By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - They have not won a game in a month, but the New York Giants hope their latest loss can fuel a last, desperate push to reach the playoffs.
Coming off a humiliating 49-24 walloping by the New Orleans Saints, the Giants battled the unbeaten Green Bay Packers (12-0) to the last gasp Sunday, falling 38-35 on a field goal kicked with no time left on the clock.
That dropped the Giants to 6-6 for the season with four games left, but the close fight showed the New Yorkers they could at least match it with the best of the NFL.
The Giants must reverse their fortunes starting Sunday night in Dallas against the Cowboys (7-5), who lead them in the NFC East by one game, or forget about the postseason.
No problem, according to one Giants defensive back Antrel Rolle.
"Without a doubt, we will be in that postseason," he told WFAN radio.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning would not go so far as to guarantee a playoff berth, but both hoped the intensity the club showed would carry over.
"We have four games to go and three of them in our division," Coughlin said.
"We have to regroup and I think this brings us together even tighter than we have ever been before as a team.
"It can be a positive if you play the way that we played, and if you give the effort that we gave and if you play with the intensity that we played with. Those are the kind of emotional things that bind you together."
This week's game is the first of two against the Cowboys. They also meet in the last game of the season on New Year's Day. In between, the Giants play Washington and the New York Jets. A sweep of the final four games would guarantee the NFC East title for the Giants.
Manning said there was a lot the players could take away from their hard-fought loss.
"They're playing the best football and we had them tied up with 58 seconds (left)," said Manning, who threw three touchdown passes. "I think we have to try to take something from this game, take some momentum into these next games."
The Giants have used a defeat against an unbeaten team as a springboard before.
In the final game of the 2007 season, New York had already clinched a wildcard berth with no chance to improve their playoff status against the 15-0 New England Patriots.
Yet rather than rest some banged-up regulars, the Giants dedicated themselves to trying to stop the Pats from going undefeated, and fought fiercely before falling by the same 38-35 score they lost to the Packers.
Giving the Patriots such a fight seemed to boost the New Yorkers' confidence.
New York went on to playoff road wins over Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay to reach the Super Bowl against the Patriots. The Giants beat them 17-14 to deprive New England of a perfect season and claim the NFL title for themselves.
"That game we lost, but I think everybody felt good about the way we played and had a little momentum going into the playoffs," Manning said in recalling the 2007 title season.
"Obviously it's going to be a similar feel with these next four games. They're all going to be playoff-style games where we need to win."
Coughlin hoped for the same bounce-back effect.
"We have four games to go and every one of these games is critical to our future," he said. "We will battle. We will battle. We have to find a way to win."
Manning said the urgency did not add pressure.
"That's playoff atmosphere. You want to play in must-win games," explained Manning. "We know if we win, then we're in the playoffs. That's exciting. It starts this week."
(Editing by Julian Linden)