Tuck: Dallas brings the best out of us

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Justin Tuck no longer uses the word "hate" when talking about his feelings for the Dallas Cowboys.

"I am not going to say it this year but you already know," the Giants defensive end said. "I don't have to say it for you to print. You can imagine."

The Giants' NFC East rival always seems to light a fire under Big Blue. Last season, the Giants swept the Cowboys, beating them in Week 14 and again in the final regular season game to win the division and make a run to the Super Bowl.

Now, the two teams will kick off the 2012 season on Wednesday night, and Tuck can't think of a better way to start the Giants' title defense.

"The Cowboys bring the best out of us," Tuck said. "And we bring the best out of them. It's just one of those rivalry games where it's turned up a notch. It's almost in a way kind of a 'Hip Hop Hooray' party for us because we enjoy playing those guys."

Last season, Dallas brought the best out of Jason Pierre-Paul to the point where it eventually spawned a Naughty By Nature remix of "O.P.P." called "Down with J.P.P." Pierre-Paul had two sacks, a safety, a forced fumble and blocked a potential overtime-forcing field goal to secure a 37-34 win in Dallas on Dec. 11.

But what may be truly terrifying to Romo and the Cowboys is that the Giants' star pass-rushing trio of Tuck, Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora is healthy.

The three pass rushers weren't at full steam until toward the end of last season and their impact on the Giants' success was "pretty obvious," as Tuck put it.

"And awesome for that matter," Tuck said. "I mean it was just tough to get us all three on the field healthy. I think those last games you saw us was us playing at the height of what it could have been the entire year. Hopefully we get there for 16-plus games this year and not have to have guys in and out, especially like how I was last year."

Tuck battled through a laundry list of injuries and ailments that hampered him throughout the season. Umenyiora had a knee issue early on as well.

This season, the trio is ready to inflict pain on opposing offenses. Toss in linebacker/defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, and Perry Fewell is ready to throw his NASCAR package of four defensive ends at offensive lines again.

"We talk about putting the four guys out there; it's hard to find out who's the quickest and who's the fastest," Fewell said. "Some days I look and I say, 'Boy, J.P.P. looks great today,' and then Osi comes flying off the end and I'm saying, 'Wow, boy, that's pretty fast.'

"And then Tuck, he makes a move and I'm saying, 'Wow, man,'" Fewell said. "I'm scratching my head and then Kiwi does something."

The Cowboys will have to figure out something to slow down the Giants' pass rush since this NFC East rivalry has been one-sided of late. The Giants have taken five of the past six games against the Cowboys.

Besides finding a way to slow down Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, the Cowboys must protect Romo, who may be without his favorite target, tight end Jason Witten. Witten is nursing a lacerated spleen.

"We don't necessarily know if [Witten's] playing, but I know that's a huge safety blanket for him," Tuck said. "That'll go a long way to just making it a little bit more uncomfortable out there [for Romo]. Maybe he holds the ball a little bit longer and maybe that gives us a little bit more time to get after him."

There's pressure on Romo every season but the spotlight may be shining even more brightly on Romo with the Cowboys' window of opportunity seemingly getting smaller each season.

But Tuck says the pressure in this game is on the Giants' pass rush to ride Romo and stop DeMarco Murray and the running game without defensive tackle Chris Canty, who is on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

"Everybody knows when we play well, this team, this defense plays well," Tuck said. "A lot of pressure's on us, but we like it that way. I think our defense is set up for us to succeed … to have a big impact on football games. When we've played well, the defense has played well. When we've gotten blocked and not gotten pressure on quarterbacks, we haven't played well."

"The biggest thing is probably stopping the run," Tuck said. "Make sure [Romo] doesn't have that as a crutch. Pin everything on him. He still can make you look real bad when it's all on him but that gives us a fighting chance."

The Giants are expecting a prime-time fight against Dallas on Wednesday night. Four of the past five Giants wins against Dallas have come by seven points or less.

"[That] just puts them a little bit on edge," Tuck said. "They definitely want to come here and ruin our opening night, celebrating the Super Bowl."

Which would make Tuck only hate the Cowboys that much more.