NFL

Bad holiday leads to Giants' hunger

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)

A miserable Thanksgiving Day did not spoil the New York Giants' appetite for competition. It made them more hungry, and at just the right time.

They displayed that hunger last weekend in a home victory over Dallas, and if they can handle the Eagles on Sunday night, the Giants could find themselves tied for the NFC East lead.

``It was all a mindset,'' linebacker Danny Clark said Wednesday. ``We went through so many obstacles after letting ourselves and the fans down on Thanksgiving (in a 26-6 defeat at Denver). We went out against Dallas wanting to apply pressure and win the physical battle. That has to carry over, too.

``It's an attitude, the amount of enthusiasm that shows on the field that can be a deciding factor.''

New York won its first five games, then dropped four straight. At 7-5, the Giants trail the Eagles and Cowboys by one game. A win over Philly and a Dallas loss to San Diego would create a three-way tie with three weeks remaining.

A loss in prime time against a Philadelphia team that has won three in a row would force the Giants to think about wild cards, not a division title.

``Every division game is big,'' said Eli Manning, whose performances have been spotty since the opening five-game surge. ``We're into December and things are winding down and playoff spots are a big factor, so these are big games. The NFC East always seems to be a tight race. This is the time of year when you need to be playing your best football.''

And to be voracious.

Coach Tom Coughlin seemed most impressed by how the Giants responded from their weak effort at Denver, showing passion, tenacity and resolve that was missing during several of the losses - including at Philadelphia in a 40-17 rout on Nov. 1.

It took a bunch of big plays to beat the Cowboys. And, Coughlin insisted, a lot of heart.

``We had great energy, we had great passion,'' he said. ``We played physical; that is the way we play. That is the way the Giants play. And we have to continue that.

``The message has been really constant. I think that the response was outstanding. I think the players, having played the previous game recognized that that wasn't the kind of football that was going to help anyone and any team. That was just not a part of what we teach and we preach and the quality of the players that we have here.''

Maintaining that fervor shouldn't be difficult against the Eagles. Although New York has won six of the last nine regular-season meetings, Philly has won three in a row overall, including 23-11 in the NFC divisional playoffs in January. In fact, the Eagles have won the last two postseason matchups with the Giants.

While Coughlin doesn't want to stress any of that, many of his veteran players aren't forgetting Philadelphia's recent mastery.

``It's painful,'' Clark said, adding that the November loss was ``not the type of game we're used to playing. In the offseason, I spoke about Philadelphia being the team to beat in the division. We have to go and raise our intensity above and beyond what it has been.''

Notes: Right guard Chris Snee (knee) and safety Michael Johnson (groin) did not practice Wednesday. ... Coughlin on Eagles coach Andy Reid's contract extension: ``He is an outstanding football coach. He has done an outstanding job for the years that he has been there - multiple capacities.''

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