New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (88) scores the...

New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (88) scores the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. (Oct. 2, 2011) Credit: AP

Tom Coughlin has been drilling one word -- "Finish!" -- into the heads of his players since the start of training camp. Sunday in the NFC East was a perfect illustration why.

The Giants outscored the Cardinals 21-7 in the fourth quarter to cap a dramatic comeback, but the Eagles and Cowboys had meltdowns of the sort that the Giants experienced last season. The Giants' two division rivals were outscored by a combined 24-0 in the fourth quarters of losses to the 49ers and Lions, respectively.

This year, the Giants have outscored opponents 36-14 in the fourth quarter. Their final four games last season? They were outscored 49-7.

"It's just a matter of 'want to,' " linebacker Michael Boley said of that huge swing. "I think we have a different mentality when finishing games now. I think at times last year, we got kind of lackadaisical and we got away from the things that we did early on in the game as far as keeping the pressure on.''

The Giants certainly showed that mentality Sunday. Down 27-17 with 5:16 left, they scored two touchdowns in the next 2:37 to go ahead 31-27. More impressively, they stayed there and ended a potential go-ahead drive with a fourth-down stop.

"When it didn't look very good for us, our guys kept playing," Coughlin said. "If you're going to emphasize finish, that certainly was some way to finish. I was proud of that."

The game prompted plenty of comparisons to Super Bowl XLII, also a come-from-behind win. It took place in the same stadium, and the winning touchdown was caught in the same corner of the end zone. But another reason was that there haven't been many stirring Giants comebacks in recent times.

The 10-point fourth-quarter deficit was the largest the Giants have overcome to win a game since Sept. 17, 2006, when they trailed the Eagles 24-7 and won in overtime, 30-24. It was their largest fourth-quarter deficit in a win that didn't require overtime since Oct. 23, 2005, when they rallied from a 23-10 deficit to beat Denver, 24-23.

"This was huge," said cornerback Corey Webster, who broke up the Cardinals' fourth-down final gasp with 51 seconds remaining. "We just kept grinding . . . We never stopped, we never gave up, we never thought we were out of the game. We were able to keep scrapping until we got the W."

Sounds easy. But it's not something that has always happened.

"There have been games in the past that we've been in a similar situation where we get down in the fourth quarter and we just don't make the plays to pull it out," Boley said. "[Sunday] we showed a different side of our team."

Notes & quotes:Coughlin said DE Osi Umenyiora seemed to come out of his first game since mid-August knee surgery without a setback. Coughlin said they wanted him to play 25 to 35 snaps and he wound up playing 39. "He was able to lobby out a few more, and rightfully so," Coughlin said. "Thank God he's like he is because that big sack [on the final drive] was huge." . . . C David Baas had the burner in his shoulder examined Monday. . . The Giants allowed 333 rushing yards in their last two games after allowing 133 in the first two. Said Coughlin, "The fact of the matter is that's got to stop."

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