The New England Patriots are unbeaten and unimpressed.
"We're not even good yet," strong safety Lawyer Milloy said after a 16-14 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday night. "The way we're winning games is not to our liking."
The Patriots joined Tennessee as the only NFL teams with 3-0 records, yet their combined margin of victory is seven points. And, for the first time this season, they didn't need Drew Bledsoe and Adam Vinatieri to lead them to victory in the final minute.
The quarterback and the kicker did their work earlier.
The score was 7-7 at halftime before Vinatieri kicked field goals of 38 and 19 yards in the third quarter and 41 yards in the fourth. Bledsoe completed 10 of 13 passes for 110 yards on those three drives.
"We can make things easier on ourselves. We can play better than we've played these first three games," Bledsoe said. "To get where we want to be, we have to play closer to our potential."
That's what the Giants (1-2) did on defense. One week after losing 50-21 to Washington, they trailed by just two points after Kent Graham's second touchdown pass of the game, a 1-yarder to Tiki Barber with 1:14 left.
Then Ben Coates recovered the onside kick and New England ran out the clock.
"Last week we were blown out," New York coach Jim Fassel said. "This week we tried to control things. Our approach this week was better."
The Patriots were under no illusions that the Giants would be the pushovers they were against the Redskins, who scored on their first three possessions. New England punted on its first three.
"I wasn't anticipating scoring 50 points," Patriots fullback Tony Carter said. "We knew it was going to be a rough game."
"They moved the ball well when they scored, but it's not an unstoppable offense," Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said. "I haven't seen one yet that is."
But when their drives stall, the Patriots have Vinatieri. He is 7-for-7 on field goal attempts this season.
"The winning margin again," New England coach Pete Carroll said. "He's been rock solid for us."
In the first half, the Giants allowed only a 1-yard scoring run by Terry Allen in the second quarter.
But the offense only scored on its first possession of the game, a 6-yard pass from Graham to a wide-open LeShon Johnson, and on its last possession. After Johnson scored, the Giants turned the ball over on punts on their next five series and on downs the next time they got the ball.
"We played better this week but we need to keep it in perspective," Graham said. "It's a 16-game season. We just have to work each game to get better."
Until Barber scored, New England had held its opponent scoreless in the second half for the second straight week after a victory was far from certain at halftime. One week earlier, the Patriots scored on four of their five second-half possessions to beat Indianapolis 31-28 after trailing 28-7 at halftime.
The Giants nearly went ahead after Vinatieri's 19-yarder had given the Patriots a 13-7 lead with 1:32 left in the third quarter.
With the ball at the Patriots 40-yard line, linebacker Tedy Bruschi swatted away a pass into the end zone intended for Pete Mitchell. On the next play, though, Bruschi nearly turned into a goat as he threw the ball at guard Luke Petitgout after Graham was sacked.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave the Giants a first down at the 40, but the drive stalled when Graham's 3-yard pass to Barber left them 5 yards short of a first down at the New England 24.
Brad Daluiso's 41-yard field goal attempt on the next play went wide left with 9:07 to play.
"I didn't appreciate the guy kicking me and lost my head. My emotions were high," Bruschi said. "I dodged a bullet when they missed the field goal."
Vinatieri's successful kick from the same distance, 41 yards, with 3:12 to go provided the winning points.