ALBANY, N.Y. - After head coach Tom Coughlin, quarterback Eli Manning and the New York Giants won Super Bowl XLII, they didn't miss a beat to start the next season.
The 2008 Giants won 11 of their first 12 games, finished 12-4, won the NFC East division and had the best record in the conference. But they hit a hot Philadelphia Eagles in their first playoff game and lost, killing the dream of back-to-back Super Bowl titles.
Still, for the regular season that's almost as good as it gets for a defending Super Bowl champion.
Fresh off another win in the February classic -- again over the New England Patriots -- the 2012 Giants have that '08 experience to rely on as motivation.
And they're doing precisely that.
"We have players here that did experience that, and I think that's a good thing," Coughlin told me Monday, after his post-practice news conference at the State University of New York-Albany campus.
"We've talked about that. We talked about it in the spring, and we talked about it here. The players are well aware of the circumstances around that team, and what happened at the end of the year -- and I think it bodes well for our guys."
More important than that, Coughlin said, is the way his team got up off the mat last season, impressively winning three of the last four regular-season games after an ugly four-game losing streak nearly killed their playoff chances.
Coughlin attributes the turn-around to "the all-in philosophy of a group of young men who were unselfish and willing to sacrifice for the good of the team."
And the player Coughlin praised as the best example of that is defensive end Justin Tuck.
"There were some injury factors," Coughlin said of the team's struggles before mid-December. "But Justin Tuck just said, 'Hey look, I've got these issues, the neck, the ankle, an assortment of things. But I can play with them, and perform well with them. And I'm going to find a way to be at my best despite some of these nagging injuries. This is important to me, I want to help my team win, I want to be more focused and less distracted.'
"And he did, and he was a huge factor in our being able to come together."
This year there are holes to fill on offence. Both wideout Mario Manningham, who caught Manning's incredible bomb late in the Super Bowl, and backup running back Brandon Jacobs are now 49ers. And tight end Jake Ballard is now a Patriot.
Are the holes on offence a concern for Coughlin?
"Yes, but we have some solid parts that will help those new guys come along, I believe," he told me. "And coming off the Super Bowl championship will help us in that regard, too."
On defence, arguably the NFL's deepest --and best -- front seven returns.
"I've challenged the defence," Coughlin said at his news conference. "I'm excited about the way we finished the season ... Obviously I've got my eye on points scored. The playoffs were 14 points a game, and the regular season was 25. So I certainly would like to see that improved upon."
Likely the two biggest obstacles for a repeat?
First, it's the Giants' ridiculously tough schedule, which sees them playing these teams over the final 12 weeks, in this order: at San Francisco, vs. Washington, at Dallas, vs. Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati, vs. Green Bay, at Washington on Monday night, vs. New Orleans, at Atlanta, at Baltimore, vs. Philadelphia.
Second, it's all the injuries. They've been coming fast and furious since early in the Super Bowl game itself, when both tight ends went down with serious knee injuries. Worse, star wideout Hakeem Nicks broke his right foot in spring workouts and likely won't be back for two more weeks.
The Giants received more bad news Monday when it was learned that cornerback Terrell Thomas, who started in 2009 and 2010 but missed all of last season after having an injured ACL reconstructed, aggravated that injury at Sunday's practice.
Thomas underwent an MRI in Manhattan Monday. He'll have the knee scoped to determine the extent of the re-injury.
As well, DT Chris Canty, LB Clint Sintim and TE Travis Beckum are all nursing knee injuries.
And team trainers were looking at running back Ahmad Bradshaw's foot after he fell during practice.
Even Coughlin fell once at practice.
"I didn't get any attention for it, though."
If they can somehow overcome the injuries, fill in some holes, and survive their brutal schedule to win another Super Bowl, the 2012 Giants will have damn well deserved it.