Jason Pierre-Paul had obviously gotten tired of the barbs his defensive mates threw at him in the meeting rooms. The ones about how the Giants weren't really getting their money's worth from their No. 1 draft pick.
No such taunts are coming now. The defensive end with the 747 wingspan has come alive the past three games with pressure on the quarterbacks and an increased role in the defensive line rotation. And now, as he appears to be rounding into a solid pass rusher who can also stop the run, he'll face the biggest challenge of his career in Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy.
It is those two who make the current 9-4 NFC East co-leaders go. Oh, they have deep threats in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, but if not for the elusive Vick and the hard-driving McCoy, the big-play potential downfield might never open up.
Pierre-Paul will now assume some of the responsibility for either stopping those people or letting them run wild. That wasn't the case when the teams first met Nov. 21, a 27-17 Eagles win that was accomplished in large part by two big plays in the final minute. The first was McCoy's 50-yard scamper with Vick's pitch of a bobbled snap, which cleared Osi Umenyiora's hands by inches.
McCoy contributed a 40-yard run after Eli Manning's fumble to set up David Akers' clinching field goal.
Pierre-Paul's role wasn't as big in that game, however.
"He has more jobs," coach Tom Coughlin said of Pierre-Paul. "He has more assignments. He's a bigger part of things."
The biggest thing Sunday will be pressuring Vick. For the most part, the Giants did a good job of that in the first meeting, flushing him often to the right to limit his passing options. With Pierre-Paul having hit his stride now, with four sacks in the last three game -- two sacks in two straight against Jacksonville and Washington -- he could become an extra weapon in the pressure campaign against Vick. As such, he could become a major factor in the effort to break a five-game losing streak against the Eagles.
One might presume the Giants will try to pressure Vick with a four-man rush this time, since they blitzed from all over the field the last time to limit him to just four passes of 20 yards or more. They also forced him into three interceptions and two fumbles, one of which he lost.
"You have to contain him," Justin Tuck said of Vick, though the same is true of McCoy. "The only way we find a way to contain him is to make him force himself to run to his off (right) hand. Even then, he makes plays. With a guy like Vick, you have to get lucky. A lot of luck comes with just playing hard and that’s what we’re going to do."
In other words, the Giants will need all hands to get the job done. And that means it's time for the first-round rookie to step up and make the most of his opportunities, which will be significant.
There's just too much at stake now.