The last time the Giants won the Super Bowl, they returned the next year with essentially the same team and opened up with 11 wins in their first 12 games.
Then Plaxico Burress decided he wanted to know what it feels like to get shot and the Giants folded up like a piece of origami because the team hadn't found any alternatives to Burress in their passing game. The Giants failed because they assumed everything would just fall into place again, a terrible judgment that they have avoided thus far this year.
Much of this year's team looks exactly like the one that the Giants rode to another title in February, but they did a better job of protecting against the inevitable moment when the guy who got the job done last year failed this time around. Sean Locklear was there to play right tackle until he got hurt, Stevie Brown was available at safety and, perhaps most importantly, David Wilson was drafted to be a playmaker for a team that sent two of them packing when Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs went to San Francisco.
There was no instant magic with Wilson, who mostly existed as a whipping boy for the coaching staff for the first 12 weeks of the season, but there's a reason why you don't make conclusions based on less than a full sampling of the goods. Wilson gave a reminder of that in the 52-27 win over the Saints.
Wilson's 97-yard kickoff return gave the Giants points when their offense was scuffling in the first quarter and his 100 rushing yards allowed them to rest the obviously ailing Ahmad Bradshaw for a good portion of the game. And his 52-yard bolt of a touchdown run gave the offense a gear they haven't seen all season from the running back position.
If that reminds you of the way that Bradshaw burst on the scene, it is for good reason. He came on to give a jolt of energy to a tired team in 2007 and wound up helping them get to the Super Bowl.
Wilson did the same thing on Sunday. We can't know if the season will wind up the same way, but getting a new wrinkle this late in the season is sure to help their chances.
Here's the rest of the good, bad and ugly from the win.
GOOD: Martellus Bennett has always been an entertaining quote, but he's shown this season that he may actually have a place in the NFL as a player. He, not Jimmy Graham, was the best tight end on the field on Sunday.
GOOD/BAD: Eli Manning got off to a horrid start, underthrowing Domenik Hixon on a potential touchdown and then getting picked by the Saints for a score, before winding up with four touchdown passes. There were a couple of passes New Orleans should have picked off in the end zone, though, and holding onto either could have made the whole game play out in a less amusing way for the Giants. Halfway competent defenses won't be quite so forgiving of mistakes.
UGLY: Lawrence Tynes has two missed kicks in the last two weeks and neither was long enough to make you say that it is just part of doing business. If you're the kind of guy that believes that "clutchiness" is something that exists, that's no big deal but a couple more misses should have the Giants very concerned.
BAD: The Giants run defense was non-existent in the first half, giving up more than 100 yards to a Saints unit that makes its money throwing the ball. We can't give them credit for firming up in the second half since running wasn't an option with such a lopsided score, so we'll just have to wait and see if they can actually figure out the whole tackling-the-guy-with-the-ball-before-he-hurts-you thing over the final three weeks.
GOOD: Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks have each had better games, but the second week of the season was the last time that they both played well in the same game. A strong closing would be the ideal way to put their struggles from the year behind them in time for the playoffs.