Giants Deliver in Must-Win Situation

Photo: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

There's no such thing as a must-win game in the third week of the season. There's also just about no such thing as an 0-3 team making the playoffs.

Since the league expanded to a 12-team playoff field in 1990, only three out of the 85 teams that started 0-3 were able to extend their season past 16 games. The Giants can now breathe a little sigh of relief and know that they're not in the same sinking boat that only the '92 Chargers, '95 Lions and '98 Bills were able to survive.

"It was a big win, a huge win," said Justin Tuck, moments after New York capped a goal-line stand for the ages. The Skins were about 12 inches from sending this one into overtime – and they had four tries to do it. But New York's defense stood tough.

"That was a big confidence builder," Michael Strahan said. "We needed that."

All week, Giants coach Tom Coughlin preached about his club winning the fourth quarter. After being dominated during the first two periods and trailing at halftime, 17-3, New York did just that.

"As simple as it might be, that is what we wanted to try to do today," Coughlin said, "win the fourth quarter."

There's nothing simple about coming from two touchdowns down on the road against a 2-0 team. The Giants needed all hands on deck – and, with the entire season basically hanging in the balance, everyone delivered.

"It was a great team win," center Shaun O'Hara said.

Mathias Kiwanuka led the defensive charge with a team-high eight tackles and two sacks, only a week after looking basically lost against Green Bay. He put it all in perspective.

"There's a long way to go," Kiwi said. "We're going to hang our hats on this one for another six hours."

By the time you're reading this, those six hours will have long since passed and Big Blue will be focusing on squaring its record at 2-2.

The Giants looked a basically season-ending 0-3 start right square in the face – and didn't back down.

Answering the bell

During the week, in a story that ran on thegiantinsider.com, TGI picked out the five most important areas in which Big Blue needed to improve – out of approximately 1,528 options. Here's what we came up with before the matchup in DC and how they fared:

1) Get to the QB – Yeah, we've heard all about how fast Brett Favre gets rid of the ball. But the Giants couldn't even get close to the QB in either of their first two games. Perhaps, Michael Strahan shouldn't have waited until the 11th hour to decide to play this season. His sub-par play has hurt them, as has the fact that by playing Strahan, Justin Tuck hasn't gotten as many snaps as he's clearly earned.

Result: The Giants defense was light years better in pressuring Jason Campbell. They officially only posted two QB sacks, both by Mathias Kiwanuka, of all people. But as the game wore on and the plays grew more important, the Strahan-led D-line was coming fast and furious.

2) Tackle someone, anyone – Can anyone, especially in the secondary, tackle anyone these days? The missed tackles and poor angles to the ball occurred way too often against Green Bay. And please, Corey Webster, use your arms when you're trying to bring someone down.

Result: The best way to ensure that Corey Webster didn't screw up again was to severely limit his playing time. New York utilized Aaron Ross much more and he responded with a four-tackle performance. The secondary was still burned a handful of times, but, just like with the pass pressure, this showing was better than the first two games combined.

3) Cover up – It's not only in the secondary where the Giants have had extreme difficulties covering receivers. The Giants linebackers have sat idly by and watched as opposing tight ends have run free. And unfortunately, this Giants team can't even cover kickoffs.

Result: With the exception of Chris Cooley's eight-yard TD, where he was wide open, the linebackers displayed much better cover skills. Cooley only caught three passes for a mere 19 yards, while the Giants defense clamped down in the middle of the field, especially when it mattered most.

4) Win third down – If the game came down to only first and second downs, Big Blue very well might have beaten Green Bay. But New York's inability to neither stop anyone, nor consistently move the sticks on third down has hurt them badly.

Result: Check mark here as well. Big Blue converted more than half of its third-down opportunities (nine-of-16) while limiting the Redskins to only a 31 percent success rate (five-of-16).

5) Keep your cool – OK, it's hard to come down too hard on Amani Toomer, who's the ultimate professional on this Giants team. But even he's apparently been afflicted by the lack of discipline that's hurt New York since before the days of Tom Coughlin.

Result: Three total penalties for 15 yards in losses? Now that's something Tom Coughlin and the entire coaching staff can definitely live with. The Giants played with poise and kept their cool all game long, including when they were down by two TDs and could have understandably grown frustrated.

All told, New York improved significantly in all five trouble areas that led to their downfall against Green Bay. Hence, they're 1-2 and headed home with confidence to face a high-flying Eagles bunch that might still be scoring against Detroit. This should be a good one.

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