What were they? Their identity, their defense, their attitude and their pride, all of which are crucial to have and dangerous to lose.
"We played like we can play," said defensive end Michael Strahan. "We were back to being a dominant defense. We didn't want to come out (to start the game) and just give them touchdowns like we did in our last game (in Seattle. We wanted to hold them and let the offense win it."
The Redskins were held for a lot longer than the opening of the game. They scored exactly one field goal all day, with 4:29 elapsed in the first quarter; to be more specific, the Redskins failed to score a point in the final 55:41, which almost duplicated their last effort in Giants Stadium last October -- a 36-0 shutout.
Now the Giants are a confident 2-2 bunch heading down to Atlanta, a far cry from being a dispirited 1-3 and making the same trip. "It was just so early in the season," Strahan added. "We didn't think that our backs were against the wall, but there was a sense of urgency."
That's what his fellow Pro Bowl teammate, running back Tiki Barber, said. "It was urgent but we have plenty of time," he noted. "It's just nice to have plenty of time when you are coming off a win like this." Barber gained 123 yards on 23 carries, the result of a determined effort to first beat the Redskins on the ground and then drive in the final nails with the passing game.
It worked just that way, too.
--WLB Brandon Short, who replaced the injured Carlos Emmons, suffered a pinched nerve in his neck in the first quarter but then returned to lead the team with six tackles. "It was important for me to play," Short said. "I haven't done that so far this season."
--TE Jeremy Shockey (sore foot) didn't play much and when he did managed only one reception for 13 yards. Head coach Tom Coughlin said after that he wasn't sure if it was a re-aggravation of Shockey's sprained ankle, a problem with the sole of the right foot where doctors had implanted a small pin two years ago to prevent further stress fractures or something new.
--RB Tiki Barber had his best game of the season, 123 yards on 23 carries. It was only the second plus-100-yard game for last year's 1,860-yard gainer.
--Rookie WLB Gerris Wilkinson didn't start but he got considerable playing time alternating with Short, and seems to be the future for the Giants at that position. "He played well," said Coughlin. "He has shown progress every week since we opened training camp."
--QB Eli Manning had another strong game, the kind that adds to his statistics and doesn't expose the team to a loss via unnecessary risk-taking. He completed 23 of 33 passes for 256 yards and a TD, with no interceptions; nor was he sacked. His rating for the game was 102.6.
--C Shaun O'Hara, the signal caller for the O-line, was proud of the work done by that unit. "We made it a little easier for Eli to throw and Tiki to run," he said, "and when you boil it all down, that's our job."
--WR Amani Toomer was denied a TD when he caught a five-yard pass from Manning on the first play of the second quarter, but it was disallowed when Shockey was flagged for offensive pass interference. Shockey also had a holding penalty.
--DT Fred Robbins, DE Osi Umenyiora and DE Michael Strahan each recorded a sack of Redskin QB Mark Brunell. The three sacks represented one more than the Giants had managed in their three previous games.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. REDSKINS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- QB Eli Manning had perfect protection and as a result completed 23 of 33 passes (which included four drops) for 256 yards and a score. He intelligently mixed ground-control with sudden and unexpected long bombs, completing a 46-yarder to WR Plaxico Burress and a 44-yarder to WR Amani Toomer. He used seven different receivers, including four to third-WR Tim Carter for 44 yards. The O-line blocking was superb; Manning wasn't sacked at all. It became obvious that the Giants had found a week spot directly down the middle of the field after forcing the Redskins to bite on flare patterns. Both long passes of the day -- 46 yards to Burress, 44 to Toomer -- were deep down the middle against the likes of SS Sean Taylor, FS Adam Archuleta and nickel back Mike Rumph.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- After a two-week hiatus, the Giants' running game returned at full speed. RB Tiki Barber had 123 yards On 23 carries and the team had 155 total on 36 carries. RB Brandon Jacobs, who still isn't being used much, had another strong game pounding (and softening) the middle. On one six-yard slam he drove right over SLB Marcus Washington, whose head snapped back on the turf from the impact. LT Luke Petitgout seemed particularly adept at clearing the way to the outside for Barber, and O'Hara's drive up the middle made room for Jacobs, the 265-pound battering ram.
PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- After QB Mark Brunell had two straight superlative games, he was limited to 12 completions on 22 attempts for 109 yards, but taking away the 23 yards on three sacks, his net passing yardage was a paltry 86. His primary receiver wasn't WR Santana Moss but TE Chris Cooley, a certain sign that the medium and deep routes were successfully shut down. Brunell, not the fastest scrambler around, was forced out of the pocket several times and absorbed five quarterback hits while six of his passing attempts were batted down.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus -- The Giants' privately stated goal for the game was the destruction of the Redskins' high-powered running game. It worked. Clinton Portis was held to 76 yards in 19 carries and the overall numbers indicate the depth of the defense's success. Washington ran the ball 20 times, gained 78 yards, had only three first downs rushing (and 10 overall) and three times suffered tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Time of possession, where Joe Gibbs-coached teams always strive to secure an advantage, was 25:13 for the Redskins, another sign that the control of the game had been taken away.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- There were no game-breaking returns, although Chad Morton took two kickoffs back 58 yards. He returned a pair of punts for 17 yards. Jeff Feagles punted only twice all day (36.0 average) while the Redskins were limited to five KO returns for 77 yards, and no punt returns (a touchback and a ball that sailed out of bounds). Reserve MLB Chase Blackburn is fast emerging as a special teams standout. He recorded three of the Giants' five tackles on kick coverage.
COACHING: B -- It's difficult to be out-coached when you win, 19-3, so the Giant players who had suggested that of head coach Tom Coughlin didn't have much to say after the victory. It would seem that defensive coordinator Tim Lewis began making up for early-season deficiencies by re-structuring the coverage in the secondary, and his ability to plug in reserve Brandon Short at WLB for ailing starter Carlos Emmons involved a few tweaks of the overall packages. Offensive coordinator John Hufnagel showed just a little more daring when he left the ground-control, short-pass format for a few deep passes downfield.
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