.
“I disagree with the idea that you have nothing to gain,” Coughlin said in a conference call on Monday, less than 12 hours after the Giants wrapped up the conference’s top seed with a thrilling 34-28 overtime victory over the Carolina Panthers at Giants Stadium.
“There is a lot to be gained,” Coughlin said. “If you believe as we do that you have to be playing your best football at this time of year, we certainly do have some things to build on, in particular when you are not going to be playing for a couple of weeks. I am taking that all into consideration.”
Coughlin plans to talk with his coordinators and medical people before deciding what players — if any — will sit.
Cornerback Aaron Ross probably heads the list. He was hospitalized overnight after sustaining a concussion and experiencing blurriness on Sunday night.
Coughlin also has several players who have been battling injuries for weeks.
Halfback Brandon Jacobs, who returned to the lineup on Sunday after missing the previous game, has been bothered by an injured left knee since early in the season. Defensive end Justin Tuck has had a lower leg injury for two weeks and defensive tackle Fred Robbins has had a shoulder problem for about a month.
Receiver Domenik Hixon, who replaced the suspended Plaxico Burress, has had foot and ankle problems for more than two weeks.
Coughlin said none of his injured players appeared to aggravate their problems on Sunday.
After the game, several starters talked as if they expected to get a rest this weekend.
“I don’t see how there can be any week off,” Coughlin said. “The week off comes after the last game.”
Coughlin said he plans to talk to his leadership council about the rest issue this week.
“Our basic philosophy is that we want to win every game and that’s where our mentality should be,” Coughlin said. “We will be smart about any advice we get from our medical people.”
Coughlin said the win over Carolina reminded him of last year’s victory over Buffalo in the next to last game last season. New York needed to win that game to qualify for the playoffs, but the prospects appeared to be slim after the team played poorly the week before in a loss to Washington.
Coughlin said he was not overly concerned about his team this past weekend despite consecutive losses to Philadelphia and Dallas in the previous two weeks. He said the Giants had no pressure to win those games.
The pressure was back against Carolina.
“It was what was coming up that was the most important and I had every confidence that our players would rally around that fact,” Coughlin said.