The great news is the New York Giants won't have a slip-up at home against a drastically inferior opponent this year. The not-so-great news is we know that already because the Giants weren't lucky enough to draw another weak opponent this season.
Have you seen this team's schedule? It's a freakin' triathlon. With teams like the San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens looming, along with four more toughies against their own division (which they're 0-2 against) on the remaining sked, the Giants couldn't afford to drop games to teams like the Cleveland Browns.
That they battled back from an early 14-0 deficit to win fairly handily despite not having key cogs Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Phillips, Ramses Barden and Keith Rivers says a lot about the mental strength of this team.
I've been beating the mental-strength drum a lot, but it's worth repeating here because if they had a metric to measure that asset, the Giants would lead the NFL.
One year ago this week, the Giants fell to a 1-3 Seattle Seahawks team at MetLife Stadium. The year prior, the Tennessee Titans (who would finish 6-10) beat them handily in Jersey. Tom Coughlin had to be fearing history repeating itself when the 0-4 Browns gained a double-digit lead only four minutes and 46 seconds into Sunday's game.
But the depleted Giants dug in and dominated the rest of the way, outscoring Cleveland 41-13 over the game's final 55 minutes.
No Nicks or Barden? That's OK, because it was much-maligned rookie Rueben Randle's turn to shine. He led the team with six catches and 82 yards, while Victor Cruz posted three touchdowns.
They made a great effort committing to the run despite a huge Ahmad Bradshaw gaffe early, with Bradshaw running a ridiculous 30 times for a ridiculous 200 yards.
Beyond that Bradshaw fumble, Cleveland had three of the game's other four turnovers. The Giants took only three penalties. The Browns took 10. Big Blue controlled the clock for 35 minutes and 24 seconds.
So now the Giants enter an 11-game stretch that quite seriously doesn't contain a single team that I would put in the same category as the Browns. They're all better. But that gut-check victory Sunday gave the G-men a share of the NFC East lead before having to place their first foot on the hot coals that lie ahead.
It also reassured them that they have the depth, talent and experience to overcome anything else the injury gods send their way. That concoction is dangerous. Who knows—maybe even dangerous enough to get them back to the Super Bowl.
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