(Long Island, NY) After starting the season with two losses, the New York Giants looked like a team that had no chance to reach the playoffs. Their defense gave up chunks of yards to Dallas and Green Bay, while surrendering 80 points. With divisional games staring at them in the next two weeks, their season could have been over before October.
A second half comeback at Washington may have been the turning point in the Giants’ season if they go on to qualify for the postseason. They held the Redskins scoreless and made a statement by not letting the pressure get to them. Head coach Tom Coughlin, who has been criticized for not being able to hold the team together, made the proper halftime adjustments and his team took it a step further by totally dismantling Philadelphia a week later. The same defense that could not stop Tony Romo and Brett Favre sacked Eagles’ quarterback 13 times while holding them to three points.
The Giants (3-2) went over the .500 mark last Sunday with a 35-24 win over their stadium counterparts, the Jets, who led by 10 points heading into the locker room. Running back Brandon Jacobs made his first appearance since injuring his knee in the opener and rushed for over 100 yards, fueling the comeback. Rookie cornerback Aaron Ross had two interceptions and ran one back for a touchdown to put the Jets away for good.
“It’s good that we know we can make plays and do good things,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “And at times if we are struggling we know we can turn it around and bounce out of it. But we just have to go out there and find a way to play four quarters.”
Now the G-Men will make their first appearance on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. The 1-4 Atlanta Falcons will be the opponent, and they have had a tough season, suffering from the Michael Vick hangover.
Statistically, Joey Harrington has not appeared to be as bad as the critics have made him out to be. He is currently ranked second in the NFC and sixth in the NFL in completion percentage. He has thrown for 1,070 yards through five games (105 for 156) and four touchdowns with a 87.3 passer rating.
Matt Schaub had been Vick’s back-up before being dealt to Houston in the offseason and would have been the starter after the dog fighting/suspension situation. Does Falcons head coach Bobby Petrino regret the move?
“Now, you can’t look back on that,” he said. “We felt like we needed the draft picks to help us with developing the rest of our team and getting other players.” Atlanta signed Byron Leftwich after he was released by Jacksonville, and the pressure is beginning to mount for him to take over for Harrington after he entered the game last week.
Petrino has made it clear that there is no quarterback controversy. “Joey is the starter and Byron will be the back-up,” he said. “Joey has been playing well for us. We got in a situation last week where we were getting a lot of pass rush, he [Harrington] got hit a few times, he usually completes the throws that in the third quarter he was not, and we were just trying to get a spark when we put Byron in there.”
Due to the Falcons’ struggles, some people have looked at this as a possible ‘trap’ game for the Giants. Eli Manning disagrees.
“We are not overlooking anybody,” he said. “If you look at them on film, you see right away they are a good team. A couple of things didn’t go their way and they have lost some games.”
Coughlin also knows that Atlanta is a team to be careful with. “They have played two games at home, they have played three games on the road, statistically they are different, but the other thing is they have physically been in every game,” the Giants head coach said. “They have battled and that is what you have to point out.”
A battle may be ahead of them, but one that Big Blue should come away a winner.