Seahawks face foe playing for pride

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SEATTLE — The ultimate dream for an NFL team, playing and winning a Super Bowl in its home stadium, officially ended for the New York Giants over the weekend.

Realistically, an 0-6 start had already taken the suspense out of their eventual playoff elimination, which came after Sunday’s road loss in San Diego, and Super Bowl story lines have long since shifted to this week’s opponent, the NFC-leading Seattle Seahawks.

But nestled in the Giants’ disappointment amid a lost year is a dangerous team that has won five of its last seven games fueled by a sense of “great pride,” according to coach Tom Coughlin.

“We represent a great franchise, a historic franchise, a franchise that was there at the beginning of the National Football League, and we certainly not very happy with the circumstance,” Coughlin said on a conference call Wednesday. “We don’t duck reality here. We face it head on. We haven’t done the things necessary for us to win, at least at the level that we’ve enjoyed in the past.”

The past still resonates as the Giants are the only team to have won two Super Bowls in the past six years. The present does more so, as just two teams have been better since Week 7: Carolina (7-1) and Seattle (6-1).

“They’re playing good ball right now,” said Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, “and we definitely have to recognize that.”

Added receiver Golden Tate: “I’m sure they’d love to ruin our season.”

New York’s fortunes this year look to be closely attributed to the run of quarterback Eli Manning, whose 20 interceptions are tied for most in the league. Fifteen of those interceptions were thrown in the six-straight losses to start the season. Five have come in the recent 5-2 streak, which has also been boosted by an improved running game.

The margin between winning and losing doesn’t take much, said Manning, who has experienced extreme highs and lows in his 10-year career.

“A few injuries here and there, or just not catching some breaks, and things can definitely turn on you quickly in this league,” he added. “You have to be playing at a high level and find ways to win those close games that you’re in. That can be the difference—making plays at crucial times in games.

“Some years you find a way to make all the right plays at the right time, and then some years it kind of works against you.”

Manning, a two-time Super Bowl MVP, has fared nicely against the Seahawks, historically, having thrown for multiple touchdowns in all five games, averaging a quarterback rating of 103.1. Seattle, though, comes in best in the NFL in total defense and pass defense.

Call it an opportunity to collect a championship-caliber win in a season that fallen woefully short of expectation.

“Nobody did it but us,” said Coughlin. “We’re the only ones responsible, but we do have the wherewithal to play three solid games here at the end of the year, and perhaps gain some of the respect back that we’ve had in other years.”

“If you really do believe that the next game is the most important game, then you have to follow through.”

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