EAST RUTHERFORD NJ - OCTOBER 03: Justin Tuck #91 of the New York Giants celebrates after the 10th sack of the game against the Chicago Bear at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 3 2010 in East Rutherford, N.J. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Amazing what difference a week makes!
I know it's a cliche, but in the case of the New York Giants it is entirely appropriate.
Think about it. A week ago the Giants were 1-2, coming off a pair of ugly losses. We were talking about Tom Coughlin's coaching future, Eli Manning's interceptions and Tom Quinn's fitness to coach in the NFL.
Personally, that last one is still a subject worth debating. This week, though, talk around the Giants is much more upbeat.
At 2-2, the Giants are tied for first place in what is shaping up to be an incredibly competitive -- albeit mediocre -- NFC East. The incredible 10-sack performance against Chicago Sunday -- in which they allowed just 110 total yards and six first downs -- has not only lifted the Giants' spirits, it has them dreaming big dreams.
It has the Giants thinking about their 2007 Super Bowl run, when they lost their first two games in horrible fashion before turning their season around and, ultimately, defeating New England for the franchise's third Super Bowl title.
As long as the defense plays with the intensity it did against the disgraceful Bears offense, then the Giants are going to be in a lot of games. Justin Tuck, who picked up his first three sacks of the season and a forced fumble against Jay Cutler in the record-setting, nine-sack first half Sunday night, says he immediately had a flashback to 2007.
That's when the Giants started 0-2 and gave up 80 points under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. They turned things around in the third week with a game-saving, goal-line stand in Washington in the final minute.
"I think we ran off five or six in a row after that," Tuck said Monday. "Will that happen this year? I don't know. But I'm encouraged by the fact that I'm starting to see similarities."
The New York Post offers a similar theme, with help from Tuck and several other players.
"It's starting to remind me of '07," Justin Tuck said.
Sometimes all it takes is a 10-sack, two-quarterback knockout to make you feel like a giant again and make you believe you are ready to run in this race.
"I see us on the rise," David Diehl said.
You dare not make absolute judgments in the National Forgiving League. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora won't get to feast on the Bears' offensive line every week. But if Tom Coughlin is as right about Perry Fewell as he was wrong about Bill Sheridan, if the defensive players are finally comfortable with the new coordinator and the new system, then the Giants will be right there at the finish line. If for no other reason than the stability at the top with Coughlin and Eli Manning in their seventh season together.
"We're still climbing," Antrel Rolle said.
The Giants, 2-0 in the conference, will need to be climbing once they begin banging heads with their division rivals on October 25 (Cowboys).
"It's still wide open, and that's encouragement 'cause we feel we've had a horrible month, but we're 2-2 and tied for first in the division so if we can get on a run here, we can separate ourselves from these situations before we even get into our divisional play," Tuck said.
Maybe it was a sense of desperation that gripped the Giants by the throat, or the Ring of Honorees, or Jessie Armstead's impassioned, inspirational speech, or the brisk Sunday night atmosphere, or all of the above. But the Giants returned to work yesterday believing the pride and the love of the game had returned with them.
Believing they had found themselves.
For me, one victory over a previously unbeaten team hardly makes it time to start talking about the Super Bowl. It is hard to deny the comparison to 2007, though, when you think about the way the season has started.
In 2007, the Giants were beaten badly in their first two games, surrendering 80 points total in losses to Dallas and Green Bay while they adjusted to rookie defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Then a dramatic turnaround at Washington started a six-game win streak that helped propel the Giants to glory.
This season, a rocky 1-2 start and some questions about Perry Fewell and how good the defense actually would be. Then, an absolute monster breakout game against the Bears.
Question is, where do the Giants go from here? The next three weeks leading up to the Giants bye week should tell us a great deal about where this season is going.
The Giants travel to Houston this week to face the 3-1 Texans in a game that shapes up as a very difficult one for the Giants.
This is a good Houston team, led by surprising running back Arian Foster, who leads the NFL with 537 rushing yards already (6.3 yards per carry). If wide receiver Andre Johnson is healthy he would be the best receiver the Giants have faced this season.
The Giants will unquestionably have their hands full this week.
After Houston, a home game against Detroit you would like to believe the Giants should win. Then, on the road to face Dallas in the first NFC East showdown of the season.
Where will the Giants be when they hit the bye week after those three games? No way to know for sure. What we do know is that Sunday's performace against Chicago has to leave us much more optimistic than we were just a short time ago.