- Johnette Howard, ESPN.com columnist
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It was a mild surprise when Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora decided to melt back into the wallpaper like the rest of the team usually does rather than re-engage this week with Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, whom he once derided as a Twitter tough guy, after McCoy tried to renew their personal trash-talking history by calling him a ballerina and a fourth-stringer.
But as if to show the rivalry between the teams hasn't lost any of its heat or intrigue, Jason Pierre-Paul did fire back Friday when reminded of how Eagles quarterback Michael Vick broke his hand in last season's Sept. 25 game against the Giants, then suggested he absorbed too many borderline hits and ripped the refs for not throwing flags.
"Yeah? We'll give him some more," Pierre-Paul promised Friday, breaking into a grin.
As odd as it seems that Pierre-Paul would make that kind of promise or that McCoy would choose to call out Umenyiora this week, of all weeks -- hasn't McCoy noticed the Eagles' offensive line is short-handed and Eagles coach Andy Reid is so tired of the offense's turnover problem that he's put Vick on notice that he has to play better? -- it's not odd at all.
There's a reason the Giants' rivalry against the Eagles feels different than the ones they have against some of the other teams that ignore the Giants' two Super Bowl rings and make a lot of noise before they play them, like the Cowboys or Jets usually do. And it's this:
The Eagles have actually beaten the Giants lately -- a lot.
They won seven of the past eight times they played New York, to be exact.
Given that it's such a lopsided run of head-to-head results, that only made Giants coach Tom Coughlin's and Pierre-Paul's remarkably jovial moods Friday seem all the more notable. Coughlin actually cracked a few jokes, but that's easy to explain; he's always loved big-game weeks such as this NFC East showdown, even if it's going to be played at the Eagles' place Sunday night. But Pierre-Paul? It was almost as if he was happy because he knows something.
Think it might be that the Eagles' offensive line is expected to be without its starting center and forced to start its third-string left tackle?
"Oh man, that's trouble, right? Third one? Man! That's trouble," JPP repeated, breaking into another laugh.
"You know what they say about third string, right?" Then he laughed again.
Pierre-Paul went on to suggest that regardless of the Eagles' recent domination of their rivalry, the Giants think they have come across something that worked so well defensively against Vick the last time they met, the rest of the league has copied it. And it's not just the part about hitting Vick again and again, as often as they can, which is something the entire Giants defense takes great satisfaction in. Not just the defensive line.
"Oh yeah, you can see when it's getting to him, to any quarterback," Giants linebacker Michael Boley said.
The added twist the Giants use is sending a cornerback blitz at Vick. By his own admission, Vick has never been a prodigious film watcher, and opposing defenses such as the Giants have noticed, even if he hadn't admitted it. The Giants have taken advantage of how Vick can be a tick slow to read pressure from the secondary and react with his mind -- not his vaunted legs. Makes sense, right?
Minnesota also has blitzed cornerbacks against him. Arizona has copied the tactic, too, Pierre-Paul said Friday. Turnovers and hits on Vick have tended to come in waves. So have interceptions and fumbles.
"He holds the ball too long," Pierre-Paul said.
Pierre-Paul also disputed the suggestion that any Giants hits against Vick in the past were illegal.
"We wasn't -- everything was within the rules of the game, you know what I mean?" Pierre-Paul shot back. "Otherwise we would've got fined.
"As a quarterback that runs a lot, you know, you should expect for you to get hit even more than when you're [a quarterback] standing in the pocket to pass. Even when you're standing in the pocket and pass, you're gonna get hit. We're coming. We're going to hit you, regardless. Whether you're throwing the ball or you're running the ball, we're going to hit you. And if you throw the ball and release it -- as long as we get there before you release it, we can hit him. The ref is the only one that can tell us no."
Reid has tried to backtrack from his remarks Monday that suggested Vick's starting job could be in trouble if he keeps turning the ball over. Have you noticed that in all the fallout since, once again the quarterback who is going unnoticed this week is the Giants' Eli Manning, playing the position arguably better than anyone else in the league?
The Eagles have so much talent, they might actually get around to living up to that Dream Team tag Vince Young -- who's not even in the league anymore -- put on them a year ago if Vick can finally cut down on his mistakes.
As it is, none of it has stopped the Eagles from beating the Giants regularly anyway. They're both 2-1 overall right now, but the Giants desperately don't want to follow up their season-opening loss to Dallas with another division loss that would leave them 0-2 in the NFC East.
For that reason, it was hard to know for sure whether JPP was talking to himself and his teammates rather than just the Eagles when he grew serious Friday and said, "Our D-line knows we haven't played our best yet."
This is the kind of week and rivalry in which everyone is going to have "a little more" for everyone else. Not just JPP or Vick.
"It's Giants-Eagles -- Sunday night, a big NFC East division game," said Giants cornerback Corey Webster, who will play with a broken hand. "No need to set the bar any higher. That's enough. Just say it like that."
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