Giants Get Ready For Big D

Published on: 19th September, 2009


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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dallas is annually the scene of one of the Giants’ most challenging road games. The Cowboys almost always field a playoff-caliber team, their fans are loud, loyal and raucous and the intensity of the NFC East rivalry results in a raw and combative game.

If you could multiply all that emotion by about a hundred, you have an idea of the crazed atmosphere the Giants will enter Sunday night.

They will play their bitter rivals on national television in a pivotal early-season game. Nothing new there. These teams have won the past two division crowns – the Giants last season, the Cowboys in 2007. But what is new is Cowboys Stadium, Dallas’ just-completed, $1 billion-plus home. The Giants were selected to be the opponents in the stadium’s first regular season game. The Cowboys have sold more than 25,000 standing room tickets and are expecting a crowd well in excess of 100,000 people. To say it’s going to be a wild scene is one of the season’s great understatements. 

“I know there is going to be a lot of excitement about the in-season opening of the new stadium,” Coach Tom Coughlin said. “There will be a big crowd, (it will) be very noisy.  We have been in big crowds and noisy places before. Certainly there will be some opportunities, if you will, to see the new stadium for the players. And once I think we do that, I think we will settle down and be ready to go.”

They’ll have to be. Both teams are 1-0 and the outcome of Sunday’s game will very likely impact the division race when it is decided three-plus months from now. Who cares about hoopla? The Giants focus is solely on winning the game. 

“You don’t want to ever lose a divisional game, whether the stadium was built in 1909 or one that was built today,” running back Brandon Jacobs said. “Going out and playing against Dallas is always a tough game, and here or there, we have to go with winning on our minds.”

 “They wanted to schedule an exciting game, an important game, to open up their new stadium,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “Giants-Cowboys is always a great match. It should draw a big crowd, they are saying 100,000-plus. It should be fun to play in front of that many people. Obviously it is going to be loud and we’ve got to accommodate that. I think everybody is looking forward to this great opportunity.”

The Cowboys are the 20th NFL team to open a new stadium since 1992. In the first regular-season game at each of those facilities, the home team has an 11-8 record (.579). But the visitors have won four of the last five, including Chicago’s upset of the Colts last season in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. 

This is the second time the Giants have been the visiting team for a stadium opening. On Sept. 10, 2001, they lost to the Denver Broncos in the first game at Invesco Field at Mile High, 31-20. Left guard Rich Seubert is the only current member of the Giants who was in uniform that night. Then a rookie free agent, he made his NFL debut on special teams. 

That Giants team was not at all awed or overwhelmed by the celebratory atmosphere that night. Most of the players had participated in Super Bowl XXXV less than nine months earlier. This Giants team has similar big-game experience as most of the players won the NFC Championship Game in Green Bay and defeated New England in Super Bowl XLII less than 20 months ago. No matter how many people show up Sunday night, the stage won’t be too big for the Giants.

 “This is no disrespect to the Dallas Cowboys or that stadium, but we played in the Super Bowl,” middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said. “It doesn’t get any bigger than that. How many people watched that game? A hundred million? You can’t have more pressure on you and have more enjoyment than we had in that Super Bowl. It’s exciting to see a huge National Football League stadium with a college atmosphere, as far as how many people they pack in there. But it’s not bigger than the Super Bowl.”

 The 2007 Giants won an NFL-record 10 consecutive road games, including a divisional playoff game in Texas Stadium, and reveled in calling themselves the road warriors.

 “Those situations help you deal with this one,” cornerback Corey Webster said. “That was a crazy game going out there to Green Bay. A situation like that helps you for a situation like this. Going out there in Dallas, everybody is against you, you know that, so it’s easy to go out there and perform. It’s like the road warrior mentality that we had a while ago, everybody is against you, nobody expects you to do good. I think we did a great job of using that as motivation to perform.”

 The Giants are not so naïve or cocky to suggest that a six-figure crowd is not going to affect them. If they all start screaming, Manning himself may not hear his own signals, much less his teammates. The noise generated by the fans is going to work in the Cowboy’s favor.

 “It is going to be a factor, there’s no question,” offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. “You have to contend with it. We work on it, we stress it, and we emphasize it. Doesn’t matter what you do, it is always a challenge, the communication. It’s always a challenge in your pass protection. It’s always a challenge getting off on the line scrimmage the way that makes you the most effective running the ball. It’s not the deciding factor, but it is a very important factor.”

 Manning is approaching the situation with his customary calm.

 “I think for a quarterback, you go in, find where the play clock is, little things like that,” he said. “But besides that, we will go out there and warm up and get a good feel. Once the game starts, you’ve just got to play your game.” 

That will be enough of a challenge for the Giants, who defeated Washington last week in their opener, 23-17. The Cowboys are a formidable foe, with a powerful, high-scoring offense, a sturdy defense led by NFL sack champion DeMarcus Ware, and two excellent kickers in Nick Folk and punter Mat McBriar. Dallas lost its final game in famed Texas Stadium, its home for 35 years, last December. The Cowboys know this opener will long be remembered and they have no intention of walking out of their dazzling new home in defeat. And if all that isn’t enough, Dallas wants to reclaim the division title the Giants secured last year.

The hoopla attached to the stadium opener and the emotion running through the huge crowd will be exceptional. But to the Giants, it’s all about the game.

 “It’s going to be a very big game,” Webster said. “The crowd is going to be into it, the fans are going to be into it. I think we have to be disciplined and go out there and make sure that doesn’t affect us. It’s a football game and it’s going to take place between these white lines. That’s what we have to think about.”

 “We’re just going to go in there and try to play good football,” Manning said. “It’s a big game. It’s a division game. We know it’s going to take a great effort on our part. We’re going to Dallas, playing in a new stadium, and it will be a loud crowd. It’s a big game for us.”

And the new stadium can’t interfere with that.

 “It’s not our new stadium,” Seubert said. “We are going down there to play a football game. The field will still be 100 yards long. We have our benches, they have their benches .We are playing where we are playing. It’s a field and we are playing football on it.”

 How’s that for reducing the evening’s festivities to its most basic element?

 *Defensive lineman Chris Canty has been declared out of the game because of a calf injury. This was to have been Canty’s return to Dallas after spending the first four years of his career with the Cowboys. He has never missed a game, playing in all 67 regular season and postseason games of his career since in 2005.

 Other players who will not suit up include offensive lineman Adam Koets (ankle), wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (foot), cornerback Aaron Ross (hamstring), running back Danny Ware (elbow) and linebacker Clint Sintim (groin).

 Cornerback Kevin Dockery (hamstring) and safety Kenny Phillips (knee) did not practice today, but Coughlin sounded as if expects them to play.

 “Hopefully they will make it,” he said. “(Dockery) had done a good job for about a day and a half. He got sore. So we are holding out that he will feel better.”

 Regarding Phillips, Coughlin said, “I think he will be okay. It is just precaution again. We are going to manage this for the year.”  

Dockery, who missed the Washington game, is confident he will contribute Sunday.

 “It feels good,” he said. “I had two good days of work and I didn’t want it to be sore on Saturday and (not be able) to go on Sunday.”

 Linebacker Michael Boley practiced fully and is listed as probable.

 “He has worked, he has practiced and he has been into it,” Coughlin said. “Now he doesn’t make any mental errors. The big thing was getting him on the field and working him and he did that. So we will see (about whether he will play).”

 *This is the 100th division game of Coughlin’s head coaching career. He is 59-40 (.596), including 40-28 with Jacksonville and 19-12 with the Giants.

 *A Giants victory will leave them 2-0 for the second straight season. They have not started 2-0 in back-to-back years since 1993-94.

 *Manning had a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating on third down against the Redskins. He completed seven of eight passes for 122 yards and a touchdown on third down. New Orleans’ Drew Brees, who threw six touchdown passes vs. Detroit, was next with a 141.4 rating. He completed seven of nine third-down passes, including three for scores.

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