Now they're using that rope to hogtie their opponents, scoring their second straight victory Sunday, 27-14, against the favored Atlanta Falcons to improve to 3-2 heading into Dallas for next Monday night's NFC East showdown.
"We had our backs to the wall and we came back fighting," said coach Tom Coughlin, who says he begins thinking about the next opponent as he's walking off the field after the last game. "In the second half we played well because I told them this was a gut-check game at halftime. Playing the way we did, I'm happy for the guys and the fans."
The Cowboys will present offensive challenges and problems for the Giants' defense, but not like the ordeal of playing against Atlanta's Michael Vick. "We had a different set of assignments," said Coughlin. "Like who gets him when he gets to the corner? Is it a cornerback or an outside linebacker or a defensive end? He's a very difficult player because he can hurt you in so many ways."
Now Coughlin's team will have to contend with wide receiver Terrell Owens and running back Julius Jones and a defense that keeps improving on a weekly basis, but without Vick lurking just behind the line of scrimmage the threats are just football players who can be predicted and game-planned.
The Dallas system of a fulltime 3-4 defensive formation is going to make things slightly different, especially with the Giants' reliance on their running game. Tiki Barber gained an astronomical 185 yards in 26 carries. He now has 533 yards in 102 carries. Dallas coach Bill Parcells has always considered Barber one of the NFL's top running backs, and even now that he is 31 years old, that hasn't changed. The Giants ran the ball 38 times for 259 yards.
"The guy (Barber) can flat out play," he said. "You have to be ready for that man or he is going to do something bad to you."
Some of the rust appeared to finally shed from tight end Jeremy Shockey's right foot and ankle. The two injuries (sore foot, sprained ankle) had been bothering him all season, and he had missed parts of each game because he just couldn't go at full speed.
But Sunday he caught six passes for 55 yards and a pair of touchdowns and was an effective blocker at times for Barber's sweeps and slants. "It needed rest," he said of his foot. "There wasn't anything wrong with it besides not enough time between games. I feel good now; better than I have all season."
Shockey was at his best late in the third quarter, when the Falcons held a 14-10 lead. He was the spearhead of an 11-play, 91-yard drive that gave the Giants their first lead (17-14) in the second half. He caught three passes -- for 19, 16 and 15 yards. The first two were for first downs and the third was the go-ahead touchdown.
"It's about time," he said. "I owed this team a big game."
--RB Tiki Barber was quiet and scholarly after his mega performance. "We went with what we do best, this is run the ball," he said. "We couldn't allow them to dominate this game with their running attack, although they did pretty well as it was."
--RT Kareem McKenzie made several key blocks for Barber's rushes, and credited the entire O-line for consistent work. "They (the Falcons) bring seven guys into the box, mostly with (SS) Lawyer Milloy," he said. "But Tiki has a knack of making something out of nothing."
--MLB Antonio Pierce: "Is it difficult to play Vick? Hey, the guy can throw the ball 90 yards with his left arm, what do you think? And he's in the top 10 in the league among rushers."
--WLB Brandon Short and RDE Osi Umenyiora each had two sacks (the Giants had seven in total) and Short said it wasn't easy. "Their blocking is different," he said of the Falcons' O-line technique. "They use a lot of cut-blocking, leg-whipping, chop-blocking. Is it legal? It doesn't get flagged, so it must be legal."
--QB Eli Manning completed 17 of 30 passes for 180 and two TDs (along with two interceptions) but after the game said the focus was on Barber and the running game. "We knew we could keep their offense off the field if we ran well," he said, "and I think Tiki had one of those incredible games.