EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Josh Brown has played more seasons and in more games than any other Giants player.
In 13 NFL seasons, Brown has plenty of experience at both ends of the standings. When he played in Seattle from 2003-07, the Seahawks were in the playoffs every season and advanced to Super Bowl XL. Brown moved to St. Louis, where in four years the Rams were a combined 12-52 and never finished above third place.
Brown was on teams that started poorly and continued to sink, as well as teams that recovered from a bad start to play in the postseason. At 0-2, the Giants could have moved in either direction. But they won their last two games and with a .500 record, they own some momentum as they prepare to face the San Francisco 49ers tomorrow night in MetLife Stadium.
No one understands more than Brown what the victories over Washington and Buffalo meant to the Giants.
"I've been on both sides," Brown said. "I think it makes everybody feel secure, hands down. I don't think guys actually even realize how good we can be. Even as well as we're playing, I still think our young guys are just not fully aware of how good they truly can be within the systems and working with each guy in their area, how they play off of one another. I really think that we have a high-quality team here, I really do. I hope they don't realize how good they are. I hope they just keep working to be better than they already are. It's definitely helped energy and morale. You see guys in the meetings and focused and continuing to work hard. I definitely think winning these last two has been good for guys' confidence and good for us as a whole to continue to work, continue to push. It's wide open."
That would be the NFC East race, where the Giants are tied with Dallas and Washington. It's too early to become obsessed with the standings. But if the Giants win tomorrow, they will be over .500 for the first time in a year (they were 3-2 in 2014).
"It's huge," linebacker and defensive captain Jon Beason said. "The NFC East is obviously a little tight right now and we're just fighting for our lives, man. Trying to make it an official streak. Two games, eh. Three games, that's a streak. Great opponent, huge platform and it's a huge game. That's the nature of the NFL."
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants face San Francisco this Sunday
"Obviously, that'd be great," quarterback Eli Manning said. "That would be a big and we just have to keep it going. We got two in a row and we have to keep it going on Sunday night. Play good football, get to the fourth quarter, and then play our best football and get the win."
The Giants will be thin in their defensive front seven. Strongside linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) and defensive ends Robert Ayers (hamstring) and George Selvie (calf) will not play. In addition, wide receiver Victor Cruz remains sidelined.
The game matches two teams moving in opposite directions. While the Giants have won two in a row, the 49ers have dropped three straight. San Francisco is the NFL's lowest scoring team (12 points a game) and its minus-62 scoring differential is the league's worst. Last week, the Niners lost to Green Bay, 17-3.
But the memory of the 16-10 defeat the Niners inflicted on the Giants last Nov. 16 is still fresh in Tom Coughlin's mind. Although San Francisco has undergone a roster overhaul, don't dare suggest to Coughlin that the Niners are less than formidable opponents.
"I don't believe in buying any of that," Coughlin said. "If you look at the Green Bay tape, they're there twice. They're right at the goal line and they misfire and they have a ball that should have been caught in the end zone, they have sacks, and they back out of there. But they're there, and they do a nice job defending Green Bay and causing some issues with the quarterback and so on and so forth. So they played very well in that game, they didn't win. A play here or a play there and they are in position at home to win. So you do have to be aware of those things, but I don't pay any attention to that. They're 1-3 and they're desperate to win. And we're desperate to win."
Coughlin's message clearly resonates with his players.
"This team is good," running back Rashad Jennings said. "I look at the tape, I'm not really concerned about the team's record at all. We got on the tape, we see their defense crowding around, ballhawks, making plays, strong in all three levels of the defense. So we're preparing like we're playing the team we think they are. They're good."
And they're trying to lift themselves out of a hole, which the Giants can certainly relate to.
"We have to understand that just a few weeks ago we had to grind to get out of that circumstance," Manning sad. "I think that's the kind of way San Francisco is going to be coming in. They're fighting and they're going to grinding to get a win and we have to match that same intensity. Our preparation has to be great and we have to come out playing hard and playing determined to keep this thing going to get a win."