Halfway through the season, and it is déjà vu once again for the Giants.
They're 6-2 after a narrow escape against the Cowboys on Sunday in Dallas, winning for the sixth time in their past seven games. And yes, if that record sounds familiar, it is. In fact, it is the sixth time in the nine seasons of the Tom Coughlin era that the Giants have been 6-2 at the midway point of the season. It is three straight years of the identical record; now the Giants hope déjà vu doesn't turn into déjà blue.
As Giants fans have seen through Coughlin's tenure, those 6-2 records don't always translate into positive numbers in the second half. In fact, the Giants' late-season struggles have been nearly as common as their early-season successes. Which might explain why Coughlin initially offered up this simple response yesterday when asked about what 6-2 means this year.
"It's not enough," he said.
He knows from experience. After all, the Giants nearly didn't make the playoffs after last year's 6-2 getaway. They went 1-5 over their next six games and had to beat the Jets and Cowboys to win the NFC before going on a playoff roll and winning their second Super Bowl title the past five years.
Coughlin bristled when asked about his second-half struggles.
"We're happy to be 6-2," he said. "We have a long way to go and a lot of work to do to be the team we want to be. While it's nice to put that [6-2] number up there, the significance is how we continue to grow from the start we've had."
No argument there. Despite having the second best record in the NFC behind 7-0 Atlanta, the Giants know they are far from perfect.
But here they are, in firm control of the NFC East after surviving against the Cowboys and seeing Philadelphia continue to implode and Washington fall to 3-5 after a road thumping in Pittsburgh.
"It's a huge plus to be where we are," Coughlin said. "We've battled back from being 0-2 in the division to 2-2. We know how difficult the league is and we know how difficult the games are. It's not easy to win. It's very difficult. There is tremendous parity. We have to keep going here. We have a very tough opponent coming in here next week."
That opponent is a Pittsburgh team that has been alternately exceptional and mediocre so far this season. The 4-3 Steelers are coming off an impressive 27-12 win over the Redskins, which improved their home record to 3-0. But the Steelers are 1-3 on the road, and with the Giants returning to MetLife Stadium Sunday, they'll have the edge. But they also know that another defensive collapse might mean a disappointing result.
"What I'm worried about is what we have always done," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "We've always been 6-2 at the break. We've got to figure out a way to make sure we keep this thing going."
The road ahead is treacherous, with a second-half schedule that features six games against 2011 playoff teams. The other two are against divisional rivals Washington and Philadelphia.
Tuck hopes the Giants will not see a repeat of previous struggles.
"The past is the past," he said. "Hopefully you learn from it and get stronger from it, but it warrants a little bit of my thought and a little bit of a thought from this team knowing we are on a little bit of a high right now. But we can't allow ourselves to stay on a high."
They've been on that high before. They know all too well it doesn't always last.