New York looks to complete a perfect November this Sunday when they travel to Houston to face the Texans. The Giants are bidding for their fourth consecutive win and have never lost in Houston, winning both their games in the nation's fourth-largest city, including a 13-10 win over the Oilers on November 21, 1994 in their last trip to town.
"I think our team has shown a lot of courage and a lot of guts," says Giants head coach JIM FASSEL. "I'm very proud of them right now. We've won three in a row and what we have been talking about is playing consistently well, winning, and putting together a winning streak. Now we have to keep it going."
The Giants enter Week 12 after a 19-17 win over the division-rival Washington Redskins. Years from now, Giants fans might look back to that cold, rainy afternoon of November 17 as the day rookie tight end JEREMY SHOCKEY arrived.
With the team ailing at the wide receiver position, Shockey becomes a vital cog in the offensive game plan, and on Sunday, the former University of Miami star responded. He posted career highs with 11 receptions for 111 yards, the most by a Giants tight end since MARK BAVARO's 148 yards against the Eagles on October 10, 1988. Shockey leads all NFC rookies with 38 receptions.
"Shockey needed to step up," says Fassel. "Our game plan was not based on trying to play catch with the outside people." Added quarterback KERRY COLLINS, "Jeremy is really athletic and has that good speed. He can do a lot of things for us. You can get him on the line, you can play-action with him, and you can create matchups. He's going to make some big plays for us down the stretch."
The Giants' passing attack, averaging 242.8 yards per game -- eighth best in the NFL -- faces a stiff challenge from the Texans' defense, which surrenders an average of 190.1 yards through the air, the seventh-best mark in the NFL.
"This is the NFL," says Collins, who leads the NFC with 2,552 yards passing. "It's not always pretty and it's never going to be easy. You're going to overthrow guys and there will be dropped passes every week. It's how you respond that matters. I've never seen our guys get down and I never see things linger. I think we put things behind us well, and that's a really good sign."
With running back TIKI BARBER leading the way, the Giants' rushing game has played a vital role in the team's three-game winning streak. Barber has averaged 97.3 yards in his last three outings and with 100 yards against the Texans, will have topped the century mark for the third time in four games for only the second time in his career.
No Giants team would be complete without contributions from the defense, and the 2002 version is no different. New York is ranked fifth in "D" in the NFL, yielding 296.5 yards per game. They have allowed 169 points, third fewest in the NFL, and have been especially tough against the pass, surrendering 175.1 yards – also third fewest in the league.
Defensive end MICHAEL STRAHAN has once again assumed his role in making life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. Strahan has followed up his record-breaking campaign of 2001 when he set the NFL record with 22.5 sacks with 8.0 thus far in 2002, including a streak of eight consecutive games with at least 0.5 sack.
"Last week was a key win for us," Strahan says. "We pulled together to win it in the second half. Now the challenge is to keep that positive momentum going and get a win next week."
The game is a bit of a homecoming for Strahan, who played collegiately at Houston's Texas Southern University, where as a senior he recorded a school record 19.0 sacks.