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MetLife Miracle? From 0-6 to 3-6 to first place a realistic goal for Giants

Antrel Rolle celebrates a sack of Oakland Raiders

Antrel Rolle celebrates a sack of Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor in the fourth quarter of a game at MetLife Stadium. (Nov. 10, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

For a team to go from 0-6 to the playoffs likely would take a miracle. But that's just the word Antrel Rolle used to describe what seems to be happening for the Giants, particularly on defense.

They aren't there yet, but they still are in contention for the NFC East title with seven games to play. Their three-game winning streak has been built largely on the back of a defense that has allowed one offensive touchdown in the last 3 1/2 games, and that came on a 5-yard drive by the Raiders after a fumble by the Giants on Sunday's opening kickoff.

"I think pieces are starting to fall together," Rolle said Monday, happy to see the dominant, physical defense that he predicted in the preseason finally showing up. "When it all comes together, that's when things become miraculous. I think we're heading in that direction right now."

That's about as close as you'll get to having any of the Giants players mention their big-picture aspirations these days. When they were winless, of course, they wouldn't stop talking about how the division was not getting away from them and how they still had all of their goals in front of them.

Tom Coughlin pointed it out in each meeting and Rolle predicted that the Giants could win 12 in a row when they were 0-4. Then it was 11 and then 10 after the fifth and sixth losses, where it presumably has remained for the last month or so, but Rolle has stopped voicing it.

A three-game winning streak not only has given the team momentum but mum-mentum.

Not that their confidence is shaken. If anything, it's the contrary. Now, though, that confidence is focused on smaller details. Such as holding the Raiders to a field goal after Oakland had first-and-goal from the 1 -- and expecting to do just that.

"I do what I have to do and I say what I have to say," Rolle said of no longer addressing the Giants' place in the race. "We're 3-6, man. We start looking ahead of ourselves, we're going to find ourselves behind. One game at a time. That's our only approach at this moment."

The Giants are falling into step behind him. They know what the situation is; they just refuse to say it. Coughlin summed up that decision to keep focused in one word Monday: smart.

Rolle said the Giants will let everyone else worry about the standings. So let's.

The Giants are 3-6, tied with Washington for third place in the division. They are 1 1/2 games behind Dallas and Philadelphia, both of which are 5-5. In the next two weeks, the Giants will play the Cowboys and the Redskins will play the Eagles. The Eagles and Cowboys also have a bye. So there is a chance that at some point on the evening of Nov. 24, there will be a four-way tie for first at 5-6 in the NFC East. That would make it a five-game sprint to the finish line in the NFL's most mediocre division.

If the Giants win their next two, they'll either be tied for first or a game out with a month to play. Remember, only one team in the Super Bowl era has made the playoffs after starting 0-4. The Giants were two losses deeper than that.

When the Giants left Chicago after that sixth loss -- a game in which even Rolle began to waver and suggest that teammates might not believe and that he was starting to have his own doubts -- that would have seemed, to borrow his word, miraculous. "We've been to the lowest of the lows," he said. "Now we're just trying to make sure we climb up out of it."

It's a quiet ascent, and it still is uphill. But the approach seems to be working.

New York Sports