The New York Giants, who used a rallying cry of “Finish” en route to an improbable Super Bowl crown last season, were intent on starting strong against the Dallas Cowboys in the opening game of the National Football League (NFL) season yesterday.
Led by ice-cool quarterback Eli Manning and a fierce pass rush, the Giants went from 7-7 to NFL champions with a brilliant closing run of six straight wins that included a do-or-die victory against Dallas in the regular-season finale.
The National Football Conference (NFC) East crown was at stake in that game, and the Giants prevailed 31-14 to end the Cowboys’ season and set the stage for a run of four New York playoff wins that climaxed with a last-minute Super Bowl triumph over the New England Patriots.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin, whose job was believed to be in jeopardy heading into that last home game against Dallas, has come up with a new slogan for this year: “Build the Bridge,” hoping the T-shirts with that mantra handed to players will spur them to carry momentum from last season to the new campaign.
The odds are stacked against the G-men, who are trying to become the first NFC team to repeat as Super Bowl winners since Dallas in the 1993-1994 season.
A difficult schedule and their mediocre record for most of last season has the Giants as third choice on most experts’ lists in the NFC East behind Dallas and the Philadelphia Eagles.
“They have had great success, winning two Super Bowls in five years, and I think guys are kind of getting tired of seeing that,” newly acquired defensive back Brandon Carr told the New York Post. “Now it’s to the point guys are getting fed up. It’s pretty much the attitude, ‘When is it going to be our time?’”
Dallas, whose collection of five Super Bowl wins turned them into “America’s Team,” have gone 16 years since their last title, but have addressed a weakness in pass defense by adding Carr and defensive back Morris Claiborne of Louisiana State with the sixth overall pick in the NFL Draft.
New York used their top choice to add speed to their backfield with running back David Wilson of Virginia Tech replacing departed power runner Brandon Jacobs.
Marquee names command the attention and there are plenty on both teams with Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Manning and Dallas quarterback Tony Romo leading the opposing attacks.
Both teams feature big-time receivers with New York’s Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz matched up against the Dallas duo of Dez Bryant and Miles Austin.
The host Giants could have caught a break with the Cowboys’ seven-time Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten doubtful for yesterday’s game, while New York hopes the addition of Cowboys’ castoff Martellus Bennett would have helped them at the tight end position.
Match-ups along the line of scrimmage could spell the difference, with relatively weak offensive lines challenged by the defenses.
Premier Dallas pass rusher DeMarcus Ware could wreak havoc going against New York fill-in Sean Locklear, who is expected to start in place of injured left offensive tackle Will Beatty.
Romo, who was sacked six times by the Giants in last season’s finale, has already faced his share of the severe pressure applied by New York linemen Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul.
Umenyiora said New York’s goal in containing the Cowboys and Romo was the same as ever.