EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For the first time since they were 6-3 in 2012, the Giants have both a winning record and are in first place in the NFC East after nine games.
The Giants are 5-4 after their 32-18 victory yesterday in Tampa over the Buccaneers. They are a half-game ahead of the 4-4 Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East race. On Sunday, the Giants will host the defending champion, 8-0, New England Patriots.
In each of the previous two seasons, the Giants were 3-6 and tied for third in the division at this point in the season. Their current position is far more favorable, coach Tom Coughlin said today.
"Well, obviously, it's a great thing," Coughlin said. "It's a wonderful thing to be able to be in the hunt, to be relevant. And each week is extremely meaningful, and that players are well aware of that. Like I spoke to them on Saturday night, we talked about the fact that, 'Hey, you work a whole winter, you work all summer, you spend all your time preparing, and if I was to tell you at the midpoint of the season that you were in first place in the division, had a very meaningful circumstance within the division, would it make a difference?' You bet it would, you bet it would. So, obviously, we have many, many important and big games to go, but it's good to have that factor involved."
The players are also excited but realize they're not close to clinching anything yet. Coughlin only needs to point to 2012, when they Giants finished 9-7 and out of the playoffs.
"We all knew we were capable of being the top team in this division," wide receiver Rueben Randle said. "It was all about us going out there and making sure that we did it on the field, not just talk about it, and rely on other things. I don't find it a surprise to us that we're at the top. We've just got to continue to build as a team, and get better each and every week to remain there."
• When Randle caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning yesterday, he was so wide open, no one else was in the television picture.
"I don't think (I've ever been that open)," Randle said after the game. "It was probably the easiest one I've had throughout my whole career. I wanted to do some jumping jacks, but I didn't want to make it that obvious. Luckily, Eli found his way back to that progression and found me in the corner of the end zone."
• Randle has played with a sore hamstring that has recently limited his practice time.
"It's still a little sore, but it's better than the past weeks," Randle said. "As much as I can rest it, I try to rest it to allow me to go longer in the game. Just trying to find a way to manage my way around it."
Randle is confident the injury will not linger for the remainder of the season. The Giants have their bye week after facing New England.
"Probably one more week," he said, "and then after the bye, hopefully, I'll be where I can go out there and play full speed."
• The Giants-Bucs game ended in unusual fashion when Trevin Wade scored on a fumble return on the game's final play, and the Giants elected not to kick the extra point. Instead, kicker Josh Brown impersonated a quarterback, getting under center, securing a snap from Zak DeOssie, and taking a knee.
"We were all walking out for the PAT and the ref (Clete Blakeman) said, 'You can take a knee, you don't have to kick this,'" Brown said. "I'm like, 'Okay, we don't want to get everybody pounded one more time. I don't need to kick this ball. Let's kneel and go.'"
• Brown succeeded on all four of his field goal attempts, including a 53-yarder, extending his streak to 23 in a row.
"All around, I came in feeling good," Brown said. "We had a good week of preparation, we work well together, and it's good whenever you can take a good week of practice and just transfer it directly to the field, and try to keep doing that. There was a lot of energy and this was an important game. This was a game that we needed to really take advantage of. We had fought well last week and come away short (52-49 in New Orleans). This was one that we really needed to capitalize on. You just try to get into a good groove, and continue to play well and strike the ball well."
DeOssie's snap was low on the 53-yard attempt. But holder Brad Wing did of terrific job of catching the call and getting it down for Brown, who did not hesitate when he saw the snap was off.
"There's really no time on a deep one like that," he said. "Brad did a great job of just getting the ball down, and getting the laces out of the way. All you can do at that point is just keep your head down and swing and hope that muscle memory just plays a massive part, and it did. You aim at the right pole because the wind was blowing a little to the left, and you just let the ball do what it's going to do."
What it did was sail through the uprights for Brown's longest field goal of the season.
• After studying the game tape, Coughlin gave Jason Pierre-Paul's performance a positive review in his first game of the season.
"Obviously, the guy hadn't played, so he was rusty in terms of that," Coughlin said. "But I thought he got some great jumps off the snap, and I thought his inside move was an outstanding move. Late in the game, when we needed to be able to rush the passer (Jameis Winston), he forced the passer to pull it down and run outside to the right on a couple of occasions, which made him a little bit more uncomfortable when he was not standing in the pocket releasing the ball in that way. He was having to throw the ball on the move. I thought that for the first time out of the box, obviously our players were happy that he was out there with us. And he's going to do nothing but get better."
Gameday photo timeline from the Giants Week 9 matchup against the Bucs