Found January 06, 2012 on Fox Sports:
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Chris Snee knows of the links being made between the New York Giants' strong regular-season finish and the one that helped vault his club to victory in Super Bowl XLII four years ago. And he can't stand it. "I hate comparing the two years," the standout right guard told FOXSports.com with an exasperated chuckle inside New York's locker room. "I think there's something like 14 guys (remaining) from that team. "The similarity is that we played well heading into (the playoffs). Now if we get where we want at the end and win it all, we can talk more about comparisons." Snee's take is spot-on as New York (9-7) prepares to host Atlanta (10-6) in Sunday's first-round game on FOX. While the 2007 and 2011 Giants share other Xs-and-Os traits besides a strong December push, Snee and his teammates know the true foundation of this year's squad was laid five months ago. Back then, the Giants were blanketed by the kind of negativity that would have ripped lesser teams asunder. Justin Tuck got a bitter taste of it on a mild August afternoon at Giants training camp. The defensive end and team leader was besieged by incessant media questions about his franchise's pending demise. Before the unexpected emergence of Victor Cruz, the Giants were skewered for failing to re-sign three quality receiving targets (Plaxico Burress, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss). The fact that Smith and Burress signed with rivals like NFC East darling Philadelphia and the nearby Jets respectively provided further fuel. Training camp injuries were decimating New York's defense, particularly the back seven. The offensive line was being rebuilt. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora's unsettled contract situation, injury status (knee) and retaliation at general manager Jerry Reese for contract negotiations gone awry had grown particularly ugly. All of this was before Eli Manning faced another batch of media scrutiny by affirming his status as an "elite" quarterback like Tom Brady when asked about the topic during a radio interview. Along with the reality of having failed to reach the playoffs for two straight seasons as the Jets surged, Tuck recognized that outsiders were ranking the Giants "at the bottom of the barrel." "Everybody was already saying, 'This is going to be coach (Tom) Coughlin's last year. This team has been underachievers. Blah, blah, blah,'" Tuck said Thursday from a maroon couch not far from where he spoke about the situation to FOXSports.com in the preseason. "At the end of the day, we're exactly where we want to be. The only way we could be in a better position is if we had a higher seed and not having to play this week. But we're in the playoffs." The road there was bumpy. New York dropped its opener to NFC East rival Washington, responded with a 6-1 stretch highlighted by a Super Bowl XLII rematch win at New England and then lost five of its next six games. So how did the Giants survive the ride? "We find a way to rally around our coach, ourselves, our leadership and give a good effort," Tuck said. "Are people going to crucify you when you stumble? Sure. But at the end of the day, we continue to have faith in each other. That's a lot stronger than what some outsiders might say." Left tackle Dave Diehl said that "us-against-the-world" mentality carried over into December when the Giants won their final two home games against the Jets and Dallas Cowboys to claim their first division crown since 2008. "Early on, people are panicking wondering what we're going to do," Diehl said. "Coach Coughlin did a great job saying, 'Hey, everybody is here for a reason. When something like this happens, guys have to step up and be all in.' He did a great job keeping us focused." The 65-year-old Coughlin is touched by the public show of support his charges have given. On Thursday, he lauded the locker-room leadership provided primarily by veterans who were with the Giants on their last Super Bowl run. "We've got a saying: Football finds a way to pay you back," said Tuck, who has played all seven of his NFL seasons under Coughlin. "If you're working your butt off to make a difference, usually that's what's going to happen. If you're lollygagging and taking shortcuts, usually you're going to get your butt whupped. "This team just started working and stopped making excuses." The Giants field arguably the NFL's top pass-rushing front and an improved Manning, who is a far better passer than when he led New York to its Super Bowl XLII upset over the previously undefeated Patriots. But as much as Big Blue faithful are embracing nostalgia, the path to Super Bowl XLVI seems even more perilous than the one taken by the Giants four seasons ago. New York has already lost to each of the NFC's top three seeds - Green Bay, San Francisco and New Orleans - and would have to play each on the road in the second round if they defeat the Falcons this weekend. "We don't win pretty," Snee acknowledged. "We don't make it easy for our fans. It's always a four-quarter game down to the end, but we never consider ourselves out of it." That's a comparison to the 2007 Giants he doesn't mind making.
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