NFC East: MNF5 Browns

These Giants thrive on adversity

October, 12, 2008
10/12/08
2:40
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

The New York Giants can't stand prosperity. The Super Bowl parade through the Canyon of Heroes had barely ended when adversity came knocking again.

One of the intriguing subplots to the Giants' remarkable Super Bowl run was the fact that quarterback Eli Manning flourished without Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey in the huddle. The Giants dismissed this as purely coincidental in public, but behind closed doors, they realized that Shockey's immense talent was no longer a match for his immaturity.

 
  Scott Boehm/Getty Images
 Giants coach Tom Coughlin has kept the team focused on putting the team first -- with the help of a few t-shirts.
When Shockey showed up at a mandatory minicamp in the offseason and engaged general manager Jerry Reese in a shouting match, coach Tom Coughlin simply used it as another opportunity to drive home the team concept to his players. There's something about a Super Bowl ring that seems to do wonders for a man's credibility and his pocketbook. Shockey was soon traded to the Saints, and the message was clear: No one's bigger than the team.

As the Giants (4-0) prepare to take the national stage against the Browns on ESPN's "Monday Night Football," they've been dealing with more adversity. The problem for the Browns, apparently one of the league's most confident 1-3 teams, is that the Giants seem to function best when they are faced with distractions.

Over the past couple of seasons, they've dealt with Tiki Barber's long goodbye, Michael Strahan's indecision, Coughlin's job status, Osi Umenyiora's season-ending knee injury, and most recently, the suspension of star receiver Plaxico Burress.

So what gives? Why does this team seem to be at its best when the distractions mount?

"Sometimes adversity can be a good thing," defensive end Justin Tuck told me via phone Saturday. "Adversity makes you lean on the guy next to you even more. When Plaxico was suspended, we just leaned on [Domenik] Hixon a little more. It's almost uncanny with some of our guys. We have strong pipes when it comes to handling pressure. And we don't bust our pipes.

Tuck embodies the team concept that Coughlin preaches. He's very respectful of what Strahan accomplished, but he was unfazed by the prospect of replacing him. And he didn't flinch when the team's lone Pro Bowler from last season's Super Bowl team, Umenyiora, went down with the knee injury.

"I knew we had a lot of talented players around us," he said. "You put some of those guys on other teams and they would be marquee names."

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