Giants consider Cowboys game a ‘must-win’

Updated: November 20, 2013, 6:19 PM ET

Kieran Darcy |

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin called his team’s upcoming game against the Dallas Cowboys “an opportunity” Wednesday. Some of his best defensive players took it to another level.

“Personally, I feel like this game is going to determine the outcome of the season,” said safety Antrel Rolle. “We can’t walk away with a loss.”

“Instead of us digging ourselves out of a hole, if we lose this football game, it’s more like them putting dirt on us,” said defensive end Justin Tuck. “Mathematically no, [losing] doesn’t mean we’re out of it. But we’re kinda looking at it as a must-win.”

Pierre-Paul It’s like a Super Bowl to us. We need it badly, and we gotta get it.

— Jason Pierre-Paul on Cowboys game

“It’s like a Super Bowl to us,” said fellow defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. “We need it badly, and we gotta get it.”

After an 0-6 start, the Giants have won four in a row to put themselves back in the NFC East race. The first-place Philadelphia Eagles are just a game and a half in front at 6-5. The Cowboys are 5-5.

The Cowboys are also the team that handed the Giants their first of six consecutive losses, on the first Sunday of the season. The Giants committed six turnovers in that game, yet still had a chance to win it in the fourth quarter, before ultimately losing 36-31.

Pierre-Paul played in that game, but was coming off back surgery three months earlier and had missed almost the entire preseason.

“It wasn’t a pretty good game for me at all,” Pierre-Paul said. “I was sick watching it. From watching the film, I’m still sick of watching, because I’m basically like loafing all around the field.”

Pierre-Paul did have a sack in that game, but it was his only tackle. He didn’t record another sack until two weeks ago against the Oakland Raiders, but made an even bigger play last week — an interception and touchdown return against the Green Bay Packers — and appears to be rounding into form.

“That ain’t me,” Pierre-Paul said, referring to his Week 1 performance. “This week, whoever’s lined up in front of me is gonna get it.”

The entire Giants defense appears to be rounding into form. During this four-game winning streak, they’ve given up just two touchdowns, and haven’t allowed a single touchdown pass. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the team’s longest streak of games without allowing a TD pass since 1996. No NFL team has had a streak that long since the Buffalo Bills in 2009.

Against the run, the Giants have risen to seventh in the league in yards allowed per game (98.0), and fourth in yards allowed per carry (3.6). They’ve had only one running back rush for 100 yards against them this season (D’Angelo Williams of the Carolina Panthers).

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo completed 36 of 49 passes for 263 yards against the Giants in Week 1, with two touchdowns and one interception. On the season he has thrown 21 TD passes and just six picks.

But the Giants have added two key pieces to their defense since — middle linebacker Jon Beason (via trade) and safety Will Hill (off a four-game suspension).

“Romo’s a good quarterback. We can’t take anything from Romo, we all know what he’s capable of,” Rolle said. “But at the same time, we’re a good defense. So Sunday, may the best man win.”

Pierre-Paul did not practice Wednesday because of a sore shoulder, but said he expects to practice Thursday. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was a surprise non-participant in practice Wednesday with a groin injury. He did not speak with reporters after practice.

Four other Giants did not participate — cornerbacks Trumaine McBride (hip) and Terrell Thomas (knee), running back Brandon Jacobs (knee) and fullback John Conner (hip).

Cornerback Corey Webster (groin/ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis.

Kieran Darcy is an staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.

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