EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Perry Fewell typically starts brainstorming about the next opponent not long after his players are done showering in the locker room on Sundays.
This week, however, the defensive coordinator needed more than 24 hours to recover from the New York Giants' devastating 38-31 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
After watching his defense surrender a 31-10 lead with eight minutes left in a game that would all but decide the NFC East, the Eagles game lingered with Fewell until "late Monday, maybe Tuesday morning."
This loss hurt more than any Fewell has ever experienced.
"I've never had that happen, so obviously that's tough," Fewell said. "George Allen said that every time you lose a little piece of you dies and so I think that's very true in that sense.
"But I'm still breathing, I'm still here," Fewell added.
Despite all that went wrong in a catastrophic eight minutes against Michael Vick and the Eagles, the Giants' playoff hopes are still alive. If the Giants (9-5) win in Green Bay on Sunday, they'll clinch a playoff berth. If they lose to the Packers (8-6), they will drop a critical head-to-head tiebreaker with Green Bay for a Wild Card spot and will need to beat the Redskins in the season finale and require help the following week to get in.
Eli Manning, who called for a players-only meeting and delivered a solo speech to the team for the first time on Monday, will have to find a way to win again on the hallowed ground at Lambeau Field in what will basically be a playoff game. Manning and the Giants know how to win in Green Bay with everything at stake. It was only about three years ago when Manning beat Brett Favre in the NFC Championship game.
And like on that frozen day, Manning will need his defense to make big plays. He basically needs the defense that bottled up Vick for three-and-a-half quarters and not the one that allowed the Eagles quarterback to run wild in the final minutes.
This week won't get much easier as Fewell has to slow Aaron Rodgers. The Packers quarterback is returning from a one-game absence due to his second concussion this season -- but when healthy, Rodgers can make a defense look silly with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and James Jones at his disposal.
Not only does Rodgers have a deadly accurate arm but he can run, scoring four touchdowns with his feet this season.
The Giants are going to have to bring pressure against an offensive line that has allowed 34 sacks this season so far. The defense will have to be disciplined for 60 minutes and finish against a playoff contender. In just over six minutes last Sunday, the Eagles scored 21 points and Vick rushed for 94 of his 130 yards on the ground.
It was an epic defensive collapse. Fewell said he didn't change much of his game plan after the Giants went up 31-10 with 8:17 remaining. It wasn't like he suddenly went into a prevent defense. He still brought blitzes.
Unfortunately for the Giants, Vick raised his game like superstars do, and the defense compounded that by making some critical mistakes.
"I didn't really change," Fewell said of what happened to a defense that went from playing some of its best football to its worst in a matter of minutes. "I wanted us to keep playing fast, I wanted us to keep playing physical, I wanted us to stay aggressive, I wanted our players not to feel like the game was over or to start letting up. I wanted us to put them to bed, so I didn't really change that much."
Prior to Sunday, Fewell's most painful loss was to the Dallas Cowboys on a Monday night game in 2007. The then-Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator watched his defense pick Tony Romo off five times and score two touchdowns, only to drop a stunning 25-24 loss after Dallas scored nine points in the final 20 seconds.
No one knows for sure how the Giants will respond in Green Bay. But they've displayed positive signs this week starting with what Fewell described as an "excellent" practice on Wednesday.
"As hard as it is to believe, I think guys have actually managed to move on," defensive tackle Barry Cofield said after Wednesday's practice. "We realize that if we win we are in. We got a big game and a big opponent and a lot riding on it so that makes it easier to move on."
Tom Coughlin's teams have shown resiliency and a knack for thriving when things appear bleak. After a 1-2 start -- in which the team's leaders and Coughlin's control were questioned -- the Giants responded with a five-game winning streak that saw them batter Chicago and shut down Houston's offense. Then after losing two games to Dallas and Philadelphia, the Giants won three straight, including one against Minnesota after having the game moved to Detroit due to a snowstorm that damaged the Metrodome roof.
Now the Giants defense has to prove that it hasn't collapsed like the Metrodome after one of the most painful losses in franchise history. Their backs are against the wall again. And that might be a good thing for the Giants.
"It's either fight or flight," said safety Antrel Rolle, who also guaranteed the Giants will make the playoffs earlier this week. "And we aren't running, we are here and we're here to stay for the long haul and we're going to give it everything we got. If everything we got is not good enough, then so be it. I definitely believe it is."