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News » Undeniable excellence

Undeniable excellence

Undeniable excellence
Now the only team the Giants have to fear is the Giants themselves.

Yesterday was supposed to be the big test, the best run defense against the best rushing offense, or, in simpler terms, Ray vs. Brandon. That lasted as long as it took Brandon (Jacobs, that is) to chew up Ray (Lewis, that is), along with 36 yards of turf the first time he touched the Football on the Giants' second play of the game.

That dream matchup turned out to be a mismatch, as did the rest of the game, a 30-10 Giants win that probably was their most complete performance of the season and one that really left only one question unanswered.

Exactly who in the NFC can stop this team from waltzing into Tampa this February untouched, the way Aaron Ross sashayed into the end zone after intercepting Joe Flacco late in the third quarter to knock the last vestiges of hope out of the Ravens?

The answer, of course, is no one but the Giants.

Barring a catastrophic injury - meaning, of course, a season-ender to Eli Manning, probably the only irreplaceable part in this faceless, impersonal, seemingly unstoppable Tom Coughlin machine - the most formidable opponent the Giants are likely to face the rest of the way is their own complacency.

This year is a 180-degree shift from last year, when the Giants snuck up on everybody, came on late, found their stride in January and upset the Patriots, who had all but engraved their name on the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

They enjoy no such luxury this season. They will sneak up on no one. They are expected to be a good team by everyone, including themselves. So far, they not only have lived up to their advance billing, they have exceeded it.

With the Giants sitting atop the NFC East at 9-1, unbeaten at home and close to wrapping up home-field advantage for the playoffs, it would be easy for them to start looking ahead to January, or even February.

Yet, all season long - I believe you now can safely throw out the Cleveland game as a fluke - they have played with the intensity of a team looking to end a long Super Bowl drought rather than one trying to win its second straight.

"We have a lot more challenges to go. We just talked about that," Coughlin said. "You're sitting here at this point in the season with many, many big games to go. This is a very exciting time, but each week we have to be at our very best."

Next week, they travel to Arizona to play the 7-3 Cardinals and their old buddy Kurt Warner. The week after, it's the Redskins, the Giants' Week 1 victims, then back home against the Eagles, who couldn't manage to beat the Bengals yesterday. The underachieving Cowboys will get another shot, and they close the regular season in Minnesota against the mediocre Vikings. The Giants don't face a truly tough test again until Week 16, when the Panthers (8-2) come into the friendly confines of the Meadowlands in late December.

At this point, anything less than 13-3 would be a disappointment. Conceivably, they could run the table. And certainly, their path to Tampa seems as wide open as the field yesterday whenever Jacobs - or Derrick Ward or, for one incredible fourth-quarter burst, Ahmad Bradshaw - broke into the Baltimore secondary. The defense that was allowing 65.4 yards rushing per game surrendered 207 to the Giants yesterday, 52 of them to Jacobs on the first series alone.

Jacobs ran the ball only five more times the whole game before being wrapped in mothballs for almost all of the second half after taking a shot on his knee. It didn't matter. The point had been made early, the knockout scored, and on this day, the Giants wouldn't need him anymore. Jacobs left the offense in the hands of lesser beings such as Manning and Ward and Bradshaw and Darcy Johnson. You hardly noticed the difference.

"For our entire Football team to be able to do that was very, very important," said Coughlin, who even gave his perpetual game-day grimace a rest, flashing a couple of small grins at the news conference. "That's a good team out there, a good defensive team with some big, strong guys rushing the passer."

Still, the Giants excelled in every department. Manning got sacked only once. Flacco, a terrific running quarterback, escaped the Giants' relentless pass rush until the fourth quarter but never had one comfortable moment in the pocket to set and throw. And in the one sequence when it seemed the Ravens might make things interesting - Giants leading by 10 but Baltimore driving late in the third - Ross made his game-turning pick.

"We're content but not satisfied," said Manning, who like his teammates must sense that from here on in, the biggest problem for the Giants will not be staying tough.

It will be staying interested.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 17, 2008

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Daniel Wilcox Name: Daniel Wilcox
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Age: 31
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