Fourth Quarter Magic Happening

Fourth quarter production is helping depleted Giants

Depleted, hurting, and supposedly undermanned in experience and savvy, the Giants have built a 3-1 mark much on the strength of their fourth-quarter performance.

And what a difference that is from last year.

The Giants have already scored 70 points in the fourth quarter of their four games, including 21 last week against the Cardinals. That puts them on pace to smash last year's production of 117 fourth-quarter points over the entire season.

In contrast, they've held opponents to 36 points after giving up 148 last season.

Somehow, Tom Coughlin's squad has gained a perserverance that barely existed at the end of last year. And that's in the face of missing people like Osi Umenyiora, who just came back against Arizona to get two sacks, and Justin Tuck, who sat out with a burner.

Having a defensive fill-in like Dave Tollefson contributed two sacks helps. And a lot of it comes from the way the offense is operating. The Eli Manning-to-Hakeem Nicks connection is a given. What wasn't is the quarterback's rapidly-growing rapport with third receiver Victor Cruz.

In the past two games alone, Cruz has contributed a game-clinching touchdown against Philly (whose "dream team" has turned into somewhat of a nightmare) and a huge catch in Arizona that set up Nicks' 29-yard game-winning touchdown reception.

The whole package has energized the sideline.

"It is just a matter of want to," LB Michael Boley said. "I think we have a different mentality to finishing games now. I think at times last year, we got kind of lackadaisical at times. We got away from the things we did earlier in the game as far as keeping the pressure on.

"This year it is a different mentality as a team. Our whole mentality is to keep the pressure on and don't let up even during the times late in the game when we are behind like yesterday. It was kind of like don't lose hope because there is always time."

It's something Coughlin has worked on and talked about.

"We've done a lot on that," Coughlin said. "I'm not going to go into all of the different ways in which we've done it, but it's been a matter of our players being interested in various ways that we've sold that message. We've done it with the use of video. We've done it with the verbal lectures. We've done it any way you can think of doing it and hopefully it will stick with us."

That will be the big question. As this team gets healthier -- Tuck is expected back this week, and Mario Manningham should be more of a factor after his invisibility of last week -- the issue may become whether this team can hold a lead.

The Giants have proved they have comeback potential. Now they have to show a killer instinct if they jump out ahead of Seattle on Sunday, because putting a team away is just as important as staging fourth-quarter comebacks in this league.

Do that, and the Giants will ensure themselves of success, and maybe Coughlin of a Coach of the Year honor.

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