For the last month, the prospect of a Giants-Cowboys opening game -- two fierce division rivals in a rematch of their winner-take-all regular-season finale in December -- has sat like a mostly undisturbed powder keg waiting for a spark.
The fuse has been lit.
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Just hours after the preseason came to a close against the Patriots on Wednesday night, Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka was on WFAN Thursday morning and delivered the first salvo in what is sure to be an interesting week of back-and-forth between the teams.
The jumping-off point was the comment earlier this summer by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who, in a training camp pep rally, invited fans to come to his stadium and see his team "kick the Giants' [butt]."
"He should," Kiwanuka said of Jones' derriere-kicking desire. "I mean, the Giants have been whupping his [butt] for a long time."
The Jones comment had gone mostly ignored by the Giants, who said at the time that they would answer it when the two teams took the field. After holding back for a month, they apparently could wait no longer.
"It's got to be tough on the outside looking in on all of these championships lately," Kiwanuka said of the Giants' two in five years, both of which have gone through the Cowboys in one way or another. "That's the feeling I feel like everybody in the league has and what they should have, because when you're on top, everybody should be wanting to knock you off."
Some players were more dismissive of Jones' diss.
Still, Pierre-Paul said he has a strategy for dealing with people who want to kick your can.
"How you return that, you just kick their [butt]," he said. "You just kick their [butt], that's all."
With Brandon Jacobs, the Giants' Cowboys-hater-in-Chief during recent years, no longer on the team to engage in . . . hold that thought! Jacobs did weigh in on Kiwanuka's comments from across the continent. When asked about them on Twitter, Jacobs responded by saying that Kiwanuka "has never been so right."
"I like it Kiwi," Jacobs added.
Others approved as well.
"Why not?" Justin Tuck said when asked his thoughts on Kiwanuka's comments. "I don't see why everybody else can talk about us and we can't fire back. I ain't got no problems with it."
Tuck said he is still "laughing off" the Jones remark that started this current conflagration.
"We're not a team that looks for bulletin-board material," Tuck said. "I've always told you, if you need someone to say something bad about you to get you prepared to play a game, then you don't need to be in this league. Our energy, our attitude going forward to our next games are going to be great regardless if we have a team singing our praises or a team telling us we [stink]."
There have been plenty of the latter this preseason, with players from the Packers and 49ers and others questioning the Giants' gravitas as Super Bowl champions.
"It's very similar to what happened last year," Tuck said of people doubting the Giants heading into the 2011 season. "If I recall, there were some teams already fitting their fingers for rings before we even played a football game. Don't look like people learned too much from last year."
Whoa, whoa, whoa, Justin. If you're talking about the Eagles and their 2011 Dream Team, slow down. The Giants don't play that bitter division rival until Week 4!