Reeves tries to convince Giants it's a giant game

December 26, 1993|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- Dan Reeves has tried to convince his players that this week's game is World War III.

The New York Giants play the Phoenix Cardinals today in a game that, in effect, means little in terms of the Giants' attempt to get home-field advantage for the playoffs. That would seem to be big trouble for the coach in terms of motivation. But if Reeves needed any help focusing the team on Phoenix, all he had to do was turn on last year's game.

When the two teams met in 1992 in Week 14, it was all Cardinals, 19-0. The loss just about sealed former coach Ray Handley's fate.

How times change.

"That Phoenix game was probably the lowest point of our season," said quarterback Kent Graham, who was intercepted twice in that game. "Nothing went right. Now we go there on a roll."

The Giants have won six straight and at 11-3 have the best record in the NFL. All week, Reeves has tried to get his team to concentrate on a very tough Cardinals team while not daydreaming about next week. Reeves wants visions of the Dallas Cowboys kept to a minimum.

"We're going into the game trying to win the game. Period," said Reeves. "I don't want guys overlooking the Cardinals because they're a tough, tough bunch. We shouldn't be thinking about any playoff scenarios or anything like that. Just try to win the game."

Those scenarios are basically these:

If both the Giants and Cowboys win today (Dallas is at home against the Washington Redskins), the winner of the final game next week would capture both the NFC East and the home-field advantage through the playoffs.

Even if the Giants lose to Phoenix and the Cowboys beat Washington, the Giants would still win the division and home-field advantage if they beat Dallas on Jan. 2. If the Cowboys win the finale, they would win the division and home field.

As much as Reeves tried to keep his team from thinking about all of the different possibilities and the Dallas game itself, Giants players were privately asking reporters about all of the playoff possibilities. Will it all be a distraction for them?

"Way, way in the back of guy's minds maybe is Dallas," said linebacker Carlton Bailey, "but everyone knows Phoenix thinks they should have beat us in the first game and it's going to be a tough matchup. The Cardinals want revenge."

The first game was won by Brad Daluiso's late, 54-yard field goal. Afterward, running back David Meggett got into it with some of the Cardinals players, and Phoenix quarterback Steve Beuerlein later blasted him to reporters.

Meggett, saying that everyone was talking trash during and after the game, was angry that Beuerlein singled him out.

The Cardinals, coming off a victory in Seattle last week, are not a bad team. Just about everyone in the league thinks Coach Joe Bugel deserves to keep his job, even if the team is 5-9. Bugel's players play hard for him.

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