The Giants insist they don’t have to guard against overconfidence playing a Seahawks team that is 1-3. But to a man, they know they can’t afford to keep relying on late-game heroics.
“You always want to get off to a fast start, but you also don’t want to get frustrated if you don’t. And if you don’t get off to a fast start, you still can’t afford to make mistakes or turn the ball over,” said quarterback Eli Manning. “We are doing a better job of [limiting turnovers], and that’s keeping us in games. We just have to keep working hard and executing.”
The last two fourth quarters have been a roller coaster of emotions for the Giants, as they’ve had to overcome late deficits to win. It was the first time the Giants (3-1) won consecutive games after trailing in the fourth quarter of both since Nov. 10 and Nov. 17, 2002. Big Blue has succeeded at the start of the 2011 season largely because they have thrived at the end of games.
The Giants’ comeback in Arizona was particularly noteworthy because they were down by two scores late in the game. They hadn’t overcome a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit in a non-overtime game since beating Denver on Oct. 23, 2005 — a 24-23 win after trailing 23-10.
It’s a significant turnaround from last season. In the last two weeks, the Giants have matched their total of fourth-quarter comeback victories from the entire 2009 to 2010 seasons.
Manning thinks team-wide confidence is at a high right now, which certainly helps when a fourth-quarter deficit is staring them in the face.
“I think that guys have just stepped up and made plays. To be in that situation, it is not just one person, it is everybody doing their job,” Manning said.
Late-game heroics are fine, said head coach Tom Coughlin, but he’d rather not see it Sunday.
“We’ve done a lot on that,” Coughlin said, warning his team about not letting up after fast starts. “I’m not going to go into all of the different ways in which we’ve done it, but it’s been a matter of our players being interested in various ways that we’ve sold that message. We’ve done it with the use of video [and] verbal lectures. We’ve done it any way you can think of doing it and hopefully it will stick with us.”
While the middle portion of their games have been suspect, the Giants have started off fast and ended even faster. Big Blue owns a 36-14 point advantage in the fourth quarter. The plus-22 differential is the NFL’s third-highest, behind 4-0 Detroit (plus-51) and 2-2 Atlanta (plus-26).
Seattle may not possess the firepower to keep up with the Giants for four quarters, so it’d be prudent for New York to put them away quickly. Should the Giants need another late-game shootout to stave off the Seahawks, Manning and Co. certainly have the advantage over Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who has thrown for 200 yards only once this season.
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll thinks his team can make things interesting because of a few factors. First, he believes his massive defensive front four can cause problems for a Giants offensive line that’s banged up. Center David Baas is nursing a neck burner. Second, Carroll thinks his team’s sense of urgency trumps the Giants’ feel-good momentum. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the former University of Southern California coach thinks letdowns are “human nature” in sports and eventually the Giants may let down their guard against an inferior Seattle team.
“That is sports in general. When I was at SC, there were always games on the schedule that would just jump up when you least expect it and think you are on a roll and things just don’t go right,” Carroll said. “That is just the game. You work so hard to create the consistency so that does happen, but that is the normal part of football and most sports in general.”
Carroll said his huge front four of Raheem Brock (6-foot-4, 274 pounds), Red Bryant (6-foot-4, 323), Alan Branch (6-foot-6, 325) and Brandon Mebane (6-foot-1, 311) can make life even more difficult for an already struggling Giants running game. Seattle is 14th in the league in rushing yards allowed, but rankings can be twisted. The real key, said Carroll, is that his defense is only yielding 3.2 yards per carry. That, he said, is what can keep Seattle in the game.
“This game is really important. Every game is enormous and every game is a championship game for us, so you just have to do everything you can to get that opportunity going your way,” said Carroll. “With the bye coming up, it would be great to go into the bye with a win and feeling like we are growing. We are such a young team and we need all the confidence builders we can get and this would be a great one for us.”
Conversely, Manning has been saying all week to guard against such overconfidence and said guys have been working very hard in doing so.
“I thought we’ve had great energy [this week] and guys know we have a lot of room for improvement,” Manning said. “Last week was a great win and a fun win but we still had to look at the film and see where our mistakes are, where we need to clean up and how we can get better.”
Big Blue notes
» Comebacks have been a major theme this year in the NFL this season. Sixty-four games have been played thus far and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, seven teams have come back from a fourth-quarter deficit of at least 10 points to win. Over the last 10 years, it has happened an average of about 12 times per a 256-game season, so NFL teams are on pace to finish with far more big late comebacks than the recent norm.
» Continuing the comeback trend, the Giants’ victories the last two weeks have been sort of an anomaly for the Giants and Tom Coughlin. Although they are 2-1 this year when trailing after three quarters, the Giants are 14-43 in that circumstance under Coughlin. The longtime head coach is 26-85 in his 16-year career when his teams are behind entering the final quarter.
Conversely, the Giants have led at halftime in all three of their victories this season. They are 52-10 when leading after two quarters under Coughlin, who is 101-21 when his teams own a lead starting the third quarter.
» Manning has been as hot as any quarterback so far this season, which is surprising considering his awful preseason. His passer rating of 105.6 is third in the NFL, behind Aaron Rodgers (124.6) and Tom Brady (111.3). Manning’s best rating over a full season was 93.1 in 2009.
In the last two weeks, Manning had passer ratings of 145.7 in Philadelphia and 108.4 in Arizona. The last time he had consecutive games with ratings that high was Dec. 13, 2009 and Dec. 21, 2009, when his ratings were 130.5 vs. Philadelphia and 144.4 vs. Washington.
Manning has been at his best in the fourth quarter, when his passer rating is an NFL-best 139.5 — 10 points higher than second-place Philip Rivers of the Chargers (129.2). In four fourth quarters, Manning has completed 29-of-38 passes (76.3 percent) for 353 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.