The last time Justin Pugh missed any playing time was because of a concussion in training camp. That seemed to slow his progress as a rookie and allow veteran David Diehl to secure the right tackle job. But when Diehl injured his thumb and missed the first month of the season, the job went to Pugh.
"When you're thrown into the fire like I was with Dave Diehl going down, me having to step up, you learn what you're made of," Pugh said. "I think the NFL lets you find out real quick if you're going to be able to compete or not."
Pugh seems to have given an answer to that question. Considered a weak link because of his lack of experience at the start of the season, he's emerged as one of the Giants' best offensive linemen and looks poised to become a pillar of the unit for the immediate future.
While Will Beatty has struggled at left tackle and injuries have scrambled the interior of the line, Pugh plugs along, gaining confidence in himself and from the coaching staff. Three of the biggest runs the Giants had Sunday were to his right side of the line. Pugh pooh-poohed that as happenstance.
"[Andre Brown and Peyton Hillis] may have found that one little hole on our side, but at the same time, if someone else isn't doing their job, blocking downfield, those runs may never happen," he said. "I think as offensive linemen, you have to always talk about the five guys, not just one side or one guy."
Still, Tom Coughlin did note that on the right side, "you have a couple of guys that have played longer together side by side than on the left side."
He was talking about Pugh and Diehl, the veteran Pugh leapfrogged at tackle but now relies on as the right guard.
"I really think it's just him showing me how to go out there and battle," Pugh said. "You have to be a fighter out there in the NFL."
Pugh is showing that.
Said Coughlin: "He's a lunch-bucket guy for sure."
Notes & quotes: Victor Cruz said "pride is definitely the driving factor" for the Giants. "At this point, in the eyes of our fans and the eyes of everyone around the league, we want to put forth an effort that shows what type of team we really are," he said on WFAN Tuesday morning. "Not the 0-6 team that you saw at the beginning of the season but the team that just won five out of the last six." . . . Also on WFAN, Justin Tuck reiterated his desire to play for the Giants next season. He is a free agent after this year. "It's a business, we understand that," he said . . . Not only are the Chargers the team that drafted Eli Manning in 2004, they are one of three teams he has never beaten in his career. He is also 0-2 against the Colts and Titans.