- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - After seeing the New York Giants’ defense hold the Dallas Cowboys to season lows of seven points and 260 total yards, Steve Spagnuolo isn’t satisfied.

The defensive coordinator still feels the pain of seeing his defense bust a coverage early and allowing Dak Prescott to throw a 31-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Terrance Williams. It was one of those explosive plays he says feels like a knife in the back.

The positive for the Giants (9-4) was it was the only bad play in what might have been their best defensive performance all season.

“Our goal now is to make sure that that game defensively is not our best game this year, so that has kind of been our focus, ‘Let’s not let that be the best game,’” Spagnuolo said Thursday as the Giants prepared for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions (9-4) at MetLife Stadium. “And that is just all about getting better, so each day we try to get better.”

The Lions will present a much different challenge than the Cowboys. Detroit is not as balanced as Dallas.

Its offense is led by quarterback Matthew Stafford and a talented group of receivers. The running game is almost nonexistent. Screen plays and runs after catches seem to substitute for a ground attack.

“They’re still going to run the ball at a certain point in the game,” defensive end Olivier Vernon said. “We just have to know when they’re going to do that. It’s just studying and making sure you know your opponent.”

Stafford is somewhat of a question mark this week. He injured the middle finger on his throwing hand in the win over the Bears last weekend and he has practiced with a glove on his finger.

Spagnuolo has no doubt that he will play. His players don’t expect any dip in performance although they will be watching to see if Stafford’s passes lack the same velocity.

“You have to watch how his ball comes out,” said safety Landon Collins, who leads the Giants with five interceptions. “On the back I will.”

Rookie cornerback Eli Apple has been impressed by Stafford’s fortitude.

“He is one of the best,” Apple said. “He has a big arm, he is gutsy and he can scramble as well.”

The Lions winning touchdown against the Bears last weekend came on a Stafford run while playing with the injured finger. When he is throwing the ball, Stafford has spread it around.

Golden Tate leads the team with 71 catches for 820 yards, while fellow wide receiver Marvin Jones has 46 catches for 797 yards. Veteran Anquan Boldin has 55 catches for 481 and a team-high seven touchdowns. Add in tight end Eric Ebron (43 for 521) and halfback Theo Riddick (53 for 371 and five touchdowns) and Stafford has a lot of options.

The good news for the Giants is their secondary has been playing lights-out with Janoris Jenkins, Apple, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Collins having outstanding seasons.

“You can never be satisfied, you can never be content, and every week gets bigger,” defensive captain/linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. “We may not play a one-loss team this week, but it’s a division leader and it means a lot when it comes to the playoffs. Every game is going to get bigger, whether the record of the team that we play against is one loss, two losses, three losses, whatever it is. The games are going to get bigger and the biggest game we have to date is this one. “

NOTES: The Giants’ injury report did not change. LB Keenan Robinson missed his second straight day of practice with a shoulder injury. G Justin Pugh (knee) was again limited coming off an injury that has caused him to miss five straight games.

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For more NFL coverage: https://www.pro32.ap.org and https://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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