The New York Giants already had motivation. Now, they've got a target, too.
Jaguars running back Fred Taylor played Santa Claus to the Giants yesterday, providing them with a gift of bulletin board material. Giants coach Jim Fassel immediately instructed his team not to retaliate verbally.
Merry Christmas, New York.
"The Giants have a great scheme. Even if you don't have the talent, your scheme can make some players better than they are," Taylor told New York reporters via a conference call Wednesday.
Word of Taylor's comments spread quickly through the Giants locker room. "He's not going to rush for 100 shooting his mouth off," defensive tackle Keith Hamilton said. "This is bigger than Fred Taylor and his comments. I'm trying to position ourselves to get homefield advantage. I'm not getting caught up in whatever his little lingo is."
The Giants, 11-4, will secure homefield advantage for the NFC playoffs by beating the 7-8 Jaguars this Saturday at Giants Stadium. A win would be the Giants' fifth straight; since Fassel guaranteed on Nov. 19, following consecutive defeats, that his team would make the playoffs. Fassel also instituted a gag order on his players.
Meanwhile, Taylor is completing the most productive season of his three-year career. He has rushed for 100 or more yards in nine consecutive games, and needs another 100-yarder this Saturday to remain in pursuit of Barry Sanders' all-time 100-yard streak, 14 games.
"I don't know why he said it," safety Shaun Williams said of Taylor's remarks. "Maybe he looked at the film and that's what he felt. That's the best I can do and I got to stop talking before I get in trouble."
Taylor will undoubtedly be the target of a Giants defense that is second in the league against the run and fourth overall. However, it is 16th in the league against the pass, and if the Jaguars are successful on offense, it will likely be through the air against cornerbacks Jason Sehorn and former Jaguar Dave Thomas.
"We'll give you guys a good game; it will be a great game, I can promise you that," Taylor told reporters.
His comments immediately provided flavor to a game that had become very dry for the Jaguars. He guaranteed this season will not pass quietly.
"Their whole defense is aggressive and if they don't get to the quarterback with the blitz, there is going to be big plays all over the field," Taylor said.
"Tennessee and Baltimore don't blitz as much. I think they just have better athletes, so they don't have to blitz as much. I can probably say Tennessee and Baltimore do have more talent (than the Giants) on defense. They're quicker; a lot quicker," Taylor added.
Fassel seized the opportunity to rush to the rescue of his offended warriors, further endearing himself to his team. "We've got outstanding talent and I wouldn't trade my guys … for anybody. I'll stand by them and how they play," Fassel said.
"Evidently, he must feel pretty good about himself," Hamilton said of Taylor. "In three days, 72 hours, it's all going to be settled on that field. He'll show up, we'll show up and we'll see what happens."