EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Less than 24 hours after one of their biggest wins in years, there was a good feeling in the New York Giants' locker room.
The team that was being roasted a couple of weeks ago after blowing late leads in losing the first two games is suddenly leading the dismal NFC East with a 3-2 record following an uplifting 30-27 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night.
The highlight was a spectacular 12-yard touchdown catch by tight end Larry Donnell with 21 seconds to play.
The win was special, and there was another special moment Monday. Game balls were given out and one went to tight end Daniel Fells, who is hospitalized with a case of MRSA. The Giants had dedicated the game to him and they shared their feeling in an online conversation.
''Everybody was able to cheer him and to try to make him feel better and he was very nice in saying he watched the game and liked the way we finished it,'' coach Tom Coughlin said.
Fells has made progress against the infection the past three days and is feeling better after getting a couple of good nights of sleep. But the 69-year-old coach cautioned that the player is ''not out of the woods.''
''He was very gracious about receiving a game ball and he told his teammates what he felt about them based on their games. It was nice,'' Coughlin said.
If there is a bottom line for the Giants, it's that this isn't the same team that missed the playoffs the last three seasons.
The most recent source of the optimism was a magnificent 12-play, 82-yard winning drive that featured clutch plays by Eli Manning, Donnell, running back Shane Vereen, and a gutsy effort by Odell Beckham Jr., in getting back on the field late and playing with a hamstring injury.
It's all very positive, but this is the same spot the Giants were in last season. They were 3-2 heading to Philadelphia for a nationally televised game and got blown out. It was also the game slot receiver Victor Cruz hurt his knee and was lost for the season.
That ignited a seven-game losing streak that sealed the Giants' fate.
Coughlin insists this is a different team.
''Well, the grit, the way in which we play, the energy that is spent, the scrappiness, the will, the ability seemingly to have people miss games and others kind of step up and help us win,'' he said of the current team.
A lot of players stepped up for New York on Sunday night, especially after Beckham and fellow receiver Rueben Randle had hamstring injuries. Dwayne Harris, rookie Geremy Davis and recently signed Myles White were the receivers on the final drive.
''If this happened last year we would not have won,'' center Weston Richburg said after the game. ''This one says a lot about the guys we have, the resiliency we have. It was awesome. It was great.''
Richburg spoke more like a coach on Monday. He did not want to discuss last year's game against the Eagles and his only admission about the current team is that it has matured over the past year. He didn't make much of being a game ahead of Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington in the division.
''It's a long season,'' Richburg said. ''I think there's tons of more football to play. You can continue to get better.''
Coughlin wants his running game to improve - the Giants haven't gained 100 yards rushing in any game - and he definitely wants more production in the red zone. Josh Brown has already kicked 13 field goals.
Vereen, who had eight catches for 86 yards, including receptions of 11, 16 and 24 yards on the final drive, is trying to get a feel for his new team. While playing with the Patriots, being in first place was usually a given.
''I think guys were happy that we were able to get a good, emotional win, a good team win last night,'' he said. ''But I think mentally that we know that we've got to go do it again next week. We've got to go do it again the week after that, and the week after that. The job is not done, the job is just getting started.''
NOTES: Middle linebacker Jon Beason was feeling better after missing most of the game with concussion symptoms. ... With the status of Beckham and Randle uncertain for this week, expect the Giants to work out receivers.
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