Giants Look to Finish as Strong as They Start

Tom Coughlin's Giants teams have been tremendously consistent – at least through the first seven games of a season, that is. For all four seasons that Coughlin has been at the helm, the Giants have busted out to a 5-2 start. This year, however, everyone believes the Giants will make something of themselves following their latest 5-2 start.

"Things feel differently," Fred Robbins said. "We're taking pride in improving and still learning as a team. We have some good leadership. We know how easy things can slide downhill."

Nowhere was that more obvious than in 2004 and 2006. Following their 5-2 start during Coughlin's first season in New York, the Giants promptly dropped their next eight games, winning only their season finale to cap an embarrassing 6-10 campaign.

Things improved greatly in 2005, although being demolished by Carolina in the first round of the playoffs hardly qualifies that campaign as a success. From 5-2, the Giants went to 6-2, before finishing off 11-5, winning the NFC East in the process.

Last season, yeah we all remember. The 5-2 start was extended to 6-2 and the Giants were talking about securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with the eventual NFC Champion Bears coming to town. Big Blue only won two games the rest of the season, before dropping its playoff game in Philadelphia.

But they swear this time's it's going to be different.

Plaxico Burress likes the way he and his mates respond to adversity. No longer will one bad play carry over and lead to countless others.

"It's definitely a different team," Burress said. "We're a team with a lot of character. We don't let bad plays affect us."

Coughlin has noticed that this club puts in better preparation efforts than any of his previous three 5-2 units.

"I like this team in terms of their approach," he said. "We have talked about this stretch being a difficult stretch. You come off a Monday night game, you have to get ready to play right away and it is a little bit different week, and of course this coming week is going to be a different week as well. The players have had a good attitude about handling that and they have listened and there is a real good support on the part of these guys for one another and that is what we are striving for and have always been."

Two key defenders noted that it's all about New York remaining injury-free.

"Hopefully we don't have injuries this year," Antonio Pierce said. "Our mentality is a lot different as a team. A lot of guys were not satisfied with how last season ended."

"It's a different mentality," Justin Tuck added. "If we can get healthy we can get on a great run and keep this thing going."

Hats off to the big fellas

We know that offensive linemen are the most underappreciated souls in the football world. But the Giants front five has done so well that might actually change some.

It's been obvious, especially during the last couple weeks, just how much time Eli Manning has had to throw and just how many running lanes New York's three tailbacks have had to gallop through.

"The guys up front are playing great," Manning said. "They are protecting, we are running the ball, we are really controlling the line of scrimmage right now, and that is the key to having a successful offense. They are doing a good job of picking up blitzes and they are playing well. Hopefully we can keep that up, keep the running game going, and that just helps the play-action."

The head man has been very pleased as well.

"Offensive line has been a strong point," Coughlin said. "They have been solid. I think we gave up one sack today, but we did rush for over 100 yards again. They have been very consistent, very solid, and have done a good job. I thought in the first half we protected well even with some of the things that we didn't get done or completed. Our protection was good. They have done a good job and we need to keep getting better."

Brandon Jacobs posted a career-high 107 rushing yards against the 49ers. He wasn't afraid to toot his OL's horn.

"Those guys are coming off the ball with authority," Jacobs said. "They're the best offensive line in the league."

Sweeten the pot

When Michael Strahan talks, teammates listen. That's why when Strahan suggested he and his fellow defensive linemen put their money where their mouths are, all nodded in agreement. As a result, beginning with the 49ers game, the Giants D-linemen now have a weekly pot that goes to the player with the best overall production. This isn't a sack contest; it's set up to reward the best defensive lineman each week.

"That's the biggest motivating factor," Osi Umenyiora said. "Inter-defensive-line competition, if you want to call it that."

Kudos to Strahan for waiting until he rounded back into form before coming up with this idea. He stated his case with a 2.5-sack afternoon. Umenyiora chipped in with a sack, two fumble recoveries and a 75-yard TD and Justin Tuck added 1.5 sacks of his own. The final verdict didn't come down until Tuesday when DL coach Mike Waufle handed out the grades.

When asked how much money was involved, Umenyiora simply said, "a lot."


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