First Down

So the Giants defied all the odds, naysayers and so-called experts and reached the bye week with a 4-1 mark. Everyone has his or her reasons and justifications for New York's meteoric rise to the upper echelon of the NFC. The defense, the turnovers, the special teams, etc. But there is one hidden, behind-the-scenes reason why the Giants vaulted from doormats to serious playoff contenders in a matter of five weeks. <BR><BR>

That reason is that most of these guys have awful large chips on their shoulder and have plenty to prove – to themselves, the fans, and in most cases, most definitely the teams that sent them packing.

You can go down the very long list – and we will.

Kurt Warner was treated so poorly and embarrassed so badly by the Rams that even Giants fans that spent years hating the guy had to feel sorry for him. Warner is such a deeply religious man, and one of the nicest, most genuine people you'll ever meet. As a result, there's not a snowball's chance in you-know-where that he's going to be throwing around words like revenge, vindication and shove it. But don't think Warner doesn't love every minute of him proving that the Rams read the situation dead wrong in determining it was time to let him go. Of course, money was a factor, as was having a young QB hot on his tail (sound familiar?). However, Warner, buoyed by everyone saying he couldn't, was too washed up and was only keeping the seat warm for Eli Manning, has come out and played his heart out, his tail off, and showed everyone that he still has it. Of course, we can't define exactly what ‘it' is, but we can tell you with certainty that Warner still possesses it.

How about Tiki Barber? One of the first people Tom Coughlin went to upon arriving on the scene was Ron Dayne. Coughlin knew he needed and wanted Dayne to be the guy getting the bulk of the carries, the guy who could and would wear down defenses and get those tough yards. Sure sounds a lot like 2000, when Jim Fassel opted for Dayne over current superstar Shaun Alexander in the draft because Dayne was more "NFL ready" to jump right into action. What Fassel so blatantly overlooked and what Coughlin also did to a point was Tiki Barber's drive and determination. Not to his mention his enormous amount of talent and smarts for the game. Here's someone who learned as a youngster that he wasn't going to be able to play contact sports. And all you're going to put in his way to stop him is Ron Dayne? Twice, no less. Yeah, my money's on the Yanks finishing the sweep in Fenway before I'm going against Barber. Again, like Warner, he's too good, professional and focused to beat his chest. But despite what everyone says, Barber knew Coughlin was looking at him very closely, and quite possibly expecting him to fail. The word ‘failure' is not in Tiki Barber's vocabulary.

How about some of New York's key defensive players?

Think Carlos Emmons was pleased that the Birds let him walk following a season when his teammates named him the club's MVP? Only the busted leg that had the skeptics crowing has kept him from regaining his rightful place atop the league's list of top strong side linebackers. Emmons has been a little more forthcoming with his burning desire to prove the Eagles wrong.

His linebacker mates also have that chip floating around. Despite impressive numbers and proving to be a good locker room presence, the Lions allowed Barrett Green to walk away. He did so happily and is now perhaps the most important player on New York's defense not named Michael Strahan. Green's speed, nose for the ball and sure tackling ability are things of beauty. His play has Giants fans reminiscing about Jessie Armstead while also thanking their lucky stars that Dhani Jones is elsewhere in the NFC East.

Remember all the talk about New York's one blatant missing position being MLB? Kevin Lewis sure does. The Giants were going to sign this one, they were going to trade for that one. They were going to wait for Jeremiah Trotter to heal. Or they were going to ‘settle' (their words, not ours) on Nick Greisen. Well, nobody took into account Lewis' chip, the one reminding him that he's been around way too long to remain a backup. He's got a starting job now and sure looks like he knows what to do with it.

The Wills entered the season with plenty to prove and wouldn't you know it, TGI's News and Notes' Quote of the Week comes from Coughlin waxing poetic over his starting corners. By the way, that's about as high praise as you're ever going to get from Coughlin. The Wills heard all the talk about how they were always hurt and running out of time in New York, then Will Allen and Will Peterson responded and have both been playing as well as they have since their college days.

Norman Hand? Washed up. Fred Robbins? A non-productive reserve. Surely if you've watched even a minute of Giants football this season, you can quickly point out how erroneous those scouting reports are.

And don't think some of this extra motivational dust hasn't fallen on the coaches either. By now surely you've heard that Coughlin's too-tough ways would never work in New York and that it was all Tim Lewis (not Bill Cowher) why the Steelers flopped last season.

If nothing else during the very surprising five-week stretch that started the season, the Giants have taught us one very valuable lesson: Don't underestimate the power of the proverbial chip on the shoulder.

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