Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Personnel, Etc.

In four games, Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress has averaged more than six receptions per game. He has averaged almost 100 yards gained per game, and he has averaged exactly one touchdown per game.

INSIDE SLANT Now he takes that shining record to Dallas, where the 3-2 Cowboys are ready with a defense that stands eighth in the NFC in defense against the passing game.

"I know that secondary," said Burress. "They are tough, physical guys who like to get their hands on you, and they are strong enough to take you out of your pattern. We're 3-1; we need to keep building on that."

It is, indeed, the Giants' passing game that will make or break this team, not only in Dallas but for the remainder of the 2005 season. The running game, which most teams try to stop first, is primarily Tiki Barber, and he has 333 yards in 74 carries. That's nice, and the 4.5 yards-per-carry average is impressive, but against the Cowboys the Giants are going to have to go deep, and frequently, and that's how the game will be decided.

"Right now, I think we have as good a passing offense as any in the league," quarterback Eli Manning said. "We can't worry about who we're playing, we just have to play our best and that should be good enough. I am aware of the Cowboys' defense and I have a great deal of respect for it."

But he should be certain that the Cowboys defense will have as much respect for this suddenly high-powered Giants offense, too. Despite already having had their bye week, the Giants still lead the NFC in scoring with 136 points - 34 per game. That is almost twice the 18.9 points the Giants averaged last season.

"I feel we're getting better each game," Manning said, and he might well say the same about himself. He is currently ranked second among NFC quarterbacks, right behind Drew Bledsoe of the Cowboys.

"I don't look at statistics and I don't care much about them," he said. "We're here to win games. That's my job. However it gets done is fine."

So the Giants are going to have to pass against the Cowboys defense, and the matchups put tight end Jeremy Shockey on Pro Bowl strong safety Roy Williams, while Burress will primarily go up against cornerback Terence Newman.

"I have faith in our receivers," Manning says. "I know they'll get open."

SERIES HISTORY - This is the 86th meeting between the two teams, with the Cowboys holding a 50-33-2 lead against their division rivals. The Giants won the past two games, sweeping the 2004 home-and-home series, and four of the past six. Going against the Cowboys and Bill Parcells, their former coach, the Giants are 2-2.


--Giants reserve T Bob Whitfield observed that the Cowboys put a whipping on the rival Eagles last week, and suggested that somebody notify the Philadelphia offensive planners that it's all right to run up the middle against the Dallas defense. That could indicate a tendency the Giants will show Sunday, perhaps by taking the wraps off their burly rookie back, 6-4, 265-pound Brandon Jacobs.

There is little likelihood of Jacobs and starter Tiki Barber being in the backfield at the same time, but it may be the moment for coach Tom Coughlin to give Barber a little more rest while Jacobs attempts to soften up the middle of the defense.

--The Cowboys play a 3-4 defense, which puts La'Roi Glover at NT with ILBs Bradie James and Dat Nguyen behind him. Not unexpectedly, Nguyen and James are the Cowboys' leading tacklers. It will be the second 3-4 defense the Giants will face this season. They were harassed in San Diego two weeks ago and soundly beaten, 45-23.

--KR Willie Ponder was asked when he knows he has broken one for a long gain. "When that first wall (of kick coverage players) is behind me I know they overran me, and then I just need to focus on the one or two blocks I need. I can't ever say there is a split-second when I know I'm gone, but you can feel when something special is happening."

--This is the Giants' first division game of the season, with another coming up in two weeks against Washington. They'll then play four NFC East games in the final seven weeks of the season.

--Coming off the bye, the Giants are 3-13 since 1990 and haven't won one since 2000, when they beat Philadelphia.

--RB Tiki Barber has 44 rushing TDs in his career and needs six more, which he should get by the end of the season, to take over first place in the Giants' all-time list. Currently ahead of him are Joe Morris (48) and Rodney Hampton (49). Barber is the only active player to lead a franchise in career rushing yards and receptions.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 - Consecutive victories the Giants still need to equal the best start in team history, which was 8-1 in 1990 under Bill Parcells, now coaching the Cowboys. The Giants were 13-3 that season and won Super Bowl XXV.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I didn't study Philadelphia, I was studying Dallas." - Giants coach Tom Coughlin, if he thought the Eagles looked as good as they did last season.


The Giants appear to be resigned to the seasonlong loss of RCB Will Peterson, who flew to Los Angeles last weekend for a third opinion on his back injury, thought to be a stress fracture of the transverse process.

In his place defensive coordinator Tim Lewis plans to start Curtis Deloatch, but Coughlin adds that the same three-man rotation he employed in the Giants' previous game, Oct. 2 against St. Louis, will be in effect. That will put Deloatch at RCB, veteran Will Allen at LCB and rookie Corey Webster as the nickel and dime formation CB, which is what the second-rounder did against St. Louis, although he also replaced Allen in the base defense for a time as well.


--LB Carlos Emmons is listed as questionable for the game (knee), and since he didn't play in the game prior to the bye, coach Tom Coughlin is slightly more concerned than he was. The major problem is that Emmons won't be there to cover star Dallas TE Jason Witten, a task that would be left to second-year LB Reggie Torbor.

--Reserve RB Derrick Ward (hamstring) is listed as probable, but with Tiki Barber and rookie Brandon Jacobs ahead of him, it may well be that Ward remains inactive for at least one more week.

--SS Gibril Wilson leads the team in tackles with 31, just one ahead of MLB Antonio Pierce. Wilson also has a forced fumble, a pass defensed and an interception in four games. "I see a lot more than I did last season as a rookie," he said. "The speed of the game is what rookies have to learn."

--DE Osi Umenyiora, despite suffering a sprained ankle against St. Louis, is expected to play and has practiced all week.

--C Shaun O'Hara has played well and hasn't missed a snap, leading him to observe: "Amazing how not being sick or injured can help you play better, isn't it?"

GAME PLAN: The Giants, as they have attempted to do in each of the first four games, will hope to shut down the Cowboys' running game and make the offense one-dimensional, even though the passing game has been white-hot. Curtailing the production of RB Julius Jones, and to a lesser extent that of rookie free-agent Tyson Thompson would put more pressure on QB Drew Bledsoe, who is dangerous when protected but virtually helpless when he has to move to escape a strong rush.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: The Giants' superstar LDE, Michael Strahan, gets to try his hand against gigantic rookie RT Rob Petitti (6-6, 325), a sixth-round draft pick with little or no speed. Petitti is starting because of his size and strength, but he is being handcuffed by the faster DEs.

Giants second-year SLB Reggie Torbor (if veteran Carlos Emmons can't play) is going to have to find a way to slow down TE Jason Witten (23 receptions, 261 yards). Torbor started the season at SLB while Emmons moved to WLB, but he was bench two games later.

The Giants secondary vs. Dallas QB Drew Bledsoe, who is enjoying a career renaissance in his first season with the Cowboys. If Bledsoe gets the protection he needs, he'll pick apart any secondary - and the Giants secondary has been both inefficient and injured.

INJURY IMPACT: Oddly, if the Giants lose RCB Will Peterson (and he is definitely out this week), the most negative result is that plans to bench LCB Will Allen, or at least make him the nickel and dime CB, will be delayed. Right now, Curtis Deloatch will start for Peterson with rookie Corey Webster the nickel and dime corner.

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