East Rutherfoprd, N.J. — With an unprecedented nationwide disaster relief effort as a backdrop, the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints meet tonight in a game that could provide a huge boost to the winner.
The Giants have not opened with two straight wins since 2000, the year they reached the Super Bowl, and haven't won consecutive games since October. The Saints are coming off a win at Carolina in their first game since being displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
Today's game was to be the Saints' home opener on Sept. 18 before damage to the Louisiana Superdome three weeks ago caused the NFL to move it to Giants Stadium. The league is using the rare Monday night doubleheader - Washington and Dallas play at 8 p.m., 90 minutes after the New York-New Orleans kickoff - to broadcast a telethon to raise money for victims of the disaster.
While Saints players have used the devastation of the Gulf Coast as a rallying point, it is worth remembering that the team has won five straight games dating to last season, second best in the league behind New England's six-game streak snapped Sunday.
"I keep saying this, but before the hurricane got here, we were focused," wide receiver Joe Horn said. "By the hurricane coming and the homeless people that are here now watching us play, it gives us a little more initiative to play harder and play smarter and go out and win a Super Bowl."
The Saints forced four turnovers against Carolina but needed a 47-yard field goal from John Carney with 3 seconds left for a 23-20 victory. The Giants had a punt return and kickoff return for touchdowns in a 42-19 win over Arizona that made up for a less than outstanding performance by quarterback Eli Manning (10-for-23 for 172 yards, two TDs and two interceptions).
Parts of Giants Stadium will be decorated with the Saints' fleur-de-lis to make the visitors feel at home tonight.