Around the League: Giants

The Giants have to look two weeks ahead, since this Sunday brings their bye week. They'll follow it with a road trip to Dallas on Oct. 16, and the fact that they finished their first four games strongly (with a 3-1 record) only bodes well for their continued improvement.

"It's a good start," coach Tom Coughlin said. "It's the end of phase one for us. We are 3-1, we came back from a disappointing loss last weekend and had good resolve all week in practice. In fact I told the players one of the things that I really liked about this week was how serious everybody was, how focused we were, how determined we were to play the way we are capable of playing this week and I think that might be the best thing that came out of this past week."

Quarterback Eli Manning is developing faster than most expected, and had his second prolific passing game in a 44-24 victory over the St. Louis Rams. He completed 19 of 35 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns.

"It feels great because our quarterback is playing so good right now," running back Tiki Barber said. "It is fascinating to see how he improves exponentially every week. His decision making, his comfort level, his ability to get in the huddle and lead us is dictating how many points we are able to put up on the board. He is unflappable."

Defensively, the team needs some shoring up, and perhaps nowhere more than in the secondary. Chances are almost certain that they have lost RCB Will Peterson for the season (stress fracture, transverse process in his lower back).

He missed the St. Louis game along with WLB Carlos Emmons (knee).

REPLAY

QB Eli Manning took control of the offense and played a balanced hand. He completed 10 passes to WR Plaxico Burress for 204 yards and still managed to see to it that RB Tiki Barber collected 128 yards in 24 carries.

Manning threw two TDs to Burress and one each to TE Jeremy Shockey and WR Amani Toomer. Incidentally, it was Toomer's first touchdown grab since December of 2003 -- he was held out of the end zone last season despite 747 yards receiving.

The defense played hot and cold, limiting the Rams to zero yards rushing in the first half and just 42 in 15 carries for the day. But QB Marc Bulger was fantastic, throwing 62 times and completing 40 of them for 442 yards and a pair of TDs. On the other hand, he was picked twice and came in with a mediocre 76.1 QB rating compared to the 120.7 Manning registered.

PLAYER NOTES

-- DE Michael Strahan, who had the Giants' only sack and added four total tackles, was more interested in watching the offense. "It's incredible to watch those guys move the ball," he said. "They control the clock and put up points. I think the crowd enjoys it because I don't think they've had an offense like that for cheer for in a while."

--SS Gibril Wilson had 11 tackles and a forced fumble, and said all the defensive players were still irritated by the horrific showing they produced last Sunday night in San Diego. "We are not that bad a defense," he said. "We are a good defense and getting better. Just wait until the end of the season and see how we do."

-- RB Tiki Barber had his first plus-100-yard performance, carrying 24 times for 128 yards. "I love the way Elisha (that's Manning) is playing," he smiled. "We are all clicking right now. We see how confident Elisha is in this offense and he is directing it with a lot of poise and making great decisions."

-- TE Jeremy Shockey caught four passes for 57 yards, including a 31-yard TD pass. "I could have had a couple more touchdowns if I didn't stumble on another guy's foot and another time I just had to make a play but didn't. Eli has been great. When you put up 44 points in this league it's all good."

-- C Shaun O'Hara was as impressed as the rest of the offense by Eli Manning's play and coach Tom Coughlin's decision to go for the points on fourth down. "It was a great day for Giants football," he said. "I think coach was feeling very confident."

-- DE Osi Umenyiora suffered a leg injury but the Giants had no comment pending an MRI exam Monday morning.

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