Big Blue Brotherhood (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday January 15, 2008 9:29AM; Updated: Tuesday January 15, 2008 9:29AM
Nevertheless, it's Coughlin's transformation that has had perhaps the most impact. After going 8-8 and losing a wild-card playoff to the Philadelphia Eagles last season, Coughlin (following the suggestion of ownership) revealed a softer side to go along with his iron fist, forming a leadership council of veterans who have the pulse of the locker room. A man who'd thrown heat his entire career learned to mix in a changeup. "My whole philosophy has been to communicate with the players better," Coughlin says. "I share my thoughts with [the leadership council], they share their thoughts with me, and they take the message to the team."
Says defensive end Michael Strahan, a council member, "He's changed toward us, and our view has changed toward him. He has always wanted to win, but it used to be impersonal. Now it's personal. He does have a sense of humor, and you know he cares about you."
Mutual trust proved critical after New York opened the season with a 45-35 loss at Dallas and a 35-13 defeat at home against Green Bay. In Week 3 the Giants were in another hole, trailing the Washington Redskins 17-3 at halftime, only to rally and win with the help of a late goal line stand. "Everybody still believed in each other," Ross says, recalling the mood at halftime against Washington. "The coaches didn't show any weakness or change their message." Adds guard Chris Snee, "You could look back at that goal line stand and say it really turned our season around."
The Cowboys had twice decked the Giants on the way to the NFC East title. But in the third meeting it was New York that delivered the knockout. After Romo lit up the Giants for eight TDs in the regular season, keeping many plays alive with his feet, the Giants added several blitzes to their pressure package. They sacked Romo twice in the fourth quarter and harassed him to the point that the defensive line could hear him as he tried to make adjustments. "I think he was getting a little worried," said defensive end Osi Umenyiora. "He was telling Marion Barber to chip [block] me."
Afterward, the Giants dressed amid laughter, Pierce asking for popcorn with butter and salt, a reference to Dallas wideout Terrell Owens's oft-mentioned snack recommendation. McQuarters walked off clutching the football he'd snagged from Romo, planning to give it to his son, Rylan Wynter, who turned eight on Sunday. One after another the Giants followed him toward the team buses, their ninth straight road win behind them, underdogs chugging north toward Lambeau with a possible final stop in Glendale, Ariz.
"I heard we were supposed to be scared," Snee said, lobbing one last volley toward the Cowboys. "There was no one scared in this locker room, and there will be no one scared next week."
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