EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -After being embarrassed on national television six days ago, the New York Giants weren't about to throw back an ugly win.
In fact, they took umbrage at the folks - those nasty people in the media - who had the temerity to use the ``U'' word after Sunday's 29-17 victory over San Francisco.
``I know what you want to say,'' Tom Coughlin snapped at someone who asked him that question. ``It's tough to win in this league. Any time you're 5-1, it's good.''
OK, it's good. New York was 4-2 at this time last season and went on to win the Super Bowl.
But the first part of its schedule last season wasn't as easy as it was this year - the kind a college power plays to warm up for the real games that come later on. Now come the big fellas: at Pittsburgh next week, followed by Dallas (which isn't playing like a big fella) and then at Philadelphia, not teams against which New York can play the way it did Sunday.
on Monday night without forcing the Browns to punt. But it did leave a couple of 49ers wide open. And it got good games from subs in for injured starters: Chase Blackburn at middle linebacker for the injured Antonio Pierce and rookie Bryan Kehl on the outside.
It held Frank Gore, who came into the game fourth in the NFL in rushing with 524 yards and a 4.9 per carry average, to just 11 yards on 11 carries.
It had six sacks; two interceptions by Michael Johnson; a forced fumble; and a safety that really was another turnover. Justin Tuck sacked J.T. O'Sullivan, forcing a fumble that rolled into the end zone, and it was kicked out by Barry Sims before a Giant could fall on it for a TD.
But the offense was blah and the stats showed it.
Eli Manning was just 16-of-31 for 161 yards and one TD pass. He didn't throw any interceptions after having three in Cleveland, but he came close a few times and had a bunch of throws batted down at the line of scrimmage. A couple more were dropped.
And other than a 26-yard TD run by Brandon Jacobs, there wasn't much from the NFL's leading rushing team: just 112 yards and a 3.5 average from a unit that came in leading the league in rushing (181 yards per game and 6.1 yards per carry).
ooked good only because the 49ers were flagged 13 times for 134 yards. Clements, their talented but mouthy cornerback, was flagged for 46 yards alone on New York's first touchdown drive.
Of more long-term concern to the Giants might be the continuing animosity between Coughlin and Plaxico Burress. The wide receiver was suspended for the Seattle game after failing to show up for a meeting and failing to call to say he wasn't coming on the first day of the Giants' bye week.
On Sunday, he was flagged for mouthing off at an official on a third-down play, moving the Giants back 15 yards on a punt that Jeff Feagles might have been able to drop close to the San Francisco goal line. As Burress walked off the field, Coughlin said something to him and Burress just kept walking, disdaining his boss, as he has so often.
Coughlin didn't disclose what he'd said and Manning kind of brushed it off as just more of the usual stuff. He was in a position to forgive the guy who caught the Giants' only TD pass, his third of the season. And Manning is too charitable to mention that a couple of the drops belonged to Burress.
In any event, the Giants may be right. A win is a win is a win and you have to beat the little guys to be in position to beat the big guys.
and you're going to go through all sorts of situations. It's all about finding ways to win, to gut it out. That's what we did.''
He's probably right.
The Giants proved last year they indeed can find ways to win. But playing the way they did Sunday won't do much for them against higher caliber opposition.

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