Giants Hope Third Time's Charm in Big D

It took the Giants three tries before they finally won a playoff game under Tom Coughlin. Now they're hoping their third matchup with Dallas this season will be equally profitable. Yes, Big Blue has done it. They've gotten the enormous playoff-less monkey off its back. Now they set their sights on preventing the Cowboys from beating them three straight times this season.

You had better believe that the Cowboys were pulling for Tampa Bay last Sunday. As much as the usually-solid Bucs would pose some problems, the Giants are just a more dangerous club, one that's every bit capable of knocking Dallas from its top-seeded perch.

Big Blue is back. The Giants are relevant once again. This isn't to say New York is going to travel down to Big D and knock off the Cowboys. But it sure is noteworthy that the Giants are in the league's final eight and will be in the news for another week.

"Our team had to win the first phase of the playoffs," Tom Coughlin said in his best Coughlin-speak. "It's been kind of a progressive thing."

For those who haven't been paying that close attention the last few years, the Giants started this progression by being hammered and humiliated by the Carolina Panthers in their initial postseason foray in 2005. Eli Manning was awful and the Giants were shut out by John Fox's bunch. Last season brought a much closer contest in Philadelphia, but a late Eagles field goal provided the difference and the Giants were one-and-done again. This year? Well, you know the good part of the story. But now the focus shifts to extending this playoff run.

Before the NFL's second season kicked off, it would have been fair to say the Giants had as good a shot as anyone of coming out of the NFC. They proved that by knocking off a higher-seeded team in their place. Now, of course they'll be pretty heavy underdogs against the Cowboys, but they sure as heck have a shot. That much is certain.

This victory was especially sweet for so many, most of all Coughlin. But it sure was nice to see great performances from both Eli Manning and Amani Toomer.

Manning has had a rollercoaster of a 2007 season. He's looked good at times, bad at others and downright awful on occasion. But just when the games matter the most, he's certainly stepped up accordingly. While it's not his way and you wouldn't expect it in the least, he had every right to pat himself on the back following this one after being criticized so viciously and often this season.

"I am very excited," was all Manning would say. "It was a great team victory."

"Manage the game and not turn the ball over," Coughlin commented of Manning's victorious afternoon. "He had a nice high percentage in terms of completions, we didn't get any big plays, but we did get some nice steady opportunities to convert and I thought that was the best thing he did."

Manning was basically flawless. No he wasn't firing the ball all over the yard. But he didn't need to. He did exactly what the Giants needed him to: control the game on the ground and find the open man when called on. As his 117.1 QB rating would attest, Manning did just fine in that department.

"Eli played well," Michael Strahan said. "Eli showed that no matter what he's going to hang in there. He's going to figure out a way to get it done. This was a great game, a playoff game, a lot of pressure on him and he stood in there. You couldn't ask anything more from him and I think it was a great performance by Eli."

As the clock wound down on the biggest victory of Manning's career – and the Bucs season – coach Coughlin addressed his offensive leader on the sideline.

"Congratulations. It's a great feeling but you can't just be content with this," said Manning, echoing Coughlin's words. "That's our mindset. You have to win the first one to keep this going. We did our job but it's about keeping this going further in the playoffs."

Toomer noted the Giants gained a little bit of revenge, emerging victorious in the same building where they lost Super Bowl XXXV.

"Yeah, you know, I did think about that," he said. "The organization lost something the last time we were here and hopefully today we got a little of it back."

In Tampa, Toomer proved that he still hasn't lost anything. He caught seven passes for 74 yards and chipped in a four-yard scoring grab for good measure.

"Amani made some very solid plays," Coughlin said.

After spending last week talking about how the Bucs defense was going to shut down Big Blue's offense, Ronde Barber backpedaled faster in the locker room than he did at any point during the game.

"You have to give them a lot of credit," he said. "They adjusted, I guess, a little bit faster than we did."

That's for sure.

Barber was asked if the Bucs forgot about Toomer, what with Plaxico Burress and all New York's other offensive weapons.

"You don't forget about Amani," Barber said. "He gets a lot of opportunities over there. He gets many balls and he has been doing it a long time."

The veteran Toomer had already turned his attention to the Cowboys only moments after the big win.

"I feel pretty strong," he said. "I feel pretty good, you know; we know them, they know us and it's going to be a big game."

A big game indeed. A big game that most likely wouldn't have even been possible if not for the efforts of numbers 10 and 81.

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