They have practiced and studied and otherwise looked forward to their showdown on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles in Lincoln Financial Field. But the players have also responded to innumerable questions about the past, specifically the recent meetings with their NFC East rivals. Bill Parcells often said that history means nothing in football. Tom Coughlin is of that school of thought, as well. As are his players.
"I think each game is different. Each season is different," quarterback Eli Manning said. "We have new guys on our team. They have new guys. They have a new defensive coordinator. Everything changes. Obviously, it's still Giants vs. Philly, but all you can do is worry about this game and get prepared to play."
The Giants have done that well in the privacy of their meeting rooms and locker room and on the practice field. But outside of the cocoon the chatter has been incessant, the reminders relentless. Everyone wants to know about the Giants' six consecutive losses to Philadelphia, the two fourth-quarter leads that were squandered in 2010, the game in MetLife Stadium they led by 21 points in the fourth quarter but didn't finish (a big reason Coach Tom Coughlin has emphasized the importance of finishing games strong this year).
"You never want to be a part of the wrong side of a game like that, so that's something that everybody's going to remember here," linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. "But as far as this week, it's all about this new season and getting a win for this year."
It may make good copy and occupy chunks on talk radio, but to the Giants all this babble about the past means … nothing.
"That was last year, this is this year," said Coughlin, whose team is 1-1, as are the Eagles. "That's the position I'm trying to take. We're certainly aware of the fact what has taken place in the past. But we're trying not to let that affect us right now as we prepare for this one."
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell joined the team last year, but he couldn't escape questions about a streak that began prior to his arrival.
"Any time you lose two to a team they have your number to a certain degree," Fewell said. "I know it's a great rivalry. It's a rivalry that we embrace. It's a game that we look forward to. I know that because it's the Eagles and yes, since they have won six it probably takes on a little more meaning and has a little more animosity to it. Do I sense that from my players? Not really. I think it's just the anticipation of playing the Philadelphia Eagles this week."
As always, the players have followed their coaches' lead.
"This is the next football game," defensive tackle Chris Canty said. "I don't know what happened before this season. Quite frankly, it doesn't matter. We need to win a football game. That's what we're going down the Turnpike to do. That's what we prepared all week to do. And that's it."
"I think you look forward to every game and that's how football players think," Manning said. "You don't think about when's the last time we beat them. You think, 'Hey, this is a game coming up, you prepare and you're always confident you're going to be able to go in there and if you play well, you will win.'"
The Giants face a big challenge even without dealing with the clutter of the past. The Eagles are a talented team and while the Giants are familiar with players such as Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and Trent Cole, Philadelphia has imported several new starters and has new coaches on both offense and defense.
With Vick – who is expected to start despite suffering a concussion last week in Atlanta – McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, the Eagles have fast players at the key skill positions.
"They do have a lot of team speed," Fewell said. "They are a fast group. I think we have a good plan to try to combat that team speed and we're going to unveil that on Sunday."
"You have to get to the quarterback," Tuck said. "I think they live for big plays and they have a big play running back. They have several big play wide receivers and they have a big play tight end. Obviously, everyone knows the abilities of Michael Vick and it all starts with him. We have to put a lot of pressure on him so that we can't allow them those long, deep routes."
Although Vick gets most of the attention, McCoy, who runs the ball and catches passes with equal skill, might be the Eagles' most indispensible player.
"I think he's playing his best football right now," Fewell said. "He's playing with a lot of speed. We have to swarm to the football. We have to wrap tackle him in order to slow him down. We have got to be very disciplined in what we do and how we attack that offense."
The Giants can best keep the ball out of the hands of Vick and Co. by holding onto it themselves. But in the season's first two weeks, they did not run the ball up to the standards they have set for themselves; Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs have averaged a combined 3.6 yards a carry after averaging 4.9 yards a year ago. In a victory over the Rams on Monday night, they rushed for 109 yards on 31 carries, a 3.5-yard average.
"We tried to run the ball last week and we didn't do it very well and we are going to try to do it again this week," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "I think we are going to get better at it as we go and as the cohesiveness and the offensive line improves."
The ground game will try to get some traction against an Eagles defensive line that includes two-time Pro Bowler Trent Cole and newcomers Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin (an Eagle for the second time).
"What I see is a terrific defensive front, as good a defensive front as there is in football," Gilbride said. "It looks like teams have broken a couple big ones when they have had a lapse in terms of their run responsibility. What I see on a down-in and down-out basis is two terrific defensive ends and some very, very powerful tackles. We are going to have our hands full."
The same can be said about the Eagles' pass defense, which features three cornerbacks - Asante Samuel and newcomers Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – that have played in a combined eight Pro Bowls.
They will face a Giants receiving corps that is not at full strength. Domenik Hixon was placed on injured reserve today and replaced on the roster by Michael Clayton, who was let go early this month on the final roster cutdown. And starting wideout Mario Manningham is listed as doubtful for Sunday as he continues to undergo tests after getting dinged Monday night. Manningham did not practice this week.
Victor Cruz, Jerrel Jernigan, Brandon Stokley, Devin Thomas and Clayton could all line up opposite Hakeem Nicks and/or in the slot in Philadelphia.
"I'm definitely going to be involved in the offense a little bit more this week," said Cruz, who had his first two career receptions against the Rams. "We've had a great week of preparation. I'm up for the challenge as well as the rest of the receiving corps."
Because he is a proven receiver at the top of his game, Nicks will likely draw extra attention from the Eagles' defensive backs.
"They have a good secondary over there, so in my eyes they'll stick with their game plan," Nick said. "We're going to stick to our game plan."
And that is to focus on the task at hand and not what happened in the past.
"At the end of the day, the game's played on the field," safety Antrel Rolle said. "It's not played with words, it's not played in the media - the game's played on the field. And that's something we have to make our focal point and understand. We're always looking for a great matchup. There's always been exciting games, there's always been (turning points) in the last minute, and that's something I'm looking for come this weekend."
*Defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee) and cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot) will not play. Center Davis Baas (lower leg), defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (knee) and tight end Travis Beckum (hamstring) all practiced fully and are probable. Defensive end Justin Tuck missed practice because of a death in his family, but is probable.
*Quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, whose practice squad contract was terminated last week, was re-signed to the practice squad. He replaces wide receiver Chris Hogan.
*The Giants are 25-28 in games following a Monday night game, including 7-7 since 2000.
*The Giants are 4-4 in regular season games in Lincoln Financial Field.
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