EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants don't usually win pretty by any means.
But their 28-16 win over the St. Louis Rams was at times about as ugly as an Eli Manning left-handed throw into the end zone. Tom Coughlin's team still has some serious work to do and now the long anticipated rematch with the Philadelphia Eagles is next.
The Giants may not know who or what they are yet after Monday night's disjointed performance. But Justin Tuck believes Michael Vick and the self-proclaimed Dream Team can bring out the best in the Giants.
"Last year will linger with me until I die," Tuck said. "Everybody in that locker room feels as though we owe the Eagles a little something and that is going to be a big game for us."
Before the Giants could focus on redemption against the Eagles, they had to win their first game of the season and avoid what could have been a disastrous 0-2 start.
And this first win was not nearly as easy as the score may indicate. The Giants still have trouble on third downs -- they failed on their first six third-down tries before finishing 5-for-15 for the game -- and were stuffed on yet another fourth-and-1. The running game is still finding its way and the Giants offensive line is still a work in progress. The secondary continues to give up big chunks of yards as Aaron Ross was even briefly benched. And the injuries won't go away as Mario Manningham suffered a concussion and Domenik Hixon injured his leg on a sensational juggling touchdown catch.
Manning threw for his first two touchdowns of the season but he had another interception and the offensive line surrendered three sacks.
"It is definitely going to come," said wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who caught a 3-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. "It's Week 2 and I think we are definitely going to start clicking."
Fortunately for the Giants, the Rams couldn't get their act together. Steve Spagnuolo's team had to settle for field goals despite being inside the Giants' 10-yard-line three times. The Rams muffed a punt return that set up a Giants touchdown. They lost a backward lateral pass that resulted in Michael Boley's 65-yard fumble return. And they committed eight penalties.
The Giants could end up catching another break if Vick cannot play due to a concussion suffered in Atlanta on Sunday night.
But Tuck is hoping No. 7 is on the field for the rematch. If the Giants are going to snap a six-game losing streak against Philadelphia, the defensive captain wants redemption to come against Vick.
"I would love for him to play," Tuck said. "He brings the best out of us too. Maybe we go down there and he is not in there and we think, 'Oh, we got this thing won.' If he's playing, then we got to be on our toes."
"That is not a shot at whoever plays if he doesn't play," Tuck continued. "We all know that Philadelphia is a great football team and they have a lot of pieces to the puzzle. We are going to have to play a great game regardless if he plays or not."
The question is whether the Giants are anywhere close to playing their best right now. The best you can say is that the Giants showed some progress from the season-opening loss to the Redskins to this win over the Rams. But they still have a ways to go before they prove that they can contend for the NFC East with Philadelphia.
First and foremost, the Giants have to get healthy. They got Tuck back from a neck injury and Nicks played despite a bone bruise and hyperextended knee suffered against Washington.
But if they don't have Manningham or Hixon, who says he will be fine with a calf injury, the Giants will have to replace their second- or third-best receivers against an Eagles secondary that flaunts Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel.
Defensively, the Giants remain stingy against the run, holding the Rams to just 36 yards rushing. But Sam Bradford carved up Perry Fewell's unit, which is still trying to get used to life without Terrell Thomas and Jonathan Goff, for 331 yards and a touchdown with the likes of Mike Sims-Walker, Danario Alexander and Brandon Gibson.
No offense but the Rams receivers are not Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Don't forget the speedy LeSean McCoy, who is a receiving threat. And of course, there's Steve Smith, who will be on the field playing against his former team which is still trying to find a suitable replacement for him in the slot.
The Giants have a short week to prepare for a game they've been waiting nine months to play. They may not be close to where they want to be right now but they won't lack any motivation this week to get better.
And they say they want Vick.
"I think it'd be good for this team," linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said of Vick playing. "And get some redemption and make sure that going forward, we get a win with Vick in the game. That would be a confidence booster."