EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said he’s probably too close to his unit to notice if its collective emotions rise more when facing one of last year’s playoff teams.
He does know about the defense’s pride, though.
“I’m so immersed in the gameplan that I can’t see the forest for the trees,” he said. “Outside looking in, you probably could discern those things more easily. But I’ve certainly been proud the way they’ve responded.
“There’s a lot of pride within the group, so when they look at a team that’s regarded as a good football team, they’ve traditionally responded in a way that’s very positive.”
That is especially true this year. The Giants (8-5) on Sunday will face Atlanta (11-2), and have a chance to beat a fourth team that made the postseason last year. Since they don’t play the Lions this year, a win vs. the Falcons would make it a clean sweep of the NFC side of last year’s bracket. On the AFC side, the Giants lost to Pittsburgh and still have Baltimore remaining on the schedule.
Beating the Falcons won’t come without a challenge, though, as the Giants will walk into the Georgia Dome. Atlanta has won 10 straight since last season at home, and will want to atone for a 30-20 loss to Carolina last Sunday. But the Giants have excelled, at times, this year, neutralizing high-powered teams, home or road.
The last eight games are indicative of that. A stretch that started with a 26-3 romp over the 49ers in San Francisco, continued with a 38-10 pounding of Green Bay at MetLife Stadium. Last week, the Giants handled New Orleans, 52-27. Those three wins amounted to a cumulative score of 116-40.
“Big-time games, man, you tend to show up,” linebacker Michael Boley said. “But we need to do it all the time, not just for the big-time games. But this one will certainly be a challenge for us. They play well at home.”
The Giants have played well against the Falcons’ division, too, going 3-0 in the NFC South against Tampa Bay, Carolina, and New Orleans. The Falcons have already clinched that division title.
“These last few weeks, we’ve played good football and we’ve got to continue to do that and keep making strides,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. “Everybody has the right mindset and great confidence right now. But the mindset is we’ve got to work on some things. We’ve got to get better in practice and make sure we’re well prepared for every game.”
The Giants have won the last three meetings with the Falcons in Georgia.
“We’ve played well when we’ve played there,” New York coach Tom Coughlin said. “I can’t analyze it a whole lot further than that. We’ve prepared and gone up against good teams, so obviously our focus has been good. It’s no different now.”
So, the Giants are naturally confident despite a host of injuries that could keep key players, such as running back Ahmad Bradshaw, cornerback Prince Amukamara, and safety Kenny Phillips, out of the lineup. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks is also questionable, given his limited work Thursday with a knee sprain.
But, in times of despair, Coughlin knows he can count on the character — and depth — of a team that won the Super Bowl just 10 months ago.
“We’ll call upon all of that,” Coughlin said. “The main thing we need to do is develop consistency in our play and all three levels continuing to support and contribute and not have one of those days where we step back in an area.
“That’s what we’re trying to emphasize.”
NOTES: Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said if Amukamara (hamstring) sits out against Atlanta, he is confident rookie Jayron Hosley can do the job at starting right cornerback. “He’s got great ball skills,” Fewell said. “He can always tip the ball and intercept it.” Fewell noted an outstanding practice play Thursday where Hosley broke in on an in-cut and intercepted the ball. “He was in the end zone before I could turn my head,” Fewell said. … The Giants hold a one-game lead over Washington (7-6 ) and Dallas (7-6) in the NFC East.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)