This might not be quite as mind-blowing for many teams, but since the Giants were 4-12 and in total disarray last season, and since the team now has a new head coach with a new staff and new offensive and defensive guidelines, it is well worth noting.
It has taken Tom Coughlin five games to match Jim Fassel's four
victories in 16 games last season. Of equal note, and as a harbinger for
the rest of the season, the Giants seem to be improving each week.
They enter their bye week fresh off back-to-back road victories in
two usually difficult places to win, Green Bay and Dallas, and they go
into their bye on a four-game winning streak as well.
Through it all, Coughlin refuses to look more than one week into the
team's future. "For a project like this," he says, "we are in a
constant 'work in progress' status. We must view each game with 100 percent
focus. Each game for us, in a way, is like a season. We cannot afford to
So the biggest story in Giant-land these days is simply the fact
that they are winning, and while Coughlin won't condone it, others are
only too eager to look ahead. When they come out of their break, it will
be for a home game against Detroit. That will be followed by a road trip
to Minnesota, a home game against Chicago and a road game in Arizona.
It would appear, using a non-approved Coughlin crystal ball, that
three of those games are eminently winnable and that the way their
defense is playing, they could be expected to battle the Vikings on equal
How has this been wrought? Coughlin engineered a fully 50 percent
overhaul in personnel. He installed rules that were viewed as overly
harsh by the veterans who were there (and many who weren't), but he felt
strongly that the first thing this 4-12 team needed was discipline.
Being on time for meetings wasn't acceptable; he wanted them there
early. And there were the small things, such as sitting at meetings with
both feet on the ground; wearing long athletic socks instead of the
ankle-high version; forming a disciplined line when emerging onto the
field for a game; and placing a to-be-feared onus on fumbles, offensive
line penalties such as false starts and offsides.
Through it all, he has remained taciturn and harsh, rigid in his
beliefs and willing to make examples of players who tried to circumvent
them. Early in the summer, before training camp, six of the veterans
telephoned the NFL Players Association to complain about long hours and
Now no one will dare to complain. Winning, it seems, solves all the
--Coach Tom Coughlin owes much of his pro coaching career to Dallas
head coach Bill Parcells, the man whose team he beat last Sunday to
finish off the first five games before the team's bye. "This wasn't about
Bill Parcells and Tom Coughlin," he said, edgy as usual. "This was the
Giants and the Cowboys playing a football game. Bill is one of my best
friends, and this was just a game."
--The last time the Giants started a season with a 4-1 record was in
1993, the first year of Dan Reeves' reign as head coach. The last time
they won four in a row was in 2002, when they closed out the regular
season with that quartet of victories and slipped into the playoffs (and
then out in the wild-card round).
--RB Tiki Barber gained 122 yards in 23 carries and has 577 yards
through the first five games. Last season Barber fumbled nine times and
lost five of them. This year in 96 carries he has yet to fumble. "It's
great to get a chance to re-invent yourself," he said. "With a new
regime, you get a chance. A lot of us have been able to do that."
--TE Jeremy Shockey caught five passes for 44 yards and for the
second week in a row caught a "fade" pass in the end zone from QB Kurt Warner. It happened late in the third quarter and gave the Giants a 13-10
lead. "I beat Roy (star safety Roy Williams) and it got a little testy,"
he said. "I love playing against guys who battle every minute."
--LG Jason Whittle rejoined the Giants' offensive line this season
in a trade with Tampa Bay (he had signed on as an UFA). "I understand
that one of the problems going into the season was the line," he said of
the unit that has been retooled and tinkered with and suddenly is
playing well. "You just need to communicate with each other and try to hold
each block a second longer than you need to."
--Rookie SS Gibril Wilson, who stepped into the starting job after
Shaun Williams was lost for the season, has played exceedingly well
since, and the fifth-round draft pick via Tennessee was a heavy contributor
again vs. Dallas. "It's just football," he smiled. "It's faster and the
players are a lot better all over the rosters, but it's just football.
I am thrilled with this opportunity. I didn't expect to play this
--CB Will Allen, who shared the team lead with five tackles (with
four others), dropped two certain interceptions. One of them, on the
Cowboys' first play of the game, was guaranteed to be a TD return. "I never
dropped two," he said. "Sometimes I have dropped one, but I feel just
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. COWBOYS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Kurt Warner wasn't the sharp, poised
performer he had been through the first four games, but he was efficient
when he had to be and on the money often enough to keep the Cowboys'
defense from loading up against the run. He did complete 18 of 33 passes
for 217 yards, one TD and no interceptions. TE Jeremy Shockey is both
blocking well in pass protection and catching the ball after having some
early season drop problems. It was the fourth consecutive game in which
he had five receptions. His TD grab in the end zone that gave the
Giants the lead in the second half capped a fierce in-fight between him and
Cowboys SS Roy Williams, the best in the NFL at this point. The fleet
Tim Carter, the third wideout, was lost for the rest of the season when
he fractured his hip socket while diving for a ball. The O-line blocked
reasonably well for Warner with the exception of RT David Diehl, who
had enormous difficulty handling LDE Greg Ellis, who had two sacks, two
batted balls and six tackles. LT Luke Petitgout had a hold and a false
start, continuing his penalty-filled season.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- They are blocking just enough for RB Tiki
Barber, who is proving he doesn't need much of a hole and doesn't need it
to be there for very long. He gained 122 yards in 23 carries, added five
receptions for 76 yards and goes into the break with 577 yards rushing
in 96 carries and 19 receptions for 240 yards -- and four overall TDs,
one more than he had all last season. He had a 58-yard run and a
55-yard reception on a screen pass. Rookie RG Chris Snee has been outstanding
the last two games.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- For the first time all season, Dallas QB Vinny Testaverde didn't have a pass of 20 yards or longer. The Cowboys have
been living on the long gain since their running game has been generally
ineffective. Testaverde was held to 15 completions in 25 attempts for
126 yards, one TD and one interception. TE Jason Witten again emerged as
the Cowboys' leading receiver (five catches) but was forced into
fumbling and lost the ball at a crucial moment. The LBs were outstanding in
pass defense, notably WLB Barrett Green.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-plus -- Veteran Eddie George had his best game of
the season, gaining 75 yards in 15 carries with a 24-yard long gain.
Giants' DT Fred Robbins left early in the second quarter with a strained
shoulder, and reserve William Joseph was exploited the rest of the day on
running plays up the middle. Rookie SS Gibril Wilson played well while
CB Will Peterson rang up his second pick of the season. Wilson,
Peterson and CB Will Allen shared the tackling lead with five each.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Nothing spectacular, although K Steve Christie
exonerated himself with four successful FGs in as many attempts,
including two of 51 and 47 yards. The week before, vs. Green Bay, he had
missed all three tries, including shorties of 33 and 30 yards. P Jeff Feagles had an average day, three kicks for a 42.7 average (37.0 net) and one
inside the 20. Mark Jones returned two punts for four yards; Mike
McCloud took back three KOs for 68 yards. Kick coverage was solid.
COACHING: B -- Head coach Tom Coughlin, a disciple of Dallas head
man Bill Parcells, anticipated his mentor's moves, especially on a
fourth-and-one situation in the fourth quarter. It was a pass into the flat
to FB Darian Barnes, and he was stopped cold. "We had been hurt by the
pass in the flat to the fullback," Coughlin said, "and I know Bill was
going to see that on the game tapes. So we anticipated that he'd go that
way." Offensive coordinator John Hufnagel mixed his plays successfully
for the third week in a row and has come a long way toward making the
team far less predictable.
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