Justin Pugh is one of the leaders on the Giants' offensive line and on the team. It seems as if he's been here for years, probably because he is so reminiscent of the tough, prideful linemen who preceded him. But really, this is just the start of his third NFL season.
And now, for the first time in his career, he is in first place.
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"That's crazy," he said after the win that put the Giants there, one game ahead of the rest of the division. "But I want to keep it that way."
Pugh is one of the young, key players for whom being in first is a first. The last time the Giants were there was late in 2012. That's before any of these starters arrived: Cullen Jenkins, Jon Beason, Rashad Jennings, Josh Brown, Weston Richburg, Josh Brown. It's certainly before Odell Beckham Jr. got here. Only seven active players for the Giants on Sunday night were on the roster in 2012 (plus Larry Donnell who was on the practice squad that year).
The Giants have learned how to deal with losing. They've done a lot of that in the last three years. Now they have to learn to handle prosperity and the view from the top.
"We've got to keep grinding," Donnell said. "It feels good to win. It always does."
One of the ways the Giants seem to be approaching their new-found status as front-runners is to remind themselves that they weren't always there.
"I want to prove people wrong every week," Pugh said. "We came into this season and everyone was saying we weren't going to do anything, we couldn't win a game. So every week it's proving people wrong. I don't care what my record is going into the game, I'm going into every game like it's the first game of the season and I'm trying to prove everybody wrong and this offensive line is trying to prove everybody wrong."
It can be emotional to do that, as Beckham found out Sunday night when he got a little choked up.
"It was definitely a great win and I was a little overwhelmed at the end," Beckham said. "It seems like we're always counted out. Things don't always go our way. In the past we've made these mistakes. They say history is doomed to repeat itself and it was just great to see this team and the fans just light the stadium up."
And grab first place by themselves.