John Fennelly, Lead WriterThe blueprint to winning the Super Bowl in the new millennium has been the ability to throw the ball at will on offense and stop your opponent from doing the same. Running the football as a primary offensive strategy is a thing of the past.
On defense, you need to get after the QB and force him to throw the football before he has to, leading to errors, incompletions and punts. The rest of the defense just has to contain. Bend but don’t break.
The Giants won two Super Bowls this way. Green Bay and New Orleans have won this way, too.
This season, the pass rush has been the worst it’s been in years. The running game is, too. Through the first 7 games of the season, the Giants only sacked the QB six times. They recorded four yesterday in Philly, but are still only 30th in the league in that category.
An improving o-line and the addition of Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis have given the rushing attack some bite, but after a half a season, they are averaging just 69 yards per game on the ground, or, 29th in the NFL.
With the main cogs in the engine not firing as they have in the past, the Giants have had to make some adjustments. The routes in the passing game have been shortened. The running game has gone from a breakaway style to a bruising one. The defense added a real MLB (Jon Beason) who has brought tenacity, organization and intelligence to the game plan.
The defense has benefited from Beason’s presence, the return of Will Hill from suspension, the coming of age of Prince Amukamara, the near-miraculous resurgence of Terrell Thomas and the playmaking ability of one Antrel Rolle. They have not given up a TD in ten quarters.
“We’ve played great defense, we really haven’t given up a score, defensively, and there is a lot to be said for the way we are playing right now on defense,” head coach Tom Coughlin said.
“We just simplified things,” captain Justin Tuck said. “Perry Fewell and the staff have done a great job of putting together game plans, which allows the athletes to be athletes, honestly. It hasn’t been anything elaborated, guys are playing fast, guys are playing confident, and we kind of gotten on a hot streak here. When you start making plays, you start becoming very confident in yourself and I think that this is a very confident defense right now.”
“The key to the turnaround has been our enthusiasm,” Rolle said after the game yesterday. “After the 0-6 record, the coaches and players got together and we got on the same page. There were a lot of in-depth conversations. There was a lot of speaking as men to men, understanding your strengths and weaknesses and just the coaches and players being on the same page at the same time. As well as the coaches trusting the players and the players trusting the coaches and I think it’s definitely shown in our performance.”
Thomas, who led the team in tackles in 2009 and 2010, had 11 tackles yesterday (10 solo) including a sack and a forced fumble. His ability to read and play the run has cut down on teams running wild around his end. Prince is beginning to do the same on his side. Throw in Beason, a classic sideline-to-sideline MLB, and you have the makings of a top run defense.
“He’s (Beason) been a phenomenal guy for this team. He is something we needed,” added Rolle. “We needed a voice from the middle linebacker position. We needed someone to stand their ground. We needed someone who was going to get everyone lined up right, make it real snappy. He was another voice we needed, as well as his passion for the game and playmaking ability is tremendous and I believe this is only the beginning for him.”
S Will Hill has been a key contributor to the rise of the defense. He played every down in the victory over the Eagles, supplanting Ryan Mundy at free safety. It’s looks like he’ll be the man in the plan going forward. His maturity has been one of the plusses of this trying season.
“Again it is important that we gel as a team,” Hill said. “What has been nice is the offense is playing well and it is giving the defense time to breathe. Then on defense, we are working hard to get the ball back in the hands of the offense, who is making things happen. If we continue to do this and stay consistent, good things will happen.”
Rolle at SS – and only at SS – and Will Hill playing solid at free gives the Giants a nice 1-2 punch at the top of the formation. With the Beason in the middle and the likes of Cullen Jenkins, Linval Joseph, Jon Hankins and Mike Patterson in front of him, the Giants are strong down the middle, which is the goal of every NFL defense.
Rolle has been the leader, though. He’s always been there, it’s just starting to show now…
““Well he’s been there as a solid factor all the way through. It’s just obviously noticeable now with the last couple weeks,” Coughlin said.
Eight games to go. Can the Giants’ defense turn this season into something special?