New York Giants: 5 Reasons Why They Play Better on the Road
After another impressive road win Thursday night in Carolina, the Giants' road warrior mystique continues to grow. Including the playoffs last season, New York has now won five consecutive road games. Since the beginning of the 2007 season, their overall record away from the Meadowlands is 32-14, compared to 25-19 at home.
How are the Giants so good away from what should be the friendly confines of their home stadium? Here are five reasons why the Giants have excelled on the road over the last five-plus seasons.
There Is No Reason
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There are obviously reasons why the Giants have been such a good road team in recent years, and we'll get to them. At some level, though, you have to just chalk it up as something that can't be explained.
This is especially true since they are a staggering 18 games over .500 away from home during their road-warrior stretch. If it was only five or 10 games over .500, the next four reasons would be sufficient to explain the trend. But 18 games over .500 for a team that hasn't been a dominant regular-season team during their two Super Bowl mini-dynasty? That's just a little too good to be fully explained.
At some point the universe will align again and the Giants' road record will come back down from outer space.
Nobody Believes in Us!
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More than anything, the Giants' main theme in their two recent championships has been that nobody believes in them. It carried the 2007 team to a Super Bowl victory when they were a wild-card qualifier and again last year as a 9-7 division champion that was able to sneak into the playoffs in the last game of the NFL regular season.
This is also a theme that they use away from home for many of their road games. It just happened this past week.
The Giants were ravaged with injuries to their offense with only three days to prepare for what was perceived by many as a hungry, up-and-coming Carolina team. Everyone was picking the Panthers to win the game, as witnessed by the Vegas line swinging a ridiculous six points. The Giants used this as motivation and preceded to embarrass the Panthers on national TV, 36-7.
Home Fields Are Not as Intimidating as They Used to Be
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NFL home fields used to be loud, intimidating places for visiting teams. Nowadays, you can count the stadiums on one hand that truly give the home team a distinct advantage. New Orleans and Seattle come to mind, with New England, Pittsburgh and Houston in the mix as well (even though the Giants have won road games against all of these teams, save New Orleans, since 2007).
Without an additional advantage like last licks in baseball or having the last line change in hockey, the only real in-game advantage to playing at home in the NFL is the crowd noise.
Why has this lone leg up been minimized in recent years? For starters, I think that many of the newer outdoor stadiums are built in a way that minimizes the noise level. The seats are farther away from the field and the stadiums are flatter with seats spread farther apart to improve sight lines. In addition, with ticket prices increasing and PSLs (Personal Seat License) now the norm in 14 NFL stadiums, the average rabid fan has been priced out or moved upstairs. Taking their place is a richer, more fair-weather fan that is not as invested in the game.
Tom Coughlin's Structured Coaching Philosophy
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Simply based on Tom Coughlin's controversial, much talked-about five-minute rule, it is clear that the Giants' head honcho is a disciplined, structured coach. His style has rubbed many players the wrong way, and he is routinely named the least popular coach in the NFL.
This rigid coaching philosophy, however, is a big reason why the Giants have played so well on the road for a majority of Coughlin's tenure. Away games require more structure and rules than playing at home. Flights need to be planned, curfew is more important and the nightlife scene is a bigger temptation for players. A player-friendly coach would likely not be as good at keeping his team focused in a visiting city. For Coughlin, though, road-game challenges play right into his strengths.
Coughlin may not be his players' first choice to have a beer with, but he should be when it comes to winning in enemy territory.
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When everything else is crumbling around him, Eli Manning has an uncanny ability to raise his game to its highest level. It is why he is the best clutch quarterback in the NFL and the main reason he owns two Super Bowl MVPs.
It is also the reason why he has led the Giants to an incredible road record in their last 46 away games. When the home team gets momentum and the crowd is in a frenzy, Eli bears down and makes a play or series of plays to regain control of the game.
One great example that sums up this ability occurred in the 2008 divisional playoff game against the Cowboys. Dallas had just completed an overpowering 20-play, 90-yard touchdown drive that ate up nearly 11 minutes of game clock in the second quarter. They led 14-7 with only 47 seconds left before halftime. The old Texas Stadium was rocking and it looked like the underdog Giants were about to be blown right out of the playoffs. Eli calmly marched on the field as if it was a preseason game and drove the Giants 71 yards for a touchdown in six plays that spanned only 36 seconds. New York went on to win the game 21-17 and the Super Bowl three weeks later.