EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Their last three games -- all victories -- have done more for the New York Giants than simply improve their position in the NFC East standings. They have transformed the way the players on their defense feel about themselves from week to week.
"Confidence is huge right now," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said Monday. "We're not going into games anymore just trying to keep teams from scoring too much. Our mindset going into games now is trying to shut teams out."
The Giants' defense has done something approximate to that in each of the games of the current three-game winning streak. In the 23-7 victory over the Vikings in Week 7, Minnesota's only points came on a punt-return touchdown. In the 15-7 victory in Philadelphia in Week 8, the Eagles' only points came on a fumble recovery by the Eagles' defense in the end zone. And in Sunday's 24-20 victory over the Raiders, Oakland's only offensive touchdown came on a drive that began at the Giants' five-yard line after Jerrel Jernigan fumbled away the opening kickoff. The other Oakland touchdown was an interception return.
So yeah, the special teams and Eli Manning's offense still look shaky. But that defense is feeling quite good about itself.
"I think the pieces are starting to fall into place, and that's when it becomes miraculous," safety Antrel Rolle said. "I think we're heading in that direction."
The difference is up front, where the Giants have collected eight sacks in their last two games after only having six in their first seven. Earlier in the year, they were getting strong performances by some of their players in the secondary, notably Prince Amukamara, Terrell Thomas and Will Hill once he returned from his suspension. But adding in the pressure they're getting on opposing quarterbacks now has taken it to another level.
The question is whether the defense can keep it up with the competition gets tougher. The Vikings started a completely unprepared Josh Freeman at quarterback in that Week 7 game. The Eagles started a clearly injured Michael Vick and backed him up with a completely unprepared Matt Barkley in Week 8. And the Raiders' Terrelle Pryor is obviously a quarterback who has some work to do as a passer at the NFL level. They get Packers third-stringer Scott Tolzien this week, but after that the starting quarterbacks they face the rest of the year are Tony Romo, Robert Griffin III, Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford and Griffin again. That's obviously going to make it tougher for the defense to keep this run going. But the confidence they're building as they dominate the lower-quality opposition can only help.