The return to prominence of the New York Giants over the last two weeks has been both surprising and informative to those of us who live and die by the weekly results on the gridiron.
It was informative because it reminded us once again that the NFL season is the sum of 17 weeks of work and not about knee-jerk analysis before a quarter of the season is over. Plenty of people have already forgotten that lesson -- they're the ones chattering about Super Bowls -- and underplayed the surprise of seeing the same group of players who were so disgraceful for two weeks playing like the league's elite without overhauling anything about the lineup.
Because there's no clear change like that to use as the impetus for the improved play, people have been scrambling for ways to explain it. Antrel Rolle thinks it's just because everyone is having more fun than they were earlier in the season.
"It just doesn't consist of winning," Rolle said. "It consists of practice, it consists of meeting times, guys in the locker room, gelling with each other, joking with each other. Just making sure you never really work a day in your life. That's what it feels like right now. It doesn't feel like we're coming to work. It feels like we're coming here to execute something, and having a good time doing it."
Frankly, that doesn't hold up. No one's joking and having a good time without the winning and since we're just 14 days removed from the Bill Cowher watch it seems unlikely that there was such a whitewashing of the attitude inside Giants camp. It's interesting that Rolle feels this way because he was moaning about the lack of fun after the Colts game, but these are the kinds of unprovable platitudes that spout up during every winning streak in every sport. It makes for good soundbites, but it isn't particularly believeable.
Rolle's comments do bring up the idea that perhaps we're seeing the results of another change in Tom Coughlin's style, but that doesn't really pass the smell test either. Last time he did that was over an offseason that coincided with new assistants and new voices entering the team and four days -- the practice time between the Titans and Bears games -- isn't enough to install a whole new world. Coughlin still sounds like the same guy, full of motivational cliches about adversity proving men, so we're not buying stock in that either.
The easiest explanation actually seems to be that Perry Fewell decided to just go into full-on attack mode on defense. Instead of tailoring a defense for the opposition, he's just letting his players loose and forcing the offense to adjust to them. That's clearly happening but it doesn't explain why David Diehl was suddenly a capable player on Sunday or why Brandon Jacobs stopped being a walking advertisement against multiyear deals for running backs.
In other words, it's a lot of things and, perhaps, nothing at all. The season is 17 weeks and the Giants were no more the awful team of those two losses than they were a great team after five wins to start the 2009 season. It's about more than either of those snapshots, so it's best to just enjoy the good times and hope they keep on rolling in the weeks to come.