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    "With 1:40 remaining in Super Bowl XLII, head linesman Gary Slaughter placed
    the ball just shy of the first-down marker as a frantic Eli Manning rounded up
    his team.

    It had turned out that Amani Toomer’s comeback catch was all of 2 feet shy of
    the marker. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft watched from his box,
    tugging on his belt as he paced around his chair during the 55 seconds of real
    time it took for the officials to measure.

    The Giants trailed, 14-10, as the
    teams approached the ball. Tom Coughlin knew what everyone was expecting, but he
    wasn’t about to send Manning up the gut.

    “Well, guess what? There’s two big guys that are playing across the ball, and
    they’re lined up — they take up from the head of the center to beyond the
    guard,” he recalled Friday.

    The handoff went to Brandon Jacobs. And for quite possibly the longest yard
    of the season, the big back needed to run straight into the barrel of an
    eight-man rush.

    The play was in right guard Chris Snee’s gap. It was one he remembers well,
    because he had to block three people.

    “I had to get a piece of (Vince) Wilfork, and I had to get up to (Junior)
    Seau,” Snee said. “But the challenging part was (Tedy) Bruschi stepped up, he
    was on the line of scrimmage to my outside. I kind of did a ricochet where I
    wanted to get a piece of both of those guys and then get up to Seau.”

    Jacobs crawled out the other side and leaned out to see if he’d made it past
    the marker.

    First down, Giants.

    David Tyree’s spectacular leather-on-helmet catch is, rightfully so,
    remembered as the marquee play on that drive, the one where Giants history was
    made and the one that earned them their first Super Bowl title since 1990-91.
    But with that 2-yard gain on fourth-and-1, Jacobs and the offensive line kept it
    going, saving a timeout along the way and providing just enough of a breather to
    bring on two entirely different sets of personnel.

    “If you don’t get it, game over,” Jacobs said Friday as the Giants prepared
    to face the Patriots again, this time in Super Bowl XLVI. “So, how much it
    propelled us, that tells you. You have a fresh set of downs, and we were able to
    drive the ball and win the game.”

    In those frantic moments while the officials were measuring after Toomer’s
    catch, Manning told the offense they would go no-huddle if they converted a
    first down on the following play, Snee said. They were able to take the time to
    call in the correct personnel for Jacobs’ fourth-down run.

    Because Jacobs’ fourth-down conversion was so close, it took the officiating
    crew roughly 49 seconds between the time Jacobs’ elbow hit and the time referee
    Mike Carey signaled first down, but only 12 seconds had run off the clock from
    snap to whistle. In that time, Manning could again be heard calling a play and
    bringing in yet another personnel switch.

    "There was a brief pause, whether or not we got it,” Snee said. “That allowed us
    to kind of collect ourselves and get the receivers on the field.”

    The run kept the Giants with three timeouts one of which they would need to
    use on the next play, a 5-yard scramble by Manning. They would use all three
    within the next 40 seconds of game time.

    Less than a minute after Jacobs run, Plaxico Burress hauled in the go-ahead
    touchdown and a stunned Manning was mobbed by his offensive line. A minute after
    that they were champions.

    And even though it may have been forgotten then, brushed over by the
    grandeur, those are the moments that stand out now. An 83-yard drive for a
    title, defined by one run of around 2 feet.

    “You can pick out those spots where against the great defensive teams or
    however, you have to keep the ball,” Coughlin said. “You have to have the ball
    in order to have a fresh set of downs — you got another opportunity.”

    Said Snee of the play’s effect: “I didn’t even think about it at the


    "Add Logan Mankins to the list of New England Patriots players who bristled at a
    reference to Super Bowl XLII. This time in particular, the left guard was asked
    about the pressure from the Giants front
    that evening in Arizona, one of the main reasons the Giants left as world

    “That was four years ago,” Mankins said brusquely. “Next question.”

    The memories of that game are likely not pleasant ones for Mankins and left
    tackle Matt Light, the holdovers from the 2007 offensive line (center Dan Koppen
    is on injured reserve).

    Quarterback Tom Brady was sacked five times that day, and hit nine, as a
    versatile Giants front that often used four defensive ends laid out a blueprint
    to beat the then-unbeaten Patriots. In this Super Bowl XLVI rematch, perhaps the
    biggest question is: Can this offensive line hold up better against the Giants’
    pass rush?

    That’s not a question the Patriots are amenable to answering. As Light
    quipped earlier in the week, “I don’t think I was there for” Super Bowl XLII.

    So what they have done instead is praise the Giants’ front line up and down —
    praise merited by the Giants’ 48-sack season.

    Right guard Brian Waters said the Giants are “definitely the best defensive
    line we’ve faced” this year.

    Mankins said the Giants’ four-defensive-end lineup is unique, simply because
    “a lot of teams don’t have the personnel to do that.”

    Light hoped to only match up on one lineman at a time, because otherwise
    “that would be brutal.”

    Even receiver Deion Branch showed respect, noting of second-year player Jason
    Pierre-Paul, “I see him, and I stay away from him.”

    To borrow the words of Justin Tuck, the Patriots must protect “the snake,”
    i.e. Brady. But how?

    The Patriots did a better job protecting Brady in their
    Week 9 loss to the Giants
    this season, at least statistically: He was only
    sacked twice, and hit three times. But the offense nonetheless had its
    struggles. The game was scoreless at the half, and Brady turned the ball over
    three times, including one strip sack at New England’s 8-yard line.

    In that game, the Patriots often kept tight ends in to block or sent in a
    tackle as an extra blocker. But this requires a balance between blocking up the
    rushers and sending enough guys out on routes for their spread offense to

    “We’re going to try to take advantage of every opportunity they give us,”
    Branch said. “If we have to sit in and max protect, that’s what we are going to
    do. If our front line can handle the guys without max protecting them, then I’m
    pretty sure we’ll do that as well.

    “It’s all about taking advantage and making adjustments on the sideline.”

    If the pressure is getting through, the Patriots could adjust to a quick
    game, chip players, or use plays like screens and draws, Branch explained.

    The linemen must be mentally sharp, not only knowing who they are blocking on
    each play, but what his strengths are. Waters described the long arms and “super
    athletic ability” of Pierre-Paul, Tuck and Umenyiora’s veteran ability to show
    one look and give another, and the physical tackles in the middle.

    History shows the Giants have the ability to get to Brady. The five sacks in
    Super Bowl XLII were the most given up by the Patriots that season. His passer
    rating against the Giants, 75.4, was his lowest of the regular season.

    But Mankins does not doubt that Brady can be successful against pressure.

    “Well, the same thing that makes Tom successful against every team,” Mankins
    said. “He knows where the guys are coming from, he can read the defense fast to
    get the ball to the right guy.”

    But a lot depends on the guys up front — including what their memory of Super
    Bowl XLVI will be four years from now."


    "After Super Bowl XLII, Michael Strahan recounted how Osi Umenyiora came up to
    him at breakfast the morning of the game, telling him repeatedly the pass
    rushers would have to get to Tom Brady for the Giants to pull off the upset.

    Umenyiora wouldn’t leave Strahan alone until he drove his point home. After
    two weeks of hearing all about how the Giants were “going to get smashed down,”
    Umenyiora was angry.

    “Strahan was just talking and being loud, his usual self. I’m usually the one
    who’s joking around, but I was dead serious that morning,” Umenyiora recalled
    Friday after the Giants’ second practice in advance of Super Bowl XLVI against
    the New England Patriots. “I was like, ‘Stray, in order for us to win this game,
    we’re going to have to get to the quarterback, we’re going to have to really get
    to him.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, whatever.’ I made him put his fork down, and I
    was like, ‘I’m dead serious, man. We’re going to have to do this.’

    “He stopped joking then and was all business. And we went out there and took
    care of it.”

    That day, the Giants showed the rest of the league a multitude of pass
    rushers can stop even the best of offenses. Dave Tollefson even said earlier
    this season the team has ignited a “Renaissance of pass rushing.”

    Since then, the biggest defensive key to just about every Giants game has
    been getting to the quarterback. It will once again be the case in eight days at
    Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

    Is that too basic of a breakdown?

    “I don’t think so,” said Justin Tuck, who had two sacks and a forced fumble
    in the Super Bowl. “You look at ’07 and say that was pretty much the reason why
    we were able to win that game, because we kind of kept (Brady) off-rhythm.

    “The way to kill a snake is to take off his head. And the way to kill an
    offense as potent as that one is making sure you take care of Brady.”

    Before they get there, they’ll have to make their way through the Pats’
    offensive line. The two players on the left side — tackle Matt Light and guard
    Logan Mankins — are the only holdovers from the starting unit four years

    The matchup
    of Umenyiora and Light
    is the most intriguing.

    Those two traded shoves in the ’07 season finale and then traded words
    leading up to the Super Bowl. Umenyiora accused Light of using questionable
    tactics, which included shoving him at the end of plays and nudging him near
    piles. The latter move can sometimes result in leg injuries for a player, which
    is why Umenyiora was so upset.

    Earlier this season, in the Giants’ last-minute victory in Foxborough, Mass.,
    Light pushed Umenyiora over Tuck as Jason Pierre-Paul was sacking Brady. He
    remained on top of Umenyiora and a huge scrum ensued. Umenyiora emerged smiling
    and jawing in Light’s direction.

    That made two on-field “fights,” as Umenyiora described them, in his career.
    Both were with Light. (Umenyiora even joked Friday that if he and Light were
    ejected for fighting, it would affect the Patriots more than the Giants.)

    Once again, Umenyiora is serious. And angry.

    “Me and him, we have history. We’re going to rekindle it (a week from)
    Sunday,” Umenyiora said. “It’s something he’s doing that reeeeeally gets under
    my skin. And I’m not that type of guy.”

    Light didn’t address reporters Friday, but Patriots running back Kevin
    Faulk believes Umenyiora
    has an ulterior motive.

    “He tried to pull the same thing the last time, so,” Faulk said. “It ain’t
    relevant to us right now; we’re going to play football.”

    Tuck laughed and called Umenyiora vs. Light “a battle of the 72s,”
    referencing both players’ jersey number.

    “It’s kind of funny, actually. Osi is not a fighter,” Tuck said. “We give Osi
    a little flak for it because I tell him Matt beat him up both times.”

    Perhaps he’s trying to stoke Umenyiora’s fire because the last time he vowed
    revenge against Light, it turned out pretty well for the Giants.

    “We’ll find out next Sunday,” Tuck said with a grin.

    Tuck and the Giants had better hope the mind games work because, as Umenyiora
    said four years ago, they have to get to Brady.

    “Any quarterback, you put him under that kind of pressure, his performance is
    going to be affected. Even one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play, which
    he is,” Umenyiora said. “Anybody under that pressure is going to have a problem.
    If we’re able to do that he’s going to have a problem.”


    Excerpt: "New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has not practiced since the AFC
    Championship Game because of an ankle injury.

    His father, Gordy Gronkowski, revealed today that his son is nursing a high
    ankle sprain, in an interview with western New York TV station WIVB.

    High ankle sprains often sideline players for a few weeks, but Gordy
    Gronkowski said he expects his son to play in Super Bowl XLVI against the Giants a week from Sunday.

    Gronkowski was held out of practice Thursday and today at Gillette Stadium,
    the only member of the team to sit out of the padded practice. He is listed as
    questionable on the team’s early injury report.

    Patriots coach Bill Belichick is notoriously tight-lipped about injuries, so
    Gordy Gronkowski’s interview could not have sat well at Patriots headquarters.
    Veteran running back Kevin Faulk hinted as much.

    “Go ask Rob, and I guarantee he’ll tell you what Bill told him,” Faulk

    Gronkowski is one of New England’s most potent weapons, scoring 18 touchdowns
    this season, so the team could certainly be affected if he is not 100 percent.

    Receiver Matthew Slater said he and his teammates are trusting Gronkowski
    will do everything he can to be as physically ready as possible." Read more...


    "Mathias Kiwanuka, like the rest of his teammates, has heard plenty about the
    eerie parallels between this Giants team
    and the squad that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in February 2008.

    There’s the 38-35 home loss against the league’s lone undefeated team at the
    time; the Giants streaking at just the right time; the three victories to reach
    the Super Bowl; and, now, playing the New England Patriots in that final game.

    But for Kiwanuka, reminiscing about 2007 doesn’t conjure up the same pleasant

    For the first half of the 2007 season, Kiwanuka, then in his second year out
    of Boston College, was struggling to convert to outside linebacker from
    defensive end. And for the second half, he wasn’t even around.

    In Week 11 of that season, Kiwanuka fractured his left fibula and was placed
    on the injured reserve list, ending his year and relegating him to a spectator
    as his teammates put together one of the most improbable playoff runs in

    This time, as the Giants again prepare to play the Patriots in the Super
    Bowl, Kiwanuka has been one of the few consistent cogs on a defense besieged by
    injuries and poor play during parts of the season.

    Now completely comfortable at outside linebacker, Kiwanuka has played in all
    19 games this season, starting 18, including the playoffs. During the regular
    season he recorded 61 tackles and 3½ sacks, and his best performance has
    arguably been against the Patriots in Week 9 when he registered 12 total tackles
    and an interception, earning NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

    “The way I compare it, I played on some good high school football teams, too,
    and won two state championships — one as a sophomore and one as a junior,”
    Kiwanuka recalled. “The one during my sophomore year, I was on the field, and I
    contributed but I wasn’t a starter. My junior year I was starting on both sides
    of the ball and my friends were all involved. I feel like this one will be more
    like that.”

    Then there are the improvements statistics don’t convey as he has evolved
    into a legitimate linebacker instead of a defensive end playing out of position:
    his ability to drop back in coverage against dangerous tight ends and the
    aptitude to plug holes against the run.

    “The difference this year is obviously I’m a little older than when I made
    the switch, but this was what I was asked to do before I signed my contract to
    come back here,” Kiwanuka said, referring to the two-year, $8.4 million deal he
    signed in August.

    “They said this is the role we see you in and I accepted it. There was no
    wavering in my mind about what I was going to be doing so that made it a lot

    This is all coming off a herniated disc injury he suffered last season that
    once again left him on the injured reserve list and nearly derailed his career —
    reaching the point that he made a list of post-football career possibilities.

    Now it seems to be coming together, both on and off the field. His brother,
    Benedict, who suffered a multitude of broken bones and internal bleeding in a
    horrific motorcycle accident in 2010, is steadily progressing, and Kiwanuka and
    his fiancée are expecting a girl in March.

    “A lot of things have happened, not just football-wise,” he said, “but my
    life in general has taken a turn for the better.”

    Four years later, he is getting his chance to join his teammates in a Super
    Bowl against the Pats. And he gets to do it in his hometown of Indianapolis, a
    fitting stop in a journey full of peaks and valleys."


    "Three days before he departs for the Super Bowl, Jacquian Williams was
    sporting a new accessory. And not a good one.

    The Giants linebacker was wearing a
    walking boot that ran up to his knee on his right leg, for what he termed a
    “sprain” of his foot. Williams said that while team doctors have assured him
    that nothing is broken, wearing the boot is more of a precautionary measure.

    “Right now, I’m just resting for a couple of days,” Williams said today. “But
    I’ll be running on it and just seeing what I can do the next couple of days.”

    The rookie, who sees time on special teams, said that he couldn’t recall
    exactly when he injured the foot last weekend in the NFC Championship Game
    against the San Francisco 49ers. He practiced on Wednesday, but was held out the
    past two days. After today’s final practice before the Giants board their flight
    for Indianapolis on Monday morning, Williams was listed as questionable on the
    team’s injury report.

    “It’s something that just happened,” he said. “The day after, I thought it
    was just some game soreness, and I asked about it and they decided to give me an
    MRI. Doctors decided that I should take some rest.”

    The injury news comes after Williams arguably had the biggest play of the
    game against the 49ers, when he dislodged the ball from San Francisco return man
    Kyle Williams’ late in the game. But Williams said he will be ready to go a week
    from Sunday, when the Giants face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl

    “I’ll be there” Williams said when asked if he would be on the field during
    the Giants’ first full practice on Wednesday. “I’ll definitely be there. No
    doubt. Ain’t no turning back. I’ll be there.”

    But any worry about movement covering the New England tight ends with a foot

    “I’ll be there running fast, 100 percent,” Williams said. “There’s nothing to
    worry about. As far as my team, I’ll be there.”

    Much like he did four years ago in Glendale, Ariz., for
    Super Bowl XLII, coach Tom Coughlin said he plans to break down the team’s
    curfew and rules this morning, before the team leaves for Indianapolis. Four
    years ago, Coughlin took input from his players into account before laying down
    the rules, a practice which he will do again.

    “I have done that,” he said. “But I’ll keep that to myself.”

    Coughlin did say that he feels this group is full of professionals who
    understand what this trip for the Super Bowl is all about.

    “They understand they’re going to the biggest sporting event in the world,”
    Coughlin said. “We want to make sure they prepare themselves properly for this
    great occurrence. We’ve talked about different aspects of this all week long —
    the great franchise you represent, to not to do anything to embarrass himself,
    his family name and the franchise. That’s all been stated. But this group is
    really, really interested to see how good they can be.”

    Among the players listed on the injury report after today’s
    session, five were questionable: CBs Will Blackmon (knee) and Corey Webster
    (hamstring), WR Hakeem Nicks (shoulder) and Williams (foot). Center David Baas
    (abdomen/neck), LB Chase Blackburn (calf), RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), S Tyler
    Sash (concussion) and DE Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee) were all listed as probable.
    Only Sash participated fully in practice."


    "In Week 14, Antrel Rolle and Corey Webster got mixed up on a call, allowing
    the Cowboys' Dez Bryant to score
    an uncontested 50-yard touchdown
    against the Giants' confused secondary. Cris
    Collinsworth, calling the game for NBC, said Rolle got "barbecued" on the

    "Get out of here with that, man," Rolle said in the days after the

    Today, Collinsworth was here for some information gathering in advance of
    calling Super Bowl XLVI. He and Rolle had a brief chat on the field, during
    which both shook hands and seemed to be conversing with no issues.

    "We’re cool," Rolle said in the locker room after practice. "Like I said man,
    there’s no hard feelings in this league. Sometimes people want to take things
    and put spin on it or whatever the case may be, but there’s no hard feelings.
    We’ve always gotten along."

    To be fair, there wasn't much spin put on Rolle's comments. He was upset with
    the way he was portrayed because he felt he was the only one who played things
    properly. He came down to play the hook area in a Cover-3, while Webster also
    stayed short in a Cover-2 look. That left the deep left side of the defense wide

    Rolle and Collinsworth have apparently hashed things out since then.

    "Same thing with your brothers and sisters. If you have a disagreement that
    doesn’t mean you fall out forever," Rolle said. "We didn’t have a falling out,
    just a disagreement. I said what I said, he said what he said. It’s over with.
    We’re both men. We can take it."


    "It's been four years since these teams met in the Super Bowl, but Giants
    defensive end Osi Umenyiora's feelings for Patriots left tackle Matt Light
    evidently have not thawed.

    "There's something he does that reeeeally gets under my skin," Umenyiora said
    today in East Rutherford.

    Light walked through the Patriots locker room into the shower area before he
    could be asked about Umenyiora's take on him. But running back Kevin Faulk, who
    will be playing in his fifth Super Bowl with Light this year, waved off
    Umenyiora's comments.

    "He tried to pull the same thing the last time, so," Faulk said of Umenyiora.
    "It ain’t relevant to us right now, we’re going to play football. Whatever he’s
    talking about, that’s bulls---."

    Faulk said he "never really paid attention" to Umenyiora's similar gripes
    about Light before Super Bowl XLII. But he paid enough attention to hear them.
    Is Light a dirty player, as Umenyiora alleged before the last Super Bowl and
    perhaps hinted at again? Faulk scoffed.

    "This is the first I’ve heard of it," he said. "Well, my bad, this is the
    second I’ve heard of it. From the same person, so that just lets you know."

    Right guard Brian Waters preferred to stay out of it, noting that any sort of
    mind games are minor in the scope of a football game.

    "All the other little bitty games that are played through the course of a
    game?" Waters, a 12-year veteran, said. "There definitely will be some of that
    gamesmanship at some point. But honestly, if we know who to block, and the
    physical part is finishing and putting out and not getting outworked, then I
    feel like we've got a good chance . What he’s talking about, I don’t know. You’d
    have to ask Matt, and I’m sure they’ll be able to explain a little bit better
    than me."

    Giants defensive end Justin Tuck also stirred the pot a bit. Asked about
    getting to quarterback Tom Brady, he explained, "the way to kill a snake is to
    take off its head."

    Receiver Deion Branch chuckled good-naturedly.

    "Hey, if that’s their analogy that they’re taking, then that’s what it is,"
    he said. "I think our job is to go out and protect that guy, protect that snake.
    That’s Justin, he’s a great player. Trust me, we truly respect that guy, respect
    what he’s doing for his team. But we can’t worry about that part, we have to
    worry about what we’re doing. The snake will do his part."


    "Four years ago, Osi Umenyiora started the pre-Super Bowl XLII chatter by accusing
    the Patriots' Matt Light of some questionable tactics
    in the Week 17 matchup
    between the Giants and Patriots.

    Today, in another parallel between the Super Bowl seasons, Umenyiora is doing
    it again after a
    late shove by Light on Umenyiora started a scrum
    late in the second quarter
    of the Giants' victory in Foxboro in Week 9.

    Apparently, the rivalry is as hot as ever.

    "Yeah, man, it is what it is. Me and him, I’ve actually fought him twice,
    actual real fight on the football field, twice," Umenyiora said. "Me and him, we
    have history. We’re going to rekindle it on Sunday."

    The last time Umenyiora talked about Light's tactics publicly, the two were
    rather well-behaved in the Super Bowl. On that day in Glendale, Ariz., Umenyiora
    had a sack and a handful of pressures as part of a relentless attack on Tom

    But this past game, there was the big tussle after Light shoved Umenyiora
    over Tuck following a sack by Jason Pierre-Paul. Part of what angered Umenyiora
    in '07 was how Light shoved him late around piles, which could lead to lower-leg

    No penalty was called on light (or anybody, for that matter) on the play in
    Week 9. Umenyiora emerged from the pile with a smile on his face as he barked in
    Light's direction.

    On the next series, the two traded shoves after a play. In the third quarter.
    Light got away with a shove to Umenyiora's face mask, though he was so busy
    putting his hands to his rival's chin that he missed Michael Boley looping
    around for a sack and a forced fumble.

    "I don’t know what it is he does but it’s something he’s doing that really
    gets under my skin," Umenyiora said, extending the "reeeeeealy" part. "And I’m
    not that type of guy. He’s probably the only person I’ve ever foiught on the
    football field.

    "I think he’s more important to his team than I am to mine right now so if we
    can both fight we’ll both get kicked out and 'JPP' and Tuck will have a field
    day out there."

    Umenyiora was joking on that last one, laughing through the end of that that
    reply and the next one when asked if he'd actually take a dive like that during
    the Super Bowl.

    "I’ll be good to go," he quipped of sitting out the game to ensure Light it
    out as well. "I’ll be okay."



    "Eli Manning shattered
    team passing records, and Jason Pierre-Paul
    became a feared force. Victor Cruz broke out,
    and Justin Tuck
    rediscovered his fury late in the season.

    But when GM Jerry Reese
    evaluates how his Giants made this stunning run to Super Bowl XLVI, he doesn't
    always point to those obvious stars. The architect of Big Blue understands that
    his team has also been buoyed by some unknown players thrust into quietly
    important roles.

    "Most championships, you've got to have a little bit of
    luck, and somebody's got to come out of the shadows to make a play," he said
    after the Giants won the NFC title last Sunday. "Somebody you don't expect to
    make a play comes out of the shadows to make a couple plays. It happens every

    That has happened for the Giants this season, allowing them to
    overcome a grueling schedule and survive the losses of more than a half-dozen
    key players to season-ending injuries.

    Why are they in Indianapolis?
    Sure, Eli, JPP and Cruuuuz have plenty to do with it. So do these five far
    less-celebrated heroes:


    The rookie fullback from Pitt didn't have a carry
    during the regular season and he caught only 12 passes. But when Hynoski was not
    available, his absence was noted.

    In the first five games of the season,
    the 6-1, 266-pound rookie emerged as a solid run blocker, but he suffered a neck
    injury against Seattle. He would miss the next five games before finally
    returning in the Nov. 28 loss at New Orleans.

    One week later, the
    much-maligned run game finally enjoyed a solid performance, totaling 100 yards
    and averaging 5.0 yards per carry in the loss to Green Bay. Offensive
    coordinator Kevin Gilbride still
    points to that game as the turning point for his struggling ground game, and
    Hynoski had plenty to do with it.

    "He's very important," said backup quarterback David Carr.
    "He's a bull of a blocker. And he can do more than that, too."

    blocking has drawn loads of attention, but he has quietly emerged as a solid
    receiving threat out of the backfield as well. Defenses must account for him; if
    they don't, he can catch three passes for 20 yards, as he did last week in San

    "A lot of people don't realize he was a third-down back at
    Pitt," Carr said. "He's more than a bull. He can catch the


    Even before he recovered a pair of fumbled punt
    returns against the Niners (one was a muff), the unheralded Thomas was making
    key contributions on special teams.

    The former Redskins castoff began the
    season as Big Blue's kick returner, but he was demoted in November. Initially,
    he seemed to sulk, but by December, he had reinvented himself as a dangerous
    gunner on special teams.

    "It was frustrating," he says of his demotion.
    "But I just have to use my athleticism to contribute any way I can. I'm starting
    to get a little niche."

    It was hardly glamorous, but the erstwhile
    second-round pick embraced his new role. When the Giants played the Redskins in
    December, Thomas had established himself as a kamikaze special teams force.
    Twice in that game, he kept dangerous Washington return man Brandon Banks from
    breaking a big return. Thomas suffered a scary stinger at halftime of that game,
    but he had already impressed his teammates. Thomas also started taking advantage
    of his rare opportunities as a receiver; late in the first quarter of the
    Giants' 31-14 win over the Cowboys, his gritty 14-yard catch on third-and-8 from
    the Dallas 48 helped set up Big Blue's second TD. This new Devin Thomas can
    catch passes, make defensive plays and return kicks when needed, and that has
    given Big Blue's roster flexibility, allowing the Giants to deactivate
    one-dimensional players such as KR Da'Rel Scott and
    disappointing WR Ramses


    At the start of the season, Reese described the 6-5,
    320-pound Boothe as an offseason "priority," a notion that made fans scoff at
    the Giants' hopes for 2011.

    Five months later, everyone understands. Once
    a preseason punchline, the versatile lineman has become the ultimate
    hole-plugger on a unit that has been hammered by injuries.

    "Kevin's done
    a great job for us, whether he has to play center, whether he has to play
    guard," Manning said. "Sometimes he plays both of them in the same game for a
    few plays."

    Boothe began the year on the bench, but he ably filled in for
    center David Baas when the
    prized free agent battled neck and knee injuries early in the season. By Week 6
    against the Buffalo Bills, Boothe was lining up alongside Baas at right guard,
    clearing holes as Ahmad Bradshaw
    recorded his lone 100-yard rushing effort of 2011.

    A month later, when
    left tackle Will Beatty landed on
    injured reserve with a detached retina, Boothe moved to left guard, allowing David
    to slide to left tackle. It was the sixth-year lineman's final move in
    a season that more than justified Reese's preseason excitement.

    been very important to this team," said Manning, "and given us that comfort
    knowing that whatever happens amongst the offensive line, if a guy gets banged
    up a little bit or goes down, that Kevin can come in and play a number of


    The Giants struggled to defend the run, surrendering
    a whopping 121.3 yards on the ground this season. But as the season wore on,
    they gradually improved, especially on gritty runs up the middle.

    in large part to the maturation of Joseph, the Giants' interior run defense has
    solidified in the postseason, because the massive Joseph, a second-round pick in
    2010, has gradually asserted himself as a run-stopping force.

    "I think
    Linval's been playing good for us throughout the second half of the football
    season," said defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. "I think
    Linval's just growing up. He's really a rookie, so to speak."

    played sparingly in just six games last season, but he has started regularly
    this year. He's also slimmed down to 323 pounds, getting quicker and improving
    his defensive footwork. He began the season slowly, but by the time the Giants
    played Green Bay in the regular season, he had found his place.

    recorded a career-high nine tackles in that game as the Giants limited the
    Packers to 89 yards on the ground in a 38-35 loss. He has continued that hot
    play through the postseason. Neither the Falcons nor the Packers cracked 100
    rushing yards against the Giants, and while the 49ers managed 150 yards, 42 of
    those came from scrambling QB Alex

    "I think Linval's just growing up a little bit," Fewell said.
    "He's just turned it loose, and he's really playing well right now with a lot of


    Tollefson, 28, had
    never started an NFL game in his career until this season. But with Justin Tuck
    and Osi Umenyiora nursing
    injuries in the opener at Washington, he got his chance, and he made the most of
    it, delivering two tackles and a sack.

    "I could kind of feel it was
    coming," Tollefson said. "I had a great offseason, and whenever I've ever
    played, I've done a really good job."

    Tuck and Umenyiora would eventually
    get healthy, but Tollefson *— all 266 pounds of him — remained a fixture along
    the Giants defensive line. He was a capable defensive end, but he was also
    physical enough to line up at tackle, battling beefy offensive linemen

    Tollefson finished the season with a career-high five sacks,
    tying Tuck for third-best on the team, and his emergence allowed Fewell to
    experiment more with his defensive linemen. By the postseason, the Giants were
    occasionally lining Tollefson and dangerous linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka
    up at defensive tackle, setting Umenyiora and near-unstoppable JPP up at end,
    and letting Tuck function as a giant-sized, stand-up linebacker in a
    pass-rushing alignment that routinely flummoxed opposing

    Tollefson rarely made plays in these settings — he hasn't
    recorded a single tackle in the playoffs — but his fierce inside play still drew
    offenses' attention, freeing up his more celebrated teammates for

    "Anything to contribute, man," he said."


    "The hands clap and the huddle breaks and the receivers jog out to their
    positions. Kevin Gilbride has
    already relayed the play to Eli Manning, but the
    receivers still have no idea where they’re going to go.

    That’s part of the beauty of the Gilbride offense. Everything the receivers
    do is based on what happens next. Is there man-to-man coverage or a zone? Which
    way are the safeties shading? Are the corners pressing on the line or leaving a

    Then, when the ball is snapped and the defense goes in motion, everything
    could change...again.

    “Yeah, it’s definitely tough,” says receiver Victor Cruz. “It’s one
    of the biggest things I had to adjust to, learning how to read coverages and
    adjust mid-route. We had a few read-routes in college, but nothing to this
    extent where it’s 15 yards down field and you have to make an adjustment.
    Sometimes they may line up one way, then when the ball comes they move to
    somewhere else. So you have to see all of that.”

    It’s a demanding system. It can be confusing. It can be frustrating, too,
    especially to a young player. It’s also explosive, “quarterback-friendly,”
    potent, and the most prolific offensive system the Giants franchise has ever

    “That’s the beauty of it,” says backup quarterback David Carr.
    “When we’re rolling, it’s hard to stop.”

    That’s what the 60-year-old Gilbride has created in his eighth season with
    the Giants and fifth since taking over as the offensive coordinator. He’s helped
    turn Eli Manning from an erratic, interception-prone quarterback into a
    near-5,000-yard passer. He’s built an offensive machine that has rallied from
    six fourth-quarter deficits this year. It can strike so quickly, the Giants
    never feel like they’re out of a game.

    And he’s done that with a rebuilding offensive line, the 32nd-ranked rushing
    attack in the league, and a tight end (Jake Ballard) and star
    receiver (Victor Cruz) who had never had a single catch in the NFL before this

    Manning gets all the credit, and much of it is deserved. But it’s not like
    he’s on the field drawing up plays in the dirt.

    “Eli’s playing so well and that’s a tribute to Kevin,” says former Giants
    quarterbacks coach Chris Palmer, who is
    now the offensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans. “The guy is an
    outstanding football coach and does a great job. What is perceived about him and
    what is real is not necessarily one and the same. Kevin should get a lot of
    credit for the success they’ve had this year.”

    Ask anyone in the locker room, and Gilbride does get the credit. Tom
    praises his ability as a teacher and his players praise his
    patience and the way he calls a game. It drives them crazy that he’s a target
    for angry fans, who sometimes call him “Killdrive” when games don’t go the
    Giants’ way.

    He’s always had a reputation problem, though, dating back to his days running
    the run-and-shoot offense with the Houston Oilers (1990-94). Gilbride got a
    label he couldn’t shake when former Oilers defensive coordinator Buddy
    famously called his wide-open passing attack the “chuck-and-duck” and
    then even more famously when Rex’s dad tried to punch him on the sidelines in
    the middle of a game.

    Yes, Gilbride may look like a pass-happy coordinator at times, but it’s easy
    to forget that in 2008 the Giants had the NFL’s seventh-best offense with the
    No. 1 rushing attack. In fact, in three of his five seasons as offensive
    coordinator, the Giants’ rushing attack was ranked higher than its passing
    attack in the league.

    What makes Gilbride appear pass-happy is this: He runs what everyone
    considers a “quarterback-friendly” offense that puts a lot of responsibility on
    the receivers and control in the quarterbacks’ hands. They throw because they
    can. And it works.

    “A lot is asked of the quarterback,” Carr says. “You’ve got the freedom to do
    pretty much whatever you want. The playbook’s open to you. You’ve got to be on
    your game. But if you are, it’s a great thing.”

    Explained very simply, Manning has the ability to change the play to almost
    anything in that week’s game plan, based on what he sees in the defensive
    alignment. And when he calls a pass play, the receivers have several options to
    change their routes on each play, depending on what the defense does. It’s
    complicated and hard to learn, and it can be very tricky for the quarterback and
    receiver to make sure they’re seeing exactly the same thing out of each

    Because there are so many options in Gilbride’s offense, though, when it’s
    run correctly there are more chances for it to work.

    “You give the receivers several options to get open and when guys get open
    you, as a quarterback, have an opportunity to throw the ball,” Palmer says.
    “When a receiver doesn’t get open, that becomes a burden. It’s reassuring to the
    quarterback that ‘Hey, one of these guys are going to get open.’ I would say on
    most plays there’s going to be a guy that’s open in this offense.”

    “I’ve been in offenses where it’s all based on progressions - 1, 2, 3, find
    the back,” Carr adds. “There’s some of that. But we’re trying to scheme. We’re
    trying to find the best possible play vs. that defense at that time to just gash
    them. That’s why it works.”

    It also works because Gilbride is an outstanding teacher and someone that, as
    Coughlin says, can “evaluate your talent and see what they can and cannot do.”
    He was the quarterbacks coach through the first three years of Manning’s career,
    learned his strengths and his weaknesses well, developed a special bond with him
    and helped him grow into the Pro Bowler he is today.

    “Coach Gilbride and I have a very close relationship,” Manning says. “When I
    first got here, he was the quarterbacks coach, so I got to kind of learn from
    him, and hearing him directly and watching old film of the Oilers and different
    things when they were running it. We think the same way on a lot of things and
    certain looks. A lot of times he doesn’t even need to finish his sentence,
    because I’m already on the same page.”

    Sure, it helps that Gilbride likes to throw. A lot. He even jokes that
    Coughlin sometimes sits in on the offensive meetings just “to make sure I don’t
    veer too far off of the reservation and throw the ball 65 times in a game or
    something like that.” Manning says Gilbride calls plays with “a quarterback
    mentality.” And while he’ll go with whatever’s working, it’s obvious what he

    “If we’re not running it really well and we’re throwing it well, I’ll just go
    up to him and say, ‘Hey, they can’t stop us throwing it. Let’s just keep
    throwing it,’?” Manning says. “And he kind of gets a smile. I think that’s what
    he likes to hear.”

    That’s the way the NFL is now - a pass-first league - which makes Gilbride
    the ideal offensive coordinator for this era. If he were 15 years younger his
    work with the Giants might have already earned him a head coaching job
    somewhere. He’d probably still be an attractive candidate if he hadn’t already
    had a failed stint as a head coach with the San Diego Chargers in 1997-98, when
    he was run out of town with a 6-16 record after he couldn’t connect with his
    hot-headed rookie quarterback, Ryan Leaf.

    When those 22 games are added to his image problem, it helps paint a picture
    that belies the numbers his offenses regularly produce. It also paints a picture
    his players believe is completely unfair.

    “I don’t think he gets enough credit,” says guard Chris Snee. “I
    feel like I always hear a lot of negative stuff about him. He’s the first one
    everyone wants to blame for play calling and things like that, but I think he
    does a great job.”

    Some might say it’s the best job Gilbride has done in his five years running
    the Giants’ offense.

    Considering the players the Giants lost before the season started, the
    injuries that forced him to reshuffle his line and play four games without his
    starting running back, and how he helped turn a blocking tight end and an
    unknown receiver into stars, it might be the best job he’s done in his 23 years
    in the league.

    “I’d rather let you answer that than me,” Gilbride says. “Let me just say
    that I’m very proud of the guys that I work with. We started with five new guys
    and then we had all of the injuries and the youth and the guys who haven’t
    played and some of the things that we ask them to do. You don’t just, in our
    offense, go out and run a 12-yard curl or a 10-yard in-cut. We ask them to read
    a lot of things. We put a lot of pressure on receivers to see things as a
    quarterback would. It’s very difficult as a coach to get those things

    “So to see them grow like that - obviously, what are you? You’re a teacher.
    When you’re a teacher and you can see your pupils getting better and feel like
    you contributed, you’re very proud of their growth and development. So you feel,
    ‘Maybe I helped them a little bit.’”

    Not that he ever gets the credit for that. He’s too busy taking the blame
    when everything doesn’t work to perfection.

    “I think it’s just the nature of the position,” Carr says. “I think he does a
    good job just by not paying attention to it. He’s going to be who he is.
    Nobody’s going to change him now.”


    "All the Giants wanted Victor Cruz to be was a
    serviceable slot receiver. What they got was much more.

    When the 2011 season began, nobody knew what to expect from Cruz. The
    second-year receiver was tasked with replacing veteran Steve
    , but he had little on his resume, save for one explosive preseason
    game against the Jets.

    Five months and 82 Cruz catches later, the Giants are preparing to face the
    New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, and that's largely thanks to the
    big-play talents of their once-unknown wideout, who set a franchise record with
    1,536 regular-season receiving yards and transformed the salsa dance into a
    national phenomenon.

    "Every step of the way, I've just tried my hardest and whatever opportunity
    came my way, I just tried to take advantage of it. I understood that these
    opportunities were going to come few and far between," Cruz says.

    The 24-year-old has seized every one, becoming Eli Manning's favorite
    target and making big play after big play. Here, we look at our favorite Victor
    Cruz moments this season.

    1. BACKING UP HIS WORDS…at Jets, Dec. 24

    In the days leading up to this Christmas Eve clash, Cruz has talked of not
    being afraid of Darrelle Revis, and
    Revis has retorted that he doesn't even know who Victor Cruz is. And right now,
    with 2:27 left in the first half and the Giants trailing, 7-3, Revis seems to be

    Then Cruz backs up his own talk. On third-and-10 from his own 1, he lines up
    in the slot, dashes 10 yards, then turns out, just in time to snare Manning's
    pass. As corner Kyle Wilson
    flails after him, Cruz sidesteps Antonio
    . No Jet can catch him, not even safety Eric
    , who dives at the 45.

    Cruz cruises into the end zone. He's just recorded the franchise's first-ever
    99-yard play from scrimmage and infused his Giants with life. Big Blue outscores
    the Jets, 19-7, the rest of the afternoon on the way to a season-saving 29-14
    win. And by the end of the day, Cruz has passed Amani Toomer, setting
    a club record with 1,358 receiving yards.

    "It's just a surreal moment for me," he says. "It's amazing man."

    2. THE BREAKOUT…at Eagles, Sept. 25

    This is where it all begins. Cruz enters this game with just two catches on
    his NFL resume, but with Mario Manningham
    injured, he must deliver. On third-and-2 from the 26, with 1:02 to play in the
    first quarter, Cruz finds himself in the slot.

    He slants out and catches a quick Manning throw around the 36. Corner Kurt
    , tries for the big hit and misses, allowing Cruz to race past.
    Coleman pursues, and Nnamdi Asomugha
    tries to close in near midfield, but Cruz deftly eludes both players. As Coleman
    and Asomugha collide, Cruz is off to the races, scoring his first NFL TD on a
    74-yard catch and staking the Giants to an early 14-0

    3. THE BREAKOUT, PART 2…at Eagles, Sept. 25

    It was a nice first quarter, but the Eagles have clawed back, taking a 16-14
    lead into the fourth quarter. But finally, the Giants offense is clicking again,
    and Manning has the Giants at the Eagles 28. With 8:15 to play, he drops back
    and uncorks a deep pass just before he gets hit.

    The throw seems risky, but it's not. Cruz blocks out Asomugha at the 1-yard
    line, then outjumps the ballyhooed corner and safety Jarrad Page to
    make the catch. As both players fall to the ground, Cruz reaches the ball over
    the goal line, scoring his second career TD and putting the Giants in front for
    good. They go on to win, 29-14.

    "There's no way he should have come away with that with two guys there," a
    frustrated Asomugha says afterwards. "One of us should have gone up and made
    that play."

    4. THE JUGGLING ACT…vs. Seahawks, Oct. 9

    Just 13 minutes remain, and the Giants are trailing Seattle, 19-14. They face
    third-and 13 from their own 32, and a desperate Manning heaves the ball toward
    the right sideline toward a double-covered Cruz near the Seattle 30.

    The ball should be batted away, but Seattle's Kam Chancellor only
    tips it, giving Cruz a chance. The opportunistic receiver reaches his right hand
    out and cradles the ball, tapping it to himself as he runs away from CB Richard Sherman
    and scampers into the end zone. The TD puts the Giants back in front, and while
    the Giants eventually lose, 36-25, Manning is impressed with Cruz after this

    "He makes a lot of big plays and he's understanding the offense and what he
    needs to do," Manning said. "He's still a young player. There's still room to

    5. THE GAME-WINNER…vs. Dolphins, Oct. 30

    It shouldn't have come to this, not against the winless Miami Dolphins. But
    somehow, the Giants are trailing, 17-13, with 8:28 to play. In two minutes,
    Manning drives Big Blue down to the Miami 25, but he's just missed Manningham in
    the end zone.

    On third-and-12, Cruz works his way open, catching a pass at the 14. Former
    Giant Will Allen
    tries to wrestle Cruz to the ground, but the wideout deftly spins off and dashes
    into the end zone, giving the Giants a 20-17 lead, their first - and only - edge
    of the afternoon.

    Cruz finishes with 99 receiving yards.

    "This game was a good one for me," he says. "There were very little mistakes.
    I saw what they were giving us."

    6. GETTING GOING AGAINST DALLAS…vs. Cowboys, Jan. 1

    For the first 10 minutes of this must-win game, the Giants offense has been
    quiet, and just moments ago, they were buried at their own 4-yard line. Now,
    they're on the 26, facing third-and-1.

    Cruz runs a simple slant for the first down, but when CB Terence Newman
    can't catch him, the wideout turns the ball upfield and blazes past everyone,
    scoring a 74-yard TD. The score breaks Newman's spirit - he's later briefly
    benched - and gives the Giants a 7-0 lead that they never relinquish.

    7. THE CRUSHING BLOW…vs. Cowboys, Jan. 1

    The Cowboys do manage to fight back, though, closing to 21-14 with 10:15 left
    in the game. Their defense is tightening and, with 9:22 to play, they have
    Manning where they want him, nearly sacked on third-and 7 at his own 28.

    But Manning spins away and, seeing Cruz 44 yards downfield, heaves a prayer
    of a pass. Cruz times his leap just ahead of new corner Orlando Scandrick
    and grabs the ball, leaving Scandrick frustrated. Six plays later, Lawrence Tynes hits
    a 28-yard field goal, the dagger score in a 31-14 win.

    8. THE DOOR SLAM…at Packers, Jan. 15

    The Giants are not supposed to be winning this NFC Divisional playoff game
    against the 15-1 Packers. Yet here they are at Lambeau Field, trying to hold
    onto a 30-20 lead with 4:31 to play. Green Bay has charged back into the game,
    and the Giants face third-and-11 from their 49.

    There is no Cruz touchdown here. Instead, he quietly makes the play of his
    life. Just 10 minutes after taking a knee to his thigh that forced him to
    briefly leave the game, he runs to the Green Bay 34 and finds a pocket in the
    zone, just in time to catch Manning's pass. The 17-yard first down knocks the
    life from the Pack as the Giants hang on for a 37-20 win.

    Cruz is smiling after the game, despite his injury.

    "It was nice to make a play like that," he says.

    9. THE JUMP STARTER…at 49ers, Jan. 22

    One quarter into the NFC Championship game, the normally explosive Giants
    offense has barely
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1

  • #2

    You're the man!


    • #3

      [quote user="NYgiants141"]You're the man!

      “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


      • #4
        Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SATURDAY, JANUARY 28, 2012 - 11:53 A..M.

        thank you Ro.

        roughly 200 hours to go to kick off.....

        "Measure Twice......Cut Once"
        You couldn't be more full of **** if you were break dancing in a Port-a-Potty.......Kruunch


        • #5
          Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SATURDAY, JANUARY 28, 2012 - 11:53 A..M.

          thanks Roanoke!

          getting ready for the hype next week!

          Go Giants!



          • #6
            Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SATURDAY, JANUARY 28, 2012 - 11:53 A..M.

            [quote user="BigBlue1971"]

            thanks Roanoke!

            getting ready for the hype next week!

            Go Giants!


            There will be a deluge of media hoopla
            “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1