Hot Topic and Player Notes: Giants

The question before the house is whether the Giants were really that good last week when they pulverized the Washington Redskins 36-0, whether the Redskins were simply that atrocious, or whether the Giants were playing on emotion since it was their first game since the death of 89-year-old owner Wellington Mara early last week.

"We found a new level for our defense," Giants weakside linebacker Nick Greisen said. "Now we have raised the bar and it is up to us to play at this new and higher level."

The problem is, they won't be playing in their house on Sunday. Rather, they'll be all the way across the country in San Francisco, and the 49ers have a few questions of their own that need to be answered.

For instance, is this misbegotten franchise really emerging as one of those teams you might beat but can no longer take for granted? Or did the 49ers play over their heads when they upset Tampa Bay last Sunday - in their house?

Most of the Giants agreed that "playing one for Mr. Mara" had something to do with the emotional level. Others just felt the Giants are improving week to week and that the emotions served as merely a catalyst to bring the team up.

"We have been playing better," veteran wide receiver Amani Toomer said. "Of course, we felt a special inspiration because Mr. Mara had passed away, but our team is better than it was at the start of the season."

If that is the answer, then the 5-2 Giants, currently residing in first place in the NFC East, should have little trouble with San Francisco on Sunday. Then it's back home to play the Mess in Minnesota, which, in turn, leads to a dramatic confrontation - again at home - with Philadelphia, the defending NFC champion and the "team to beat" in the division.

"Just one game at a time," warned running back Tiki Barber, who gained a career best 206 yards against Washington. "We can only get in trouble if we start to think ahead of ourselves."


--SLB Carlos Emmons missed last week's rout with a partially torn right pectoral muscle, and coach Tom Coughlin lists him as day-to-day this week. "If this was game day, I don't think he'd make it," he said of his veteran on Monday.

--DE Justin Tuck, a 6-5 and 265-pound rookie who ran down superback LaDainian Tomlinson when the Giants were in San Diego, suffered a sprained ankle against the Redskins. Coach Tom Coughlin said it should be a "manageable" injury.

--QB Eli Manning is starting to show that he can engineer a victory without having superlative statistics. "It isn't supposed to be all about me," he says. "We were getting great blocking from the offensive line, so we decided to run the ball more. It worked." The Giants gained 262 yards rushing while Manning only passed for 124.

--QB Tim Hasselbeck got to see his first action of the season. He came in for most of the fourth quarter, when the Giants ran 12 straight rushing plays.

--RB Tiki Barber was especially close to Wellington Mara and one of his 40 grandchildren, Tim McDonnell, who had served for years as a bellboy at training camp. "I wanted a touchdown for him," Barber said, "because I wanted to give him the ball." Barber scored, and since all the grandchildren were on the sideline, he ran over and handed it to McDonnell. McDonnell, a college graduate, is now an assistant on Charlie Weis' staff at Notre Dame.

--RB Brandon Jacobs, the hulking 6-4, 265-pound rookie, got a season high eight carries for 14 yards and a TD against Washington.

--RB Derrick Ward, slightly more experienced in blitz pickup, played more than rookie Brandon Jacobs, carrying 13 times for 42 yards.

--WR Plaxico Burress had only four catches and still led the team in that category. "We were going with what was working best," he said, "and what was working best was Tiki Barber."

--WR Amani Toomer had two catches - second-most on the team last Sunday, for 43 yards.

--TE Jeremy Shockey, visibly sobbing when Mara's granddaughter, Kate, sang the national anthem, caught three passes for 29 yards and a TD, giving him four scores for the season. Plaxico Burress has five.

--PK Jay Feely finally missed a kick, watching a 51-yard field goal attempt clank off the left upright. He had made 13 in a row and is now 16 for 17 on the season, in addition to having made all 23 PAT attempts.

--DE Osi Umenyiora is continuing his emergence as a star pass rusher. He had two sacks against the Redskins and now has five for the year; he had seven all of last season.

--DE Michael Strahan had one sack and has 6 1/2 for the year. He recorded only four all last season, when he missed the final eight games with a torn pectoral muscle.

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