The Giants believe the team that has played the last five quarters is the one that will stick around for a while.
In the fourth quarter of last Sunday's win over the Bucs and the Thursday game against the Panthers, the Giants have outscored their opponents, 61-14. During that span, Eli Manning has completed 35 of 48 passes for 531 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, while the defense and special teams have forced six turnovers.
That's about as good as it gets.
"We're just trying to find our groove," linebacker Michael Boley said yesterday. "We're starting to find our identity as a team and it's a lot different from last year when you go from up and down each week. We feel like this week, this year, we're starting to catch that groove early and hopefully we'll hang on to it throughout the year."
Said safety Antrel Rolle, "There's a lot of football left to be played and a lot of great opponents we have to face. For us to just try to be more consistent and play ball the way we did [Thursday] night and go from that, it's definitely going to be our goal."
Take away the lackluster performance in Week 1 and the Giants would be among the teams in the "best in football" conversation. That they were able to maintain the level of play against Carolina despite missing four key offensive players only helps boost their confidence. Yesterday, coach Tom Coughlin suggested there is a chance Ahmad Bradshaw could return from his neck injury against the Eagles in Week 4, another reason for optimism on a team that seems to have regained its Super Bowl swagger.
"We're a tough, physical team that'll never quit," Boley said. "We play every game from start to finish and that's who we are."
And who they want to remain.
Notes & quotes: Rolle should not miss time due to his knee injury incurred while trying to leap over a camera operator on the sideline, but Coughlin said he expressed concern over the crowds to NFL's executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson during the game. "I said: 'We're so concerned about player safety, can't we do something about this? Can't we get people away from the sideline enough that a guy going as fast as he was going and flying through the air doesn't put his knee into a camera?' " . . . The NFL did not levy any penalties for the way the Bucs played the final snap in Week 2, but they did hit two Giants' offensive linemen with fines for their retaliations on the field. C David Baas and G Kevin Boothe were fined $7,875 for unnecessary roughness after the Bucs fired out them while Manning was taking a knee . . . S Kenny Phillips was also fined $30,000 for his hit on Vincent Jackson and Bucs LB Mason Crosby fined $21,000 for a hit on Domenik Hixon in that game.