We might believe it deep inside, but we know we don't want it said out loud. Well, Yahoo! Sports is saying it loud and clear this morning, anyway. The Giants are the best team in the NFL.
Coughlin’s crew won the Super Bowl last season, yet this team, 6-1 after a stirring, come-from-behind, 21-14 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers, may be his most perfect incarnation.
He’s gotten rid of the “me-first” players who can kill chemistry. He’s found a way to go without colorful stars, even if they were likable. Tiki, Shockey, Strahan and all the rest are gone. The Giants’ locker room now consists of mostly like-minded winners who can be described as downright boring, starting with the anti-Broadway Joe calling snaps.
These Giants are about winning football games and little else. To do that they know it requires 60 minutes of not just effort but patience and confidence.
This should’ve been a classic road disaster. There was Burress getting benched to start the game for missing a medical treatment session Saturday. There were big-play mishaps on defense and red-zone failures on offense. There were injuries and penalties and all those yellow towels twirling in the stands.
It was a game where even good teams fumble and fold. But New York just kept churning. It upped the pressure late and broke the Steelers’ resolve so much that the Heinz Field stands were half empty even as Pittsburgh had two minutes and the ball to tie the score.
“The collective will was greater on our side,” said defensive end Justin Tuck.
There is no greater compliment to the coach. Coughlin is all about collective will. He’s got a bruising club, intensely physical even by NFL standards. For 60 minutes it battered the Steelers, sending a stream of players to the sideline, right down to the long snapper.
Its ferocious front four dominated, especially late. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger dropped back to pass 34 times. He was sacked on five of them, knocked down on 16 others and threw four interceptions.
And yet none of that is equal to the Giants’ mental toughness.
“We hung in there,” Coughlin said. “That’s the best thing about this group. They’re a tough group, they stayed together, they hung together in difficult times and found a way to win it in the fourth quarter.” ...
Coughlin has a team now that backs him. It isn’t going to be cracked by a single diva. Those days are over.
“He definitely has got the team where he wants it,” Toomer said.
“It’s kind of infectious in this entire organization,” Tuck said.
No offense to undefeated Tennessee or anyone else, but the Giants are the best team in the NFL. They’re not just the reigning champions, but the favorites to repeat. The reason is the ability to shake off any hint of a post-championship hangover (which strikes particularly hard in New York).
Coughlin needs to tame one last personality to make it a dream team. If he can’t, no one seems too worried about it.
“We’ve got so much confidence in whoever shows up,” Tuck said. “We don’t really feel like one guy, regardless of who it is, is going to break our season.”
It feels weird to hear a writer so emphatically call the Giants the best. It makes me happy and uncomfortable at the same time.
One thing is for sure. This is a stretch in Giants history to cherish, and be proud of. Who knows if all of this translates into more Super Bowl titles? I don't. I do know the Giants are set up for an extended run of excellence.
Here are some other notes.
- Cornerback Kevin Dockery will be out for a few weeks with a fractured transverse process in his back.
- Rev. Al Sharpton has accused New York Post columnist Steve Serby of racism for a column critical of Plaxico Burress.
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