The Giants had a chance to post early-season advances over their NFC East competition, especially the preseason division favorite Philadelphia.
Then they found a way to snatch defeat from the last-second jaws of victory against Dallas in a nationally televised Monday night game, and with a last-second victory the following week (both games went into overtime) against Washington, they went into their early bye weekend at 2-1.
Meanwhile, during that weekend of idleness, all three division opponents won their games -- Dallas beat he New York Jets to become 2-1; Philadelphia won its first game, beating Buffalo, and is within easy hailing distance at 1-2; Washington held on against a frantic New England comeback to win and take first place with a 3-1 mark.
Now the Giants are back in business, as they will be for the remaining weeks of the regular season and any playoff appearances they earn.
"I don't think I can agree with those who said our bye week came too early," said coach Jim Fassel. "We have been working since March, with our offseason training and conditioning program. Then we had two minicamps, went to training camp near the end of July, stayed there six weeks and had four preseason games and then played our first three regular season games.
"It was time for a rest and a little restructuring."
One of those projects was handed directly to defensive coordinator Johnnie Lynn, who was told by Fassel that he wanted "a plan" to show how the 32nd-ranked defense (yes, that's last) in the league was going to get well again. The Giants allowed 1,214 total net yards in their first three games -- the good news is that they still managed to win two of three.
Now they must get through a difficult four-game schedule -- home against Miami, at New England, home against Philadelphia, at Minnesota.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--WR Ron Dixon, the forgotten man on the roster, remains on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list and has three weeks of servitude remaining. When the time comes to make a decision on him (he had minor knee surgery that never totally recuperated), chances are he will be released. Dixon has had a history of missing meetings and treatments and is not a superstar of such magnitude that this can be tolerated.
--TE Visanthe Shiancoe, the third-round draft pick from Morgan (Md.) State, appears to be slowly absorbing the teachings of assistant coach Mike Pope, but is still raw and probably won't become any sort of a factor until next year. To this point, he seems to be a costly experiment, since the third round could have given the Giants quarterback Chris Simms, who went later to Tampa Bay and has shown signs of emerging stardom.
--Quietly, LG Rich Seubert, just in his second year as a starter, has become an anchor on the left side, especially when LT Luke Petitgout was forced to miss almost two games with severe back spasms. The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Seubert, from Western Illinois, was signed as an undrafted free agent rookie in 2001.
--DT Keith Hamilton appears to have succeeded in postponing his court appearance on a charge of cocaine and marijuana possession May 22 once again. He was due to appear in a Morris County (N.J.) court Sept. 29. The 32-year-old Hamilton is probably going to retire at the end of this season, time enough to appear in court.
--RB Tiki Barber has carried 67 times this season (for 313 yards), and the carries represent all but one recorded by a RB. Brian Mitchell, the return specialist, has one carry for one yard and one TD. What of Ron Dayne and Dorsey Levens? They have remained on the Game Inactive lists -- Dayne for all three games, Levens for two of the three (and he did not play in the one game in which he was active).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Yes, I have been thinking that Tiki Barber needs to be spotted during games from now on. He can't carry every time. And yes, I plan to use Delvin Joyce as his backup. He earned that in training camp and in the preseason." -- Giants coach Jim Fassel.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD AFTER 3 GAMES
PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- QB Kerry Collins has played increasingly better in the three games thus far, and has completed 59 of 116 attempts for 743 yards, six TDs and only two interceptions. He has a passer rating of 81.2, which included a 108.5 rating vs. Washington in Game Three. Predictably, his favorite receivers are the starters -- wideouts Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer and tight end Jeremy Shockey. That trio has caught a total of 40 passes for 589 yards and all six of Collins' TD passes. Hilliard is the receptions leader with 17; Toomer has 13 but for 305 yards. Only one other receiver, Tim Carter, has any catches at all -- and his total is four for 33 yards. The rest of the completions have been to RBs Tiki Barber, Brian Mitchell and Delvin Joyce and FB Jimmy Finn. The rebuilt O-line has held up reasonably well. Collins has been sacked only five times and generally has had ample time to pick apart a defense. The newest O-linemen, rookie RG David Diehl, converted center Chris Bober and rookie center Wayne Lucier, should improve as the season lengthens.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- When Tiki Barber is healthy, the Giants' running game is, too. But there is the danger that the oft-injured Barber might be forced to miss a game or two -- or more - at some point and then the production is almost certain to plummet. Behind Barber, who has 313 yards in 67 carries (a 4.7 average) there is second-year player Joyce, 5-7 and 195; return specialist Mitchell (35 years old) and the Game Inactive Twins, Ron Dayne and Dorsey Levens. The O-line has blocked better for the run than for the pass, and it has become obvious that Barber likes running behind the rookie Diehl. At this point of the season, that means he is getting his backup block from the other rookie, center Lucier.
PASS DEFENSE: D -- There is trouble where none was expected, since the two third-year veteran corners, Will Peterson and Will Allen, have been victimized more than they were in their first two seasons. The Giants have allowed 943 total net yards passing, which is more than 300 yards per game. Free safety Omar Stoutmire has been burned on the crossing patterns, the deep diagonals that most teams now seem to find profitable against the Giants. So, too, has veteran MLB Mike Barrow, who leads the team in tackles but who has been burned several times on medium-range passes. Strong safety Shaun Williams still hits hard but sometimes appears lost during a play. The Giants have recorded 13 sacks, which had tied them for the NFL lead with San Francisco until they sat out their bye weekend, but six of them came in the first game against a groggy, confused Kurt Warner of St. Louis (who turned out to have a concussion). The defensive coordinator, Johnnie Lynn, insists on the three-man pass rush late in the game, but the Giants don't have three rushers who can make any penetration against five or six blockers.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- Teams haven't had as much success against the Giants' defense by running the ball, which may be indicative of nothing -- they are too busy and too successful throwing it. Nevertheless, of the Giants' astonishing 1,214 total net yards allowed, only 271 have come against the rush -- or 90 per game. The middle of the front four, Keith Hamilton and Cornelius Griffin, have been strong vs. the run. So, too, have SLB Brandon Short and Barrow. On occasion, Lynn substitutes first-round draft pick William Joseph and second-year player Lance Legree, both tackles, to keep his starters fresh. Both Joseph and Legree have had moments of actual contribution. The ends, Michael Strahan and Kenny Holmes, have been effective, more so against the run by closing down lanes than against the pass.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- The signing of punter Jeff Feagles might prove to be the best thing the Giants did in the offseason. The 16-year veteran has averaged 43.8 yards per punt (gross) and has a 35.5 net average with seven dropped inside the 20-yard line. He is also a sure holder for placements, and has saved at least two low snaps that were converted into FGs by kicker Matt Bryant, including the 29-yard game winner vs. Washington in OT. Another veteran, Mitchell, appears to have lost a little from his sensational return abilities, but still represents security and experience in addition to his 21.7-yard kickoff return average for 15 returns. Bryant has made five of six FGs, missing only a 37-yarder vs. Washington.
COACHING: C -- Coach Jim Fassel is also the offensive coordinator, and in that role he deserves a higher grade, perhaps a B. But as head coach he is also in charge of the defensive coordinator, Johnnie Lynn, whose schemes and formations seem to be wrong more often than right. Judged on his own, Lynn might earn a D. His insistence on the prevent defense in the late stages of the games has proven fatal once and nearly fatal another time. Special teams coach Bruce Read may have been a contributing factor in the 35-32 OT loss to Dallas, when he added "kick it left" to the instructions from Fassel, which were to tell Bryant to kick a "deep squib, middle."