Despite injuries, Giants tied for NFC East lead
After missing the playoffs the past two years with late-season collapses, losing key players to free agency and then being hit a number of injuries before the start of the season, there weren't a lot of people expecting much from the New York Giants.
The only thing that seemed certain was that Tom Coughlin was on the hot seat a little more than three years after guiding the Giants to their third Super Bowl title.
Well, guess what?
Four games into the season, the Giants (3-1) are tied with the Washington Redskins for first place in the NFC East. And what makes New York's position even more unlikely is that they have only played one game at MetLife Stadium.
Coughlin insists there is nothing surprising about his team, which has lost starting cornerback Terrell Thomas and middle linebacker Jonathan Goff to season-ending knee injuries and played the first three games of the season without Osi Umenyiora (knee).
The injury report is longer. Defensive captain Justin Tuck (neck) has missed two games, first round-draft pick and cornerback Prince Amukamara (broken foot) has yet to play and there are others.
''I've stuck to this all along and I'm not going to change now, we have good players,'' Coughlin said Monday, a day after the Giants rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Arizona 31-27 on a late touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks.
''We have them in position (to win). We certainly have had some things go the other way in terms of (injuries) and feel bad about those players, but the rest of the guys have to pick it up,'' Coughlin added. ''Am I surprised? No, I'm not surprised. But do we have to improve and continue to get better and get more out of a lot of people who need to grow.''
If there are keys to the Giants' success, it's their ability to finish games this season and to avoid turnovers.
New York has now rallied for fourth-quarter wins the past two weeks, with the first one coming at Philadelphia.
''I think we have a different mentality to finishing games now,'' linebacker Michael Boley said. ''I think at times last year, we got kind of lackadaisical. We got away from the things we did earlier in the game as far as keeping the pressure on. This year it is a different mentality as a team. Our whole mentality is to keep the pressure on and don't let up even during the times late in the game when we are behind like yesterday.''
Eli Manning, who threw two late scoring passes on Sunday, has only thrown two interceptions after tossing a career-high 25 last season. The number is even more stunning since receiver Steve Smith and tight end Kevin Boss both signed with other teams in the offseason.
Manning, however, has gone to Nicks and Mario Manningham and suddenly developed a big-play cohesion with second-year pro Victor Cruz and new tight end Jake Ballard.
''I think his approach has changed in that he's trying to do the best he can to stay away from being pressured into making those tight, tight throws that unfortunately have ended up going the other way,'' Coughlin said. ''Is he aware on the emphasis that's been put on taking care of the football? You bet he is.''
Manning and halfback Ahmad Bradshaw both lost fumbles on Sunday, the first two New York has lost this season. They are a plus-4 after four games, which is usually a winning formula.
Boley, who took over making the defensive calls after Goff was injured less than a week before the season opener, isn't surprised how well the team is playing.
''For us, the team that we have and the guys coming in and out, we believed that whoever is in there at any point, they will get the job done regardless of what position it is,'' Boley said.
Nicks, who had a season-high 10 receptions against the Cardinals, believes the Giants are motivated.
''It is a matter of who wants it,'' he said. ''We stick together as a team and we bind good as a team. When guys go down, guys step up and that is the nature of the game. People get hurt and you have injuries, it is a matter of guys stepping up to the plate and making plays and I think we have been doing that good.''