Hot Topic & Player Notes: Giants

Did the Giants continue to simplify their defense, as coordinator Tim Lewis admitted the prior week against Washington, or are the players on the unit simply performing more along the lines of what had been expected of them all along?

"We are finally having fun again," said middle linebacker Antonio Pierce. "The formations we were using earlier are just working now. We're playing hard and not worrying about what happened before."

To that end, the Giants successfully turned off the faucet that said "Michael Vick--Handle With Care" by sacking him seven times last Sunday in a stunning 27-14 victory. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora and weak-side linebacker Brandon Short (playing for injured starter Carlos Emmons) each had two sacks. Incidentally, Short was on inactive the first three weeks of the season, and since coming back he has led the team in tackles the last two games.

"This is a good defense and has been a good defense," says Pro Bowl end Michael Strahan. "We just needed to get some things untracked."

He didn't say what things, nor did he say how they were untracked. "We followed our game plan," he added. "And it was nice to see our offense run and run and then run some more. (Defensively) we kept in our lanes so that wherever Vick went there was usually someone waiting for him."

Vick was not truly a factor, scoring once on a 22-yard run but getting no touchdowns via passing. Not only was he sacked seven times but he generally played erratically, holding the ball out in front of him while trying to decide whether to scramble or not. Twice the ball was slapped out of his hand.

The Giants, now on a mini-winning streak of two games, are 3-2 heading into next Monday night's confrontation with Dallas, but with victories over Philadelphia and Washington, they have a 2-0 record in the NFC East and beating the Cowboys would make them far more able to take a loss out of the conference.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Eli Manning now has 11 TD passes this season after five games, which puts him on a projection of 35 by the end of the season. With the receivers he has and the slightly lessening quality of competition as the schedule gets later, he should easily surpass the 24 TD tosses he had last season. "It's important to us to have a good running game going, too."

--RB Tiki Barber, speaking of a good running game, exploded for 185 yards in 26 carries, but still hasn't scored a TD either rushing or receiving. He "almost" had one Sunday vs. Atlanta but replay showed the he stepped out of bounds at the Falcons' 2-yard line. Manning threw to TE Jeremy Shockey on the next play as offensive coordinator John Hufnagel decoyed the Falcons' defense into thinking it would be a power rush up the middle.

--TE Jeremy Shockey, after several lackluster performances tied to a sort right foot and a sprained right ankle, had his best game of the season, catching six passes for 55 yards and a pair of TDs. "It was the best I felt all season," he said.

--WR Amani Toomer, who had been the strength of the team's receiving corps, took a back seat to Barber's explosive performance. He caught only two passes for 18 yards but had two key blocks on Barber runs.

--WR Plaxico Burress showed his forte as a blocker, as well as a sometimes-dominant receiver. Three times he led Barber downfield on wide runs to the left, twice getting off-their-feet blocks on pursuing Falcons. He also caught four passes for 44 yards.

--SS Jason Bell, who filled in for starter Gibril Wilson (foot, toe) had three tackles as well as a special teams tackle. He was signed during the UFA period from the Houston roster. He also suffered a mild concussion during the game.

--SS Gibril Wilson had the nail of his big toe on the right foot ripped off during a practice collision and may not be able to play Monday night in Dallas. He also needed three stitches and must now guard against infection.

--WLB Carlos Emmons (pectoral) figures to practice this week, but whether he regains full strength remains a question. Besides, his replacement, Brandon Short, has played with spectacular efficiency.

--CB Will Peterson, the Giants' third-round pick in 2001 whose contract was terminated last March after doctors reported that his chronic back injury was no better, has received permission from his own doctors to play again and is entertaining several offers from other NFL teams. The Giants chose not to retain his rights since he technically was not listed as retired.

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