- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 28, 2001

The New York Giants have lost back-to-back one-point games to fall to 3-3. Their offense has yet to score more 21 points in a game and is ranked 22nd in the 31-team NFL. Their defense, fifth-rated last year, is 11th now, just 20th against the pass. They have already lost 10 starts to injury, as many as all last season.
Are the defending NFC East champions worried? Not a chance.
Not after recovering from ugly, back-to-back home losses last November to run the table en route to their first Super Bowl in a decade. And not after spending hundreds of collective hours at the site of the ruins of the World Trade Center, which used to be visible from their stadium.
"It's a pretty resilient group," fifth-year coach Jim Fassel said as the Giants prepared for today's rematch with Washington. "We've been through a lot. We fought through some very difficult times [losing five of six games in one 1998 stretch and six of their final eight games in 1999], and we've enjoyed some pretty good success. This is a mature team, a close team. As bitter as those games were to lose, I don't think it's going to knock us to our knees.
"When I built this team, I was looking for tough guys, team guys, guys who love to play football. The last two games hurt, but it won't do us any good to wallow around for two or three days feeling sorry for ourselves."
Fassel's guarantee of last November that the 7-4 Giants would make the playoffs following those losses to the Rams and Lions changed the team's mindset.
"It showed the players that we had taken off all the gloves," said outspoken defensive end Michael Strahan. "We didn't have to feel the pressure of 'what if we don't play well?' He pretty much said, 'I don't care how you play. Just give me everything that you've got.' That's what everybody did and once we started rolling, a lot of confidence built. We felt invincible by the end of the year. …
"With everything that happened around here on Sept. 11th and afterwards, that ingrained it even a little more in our minds. This team is weird. We just play. I don't think anybody's worried about how we're perceived or whether we're appreciated. We don't worry about whether anybody respects us or likes us."
Or that they failed to hold leads in the final five minutes the past two weeks.
Despite playing without injured top runner Tiki Barber, the visiting Giants led the undefeated Rams in the fourth quarter en route to outgaining the high-powered St. Louis attack. New York trailed just 15-14 and had a first down at the St. Louis 39 with more than a minute left when receiver Joe Jurevicius couldn't hold a pass from quarterback Kerry Collins and the loose ball was picked off by the Rams' Grant Wistrom.
And last Monday, the Giants controlled the ball for an incredible 24:35 of the first half but led only 9-0 as they drove inside the Philadelphia 7-yard line three times but could never punch the ball into the end zone. The Eagles went ahead on a dart of a touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb to James Thrash with 1:52 left. The Giants had a final shot to win, but the scrambling Collins fumbled when sacked by Jeremiah Trotter.
A less battle-tested team would probably be letting doubt creep in, but 12 of the Giants' 22 starters have been NFL regulars for at least five years. And 10 of the starters are in at least their third season in the New York lineup. Only tight end Dan Campbell, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, linebacker Brandon Short and rookie cornerback Will Allen are first-time NFL starters.
There's also comfort in the knowledge that five of the next seven games are against NFC East lightweights Washington, Dallas and Arizona. A sweep of that quintet, plus victories in two of five tests against contenders Minnesota, Oakland, Seattle, Green Bay and Philadelphia, and the Giants will be back in the playoffs.
"We're a mentally tough group, and when you're mentally tough, your body will follow," Strahan said. "I don't think there's a team that we play against that we're really worried about. Losing the last two has set us back a little bit. But as far as making us depressed, no. It's not like we're going to give up. It has just made us more determined to show what we can do. We're a better team than we've indicated by the last two losses."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide