Rankings mean very little. That's what the other 31 teams say, anyway. For the team at the top of the list in any category, it's certainly an accomplishment. And as of Monday afternoon - before the Vikings-Jets game, that is to say - the Giants could rightly claim that they had the No. 1 defense in the NFL.
The Giants have allowed 244.6 yards per game, best in the league. It might be just a forward progress ahead of the Chargers, who are allowing 246.2, but it's enough to give them the lead. The Giants also are tops against the pass, allowing 146.0 yards per game.
Not bad for a group that still is a work in progress and until two weeks ago looked as if it might be reverting to 2009 form.
Tom Coughlin said the Giants are melding with new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. "They see how all of the pieces can come together when people are doing their job the right way, how rewarding and satisfying it can be," Coughlin said.
Safety Antrel Rolle was more succinct. When asked what he would think if he were an opposing offense watching video of the Giants' defense, he said: "Honestly, I would be scared."
The anomaly, looking back on the historically poor 2009 season, is that the defense actually was not that bad in terms of yardage allowed. The Giants were ranked 13th, giving up 324.9, the same as the Texans. But only the Lions and Rams gave up more points in 2009 than the Giants did (26.7). This year, the defense is not only limiting yards but points, too (19.6).
Each of the last two wins - against teams purported to have high-powered offenses - should have been shutouts. The Giants gave up a field goal to the Bears after a turnover deep in their own territory and a touchdown to the Texans after another turnover led to a 17-yard drive. The only significant scoring drive in the last two wins was the 10-play, 35-yard effort by the Texans that led to a field goal in the second quarter Sunday.
Coughlin said the selfless play on defense has led to the success. Players trust each other - and the coaches - and can focus on their jobs rather than trying to do too much.
"As a whole, we have learned to accept the 'we' instead of the 'me,' " Coughlin said.
The Giants may not be a me-first group, but they clearly are a D-first team.