Antonio Pierce clearly had circled Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins from the moment the 2005 schedule came out last spring. The starting middle linebacker for the Redskins last season, Pierce felt he'd been low-balled by Washington in free agency and eventually decided to sign a long-term $26 million deal to play for the New York Giants this season.
Pierce was not exactly gloating Sunday afternoon, but it was obvious that he relished the Giants' 36-0 victory over his former team, perhaps more than anyone in his locker room. He also couldn't help but take a dig at a Redskins organization he felt had disrespected him by not bringing him back.
"When I came and signed here, they said you were coming into a family, and you felt that on Friday," Pierce said. On Friday, he and the Giants players had attended a funeral service for longtime team co-owner Wellington Mara, who died last week at age 89. "You felt that throughout the whole week and I think that means a lot. You saw that today. Guys played together on defense, offense and special teams. This was the best game we played by far.
"Guys were emotional going through what we went through on Friday and seeing the support the city gave for Mr. Mara. You knew how much this meant to everybody. Guys had that in the back of their heads and went out and played with that on their shoulders."
Pierce had another big day for the Giants. By game's end, he had posted 11 tackles, seven solo, and the next closest Giants defender had four. Pierce had his team's only interception, and was credited for defending two other Washington passes that fell incomplete.
"It meant a lot," Pierce said. "That was the [NFL's] second-ranked offense coming into the game and going into the fourth quarter, they had less than 100 yards and we were really shooting for that. Those guys were rocking and rolling. We stopped all the big plays. I think they might have had one play for over 20 yards [actually two]. Besides that, guys were flying around and when you fly around on defense, you make turnovers happen.
"We hit them all the time because it was nine on seven. I'm friends with a lot of those guys. Clinton [Portis] and I are real close friends. It felt good. It didn't really matter. They are a team that was not a Giant and did not have blue on their name, so that really didn't matter to me."
Winning for the Mara family was what mattered the most for many of the Giants.
"Definitely we know he's up there watching," said tight end Jeremy Shockey, whose 10-yard touchdown reception early in the third quarter opened a 26-0 lead. "It was just a great feeling to do it for the Mara family. The crowd was excellent today; there was a lot of energy in the stadium and we had a good feeling going into the game.
"It was a great honor to present their family with the game ball, such a great feeling. It was a hard week this week and I think the team did a great job handling itself. It felt great, but it felt even better at the end after they presented [the ball] to John Mara [Wellington Mara's son] and his family."