During the week leading up to the game versus San Francisco, one claim was that the New York Giants’ non-existent pass rush was going up against the best offensive line in the league. Stats are always a favorite footnote for the media.
Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell knew that OL Joe Staley and crew were the primary strength of the San Francisco 49ers – it wasn’t QB Alex Smith or RB Frank Gore or even TE Vernon Davis. Without their o-line, they couldn’t do what they had been doing, so Fewell used this thought process and attacked with extra guys, speed, stunts and disruption. Pushing that line of scrimmage back and making it weak worked. As with any powerful configuration, once the foundation crumbles, the rest shall follow.
Defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora were constants to rush on their sides, but what changed a bit is what’s been lacking: the big push from the DT position. Yes, injuries have limited this position. DT Linval Joseph is considered the on-the-field veteran (at 23-years old). While he is making some plays, he can’t do it all and instruct the raw talent of rookie DT Markus Kuhn. Kuhn is learning and receiving more reps each week, but he has more homework to do – especially against big uglies that can render him useless at times. DT Marvin Austin is slowly making his way back onto the field on game day, but admits that he sometimes thinks too much.
Putting playmakers that possess speed and are disciplined in at their position was not something new for the Giants’ d-line. It just had yet to make an appearance. Using DE Mathias Kiwanuka and DE Jason Pierre-Paul in the middle created the push that was needed, but add those linebacker stunts from LB Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams. Who does “the best o-line in the league” account for? Especially when the backfield defensive backs are covering their playmakers well enough that the quick-release from the quarterback couldn’t even work – on Antrel Rolle’s first interception, Smith couldn’t see him (or much for that matter).
Speed was only one aspect of what had to be present in the right positions for the Big Blue defense to be itself again. The other is discipline. Remaining in the assignment that’s drawn up in the particular defensive package and finishing on that assignment/gap was a large part of what needed to happen. Frustration is a definite game-changer. Being a complete team while each position plays their part builds confidence and pushes said frustration to the opposition. The Giants’ defense didn’t get caught up in any on-the-field jawing and remained focused on the task at hand. Penalties were only 2 for 20 yards and were on special teams.
If any bridge-building is to be done, this right here is it for the defense. With players like Chris Canty coming back into the lineup for the defensive line, things can only look up for Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell and his attack dogs in NY helmets. Giant steps/push forward (towards opposing quarterbacks) in dominating the line of scrimmage and containing beyond should remain number one on the Big Blue defensive list of materials necessary to build said bridge.
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