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How good are the Giants? Well, what time is it?

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Brandon Jacobs jogged off a chilly Meadowlands Field with a clenched fist, pumping it to a group of Giants fans in a lower corner of the stadium. He then stopped and turned toward a trailing camera to squint and make a bad-ass face.

Underneath the bravado, he looked relieved, like a man who'd just discovered he and his teammates had been delivered a reprieve from an executioner's ax. The entire Giants locker room looked that way following their 24-20 victory over Jacksonville. Happy but stunned; smiling but shaking their heads.

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It was calmer than what was apparently a stormy halftime locker room following an ugly first half of football. Defensive players Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck implored -- no, begged -- the defense to play harder in a series of fiery halftime speeches.

"The guys spoke up," said defensive back Antrel Rolle, beginning what is a candidate for quote of the year. "Osi spoke up, Tuck spoke up, and they said, 'Cut the [expletive]. I don't care what's going on. Let's go out there and play.' We don't want anyone coming in our house, eat up our food, take our wives and leave. We're dogs and we went out there hunting."

These Giants are confusing, if not maddening, and at times are far from hunters -- they're the hunted. Count them out, they win. Count them in, they flinch. Coach Tom Coughlin is a genius. No, he's not. Yes, he is. No, yes, no. The Giants are lucky, the Giants are great. The Giants are stout, then they're routed.

Figure them out and win a prize.

In many ways, this was battle of The Living Dead. The Giants are missing more wide receivers than Leon Spinks was teeth, and the Jaguars were without two starting offensive tackles. Jacksonville still had Maurice Jones-Drew, the pugnacious little mobile fire hydrant who runs like a Camaro and got his fourth consecutive 100-yard game Sunday. That was a first for Jones-Drew, so the Giants made history.

Since the Giants won, that makes Coughlin a genius ... this time around. (AP)  
Since the Giants won, that makes Coughlin a genius ... this time around. (AP)  
In the first half, Jones-Drew obliterated the New York defense, and it's in those moments that you wonder if the Giants are fraudulent or not. He ran through tackles, beat an alleged speedy defensive line to the outside and stymied the Giants defensive staff. Coughlin looked like he was going to choke himself out on the sideline.

Jim Brown, er, Jones-Drew finished with 21 carries for 113 yards, and this is where the dual nature of the Giants again kicks in. Only 40 of those yards came in the second half. They eventually (mostly) figured Jones-Drew out.

Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard was solid in the first half but was pressured hard in the second. The Giants pass rush was relentless, leading to an injured wrist for Garrard (how serious is unknown).

This is typical 2010 Giants (and in many ways typical Coughlin Giants). They allow Garrard to do a modicum of damage in the first half and then destroy him in the second. The Jaguars' final series, as they threatened to take the game in the last two minutes, was almost unreal to see. Garrard was sacked on first down for 11 yards, second down for 8 yards and third down for 8 yards while losing a fumble. If there'd been fourth, fifth and sixth downs, he'd have also been sacked.

"We knew if we lost this game we might be out of the playoffs," Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas said. "We have to keep pace. In the NFC right now, everybody is crawling. There are some great teams out there and we're out of the picture right now so we have to win the rest of our season. That's all that matters."

And these Giants could do just that. They could win them all. They could win the whole thing.

Or lose the rest of their games as well.

You figure them out.

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