Vet, Two Rookies Lead Giants

Three players deserve the lion's share of the credit for New York's tough victory in Philly. That Plaxico Burress is one of the trio of MVPs is hardly surprising, as Plax, healthier than he's been in weeks, returned to the Pro Bowl level at which he played all during the season's first half.

However, you're probably not going to be able to guess the other two, at least right away. Yes, we're talking about none other than the rookie starting safety tandem of Craig Dahl and Michael Johnson.

"Our two rookie safeties did an outstanding job," Tom Coughlin said. "That was quite an accomplishment by those young guys."

With Gibril Wilson and James Butler both sidelined, veteran savvy Eagles signal-caller Donovan McNabb had two green rookies to exploit in New York's secondary. Or so he thought. At the end of the day, McNabb could only boast a long pass play of 19 yards and he spoke of how he didn't know what was coming from New York's defense, nor where their players would be on most occasions.

"I think their game-plan was set up to exploit our rookies," Dahl said.

"You could tell (McNabb's) checks at the line of scrimmage were directed at our safeties," Johnson added. "I was trying to figure out what he was thinking and he was doing the same to me. It was like a game of cat and mouse."

In this game, Dahl and Johnson were clearly the cats. They each finished with five tackles. But their contributions were felt more in their ability to cross up McNabb and keep the Philly receivers from getting deep behind them.

"We did a good job of communicating," Dahl said.

According to Johnson, it was the Giants' injured safeties that helped out at length during the week of practice. Enough so that neither Johnson nor Dahl had to think all that much during the game.

"I was just worried about what we had to do defensively," Dahl said.

Obviously there was no need to worry.

However, anyone around the Giants that claimed they weren't worried about the performance of the injured Burress of late would be flat-out lying. Burress has been clearly hampered and slowed by his injured ankle and knee.

Coughlin stated that he noticed a "bounce in his step" last week. Surely the Philly DBs did as well. Burress, who has made a living of beating up on the Birds since he arrived in New York, clearly picked up where he left off. He caught seven passes for 136 yards and New York's only TD.

"He played very well and made things happen for us offensively," Coughlin understated.

Burress said he told offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride that the Eagles defense was taking away the sideline and, as a result, that New York should run more inside routes. It worked like a charm. Most of Burress' big plays were right down the middle of the field – and the Eagles defense.

But all the talk of Burress' exploits was overshadowed by the focus on his health. He's already proven that he's one of the game's most dangerous receivers when he's full strength.

"I felt pretty good," he said. "The better I start feeling, the more explosive I will become and the more explosive the offense becomes. It's coming around at the right time of the season and hopefully I can get to full speed soon."

Opposing DBs beware…

Road warriors

With the victory in front of a usually raucous and lubed-up Philadelphia crowd, the Giants improved to 6-1 on the road this season. That'll come in especially handy when they have to hit the road for the first round of the playoffs. As of now, it appears more likely that Big Blue will start the postseason in Tampa Bay instead of Seattle, but obviously that is subject to change.

"Well, we hang together and we battle," Coughlin said. "We believe in each other and we believe we can find a way to win. We never stop playing. We have a good heart and it is not always pretty but somehow, some way, we scratch and find a way."

Brandon Jacobs, who lost two fumbles, was hearing plenty from the Philly faithful. He partially credits the enemy crowd for New York's success away from home. "I think it's the rush from the other fans, to tell you the truth," he said. "Everyone hates us."

"Maybe we like to be yelled and screamed at, or something," Michael Strahan added. "We need to import a bad crowd into our stadium to help us win. I think everybody takes it as a challenge when you're on the road that you're by yourself. We realize we're all that we've got, so we play for each other."

Final word

While the Giants offense struggled inside the Eagles 10-yard line, Eli Manning did play turnover-free football.

"He played well," Coughlin said. "He had no interceptions today. And so he played tremendous."

Burress said that Manning's throw on his 20-yard TD catch was "magnificent."

Last week, Strahan threw his full support behind number 10.

"The one thing they always say about (Brett Favre) is, ‘He's a gunslinger,'" Strahan said. "He'll throw a pick and keep slinging. As a player, to play with him, you'd love that. You want a quarterback who's fearless, who's not afraid to make a mistake. For Eli to stand up, come back and do those things, hopefully that builds some confidence in him. Because, really, that's all his game is. Talent-wise, he's as talented as any quarterback in the league."

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