Giants D-line finally bringing pressure
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)
Coming into the season, the one thing that seemed certain about the New York Giants defense was its ability to rush the passer.
It seemed a given with Justin Tuck, Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield and Jay Alford returning, Osi Umenyiora coming back after missing a year following knee surgery and the addition of free agents Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard.
The season was going to be just like that Super Bowl against the New England Patriots. Opposing quarterbacks would be hit, and hit often.
For most of the season, though, the Giants have seemed in no rush to rush anyone. That is, until the pressure returned big-time against the Washington Redskins in a 45-12 win on Monday night.
New York recorded five sacks and 12 quarterback hits, battering Jason Campbell and backup Todd Collins.
It marked the first time the Giants had more than two in a game since Oct. 11 against Oakland.
``That's encouraging,'' defensive end Justin Tuck, one of five players to record a sack against Washington, said Wednesday. ``Coach keeps on telling us to continue to pound that rock and one day it will break. For the last couple of years, we've always had a game that signified kind of like the start of something good and hopefully this is it.''
The Giants (8-6) need a strong finish against Carolina (6-8) and Minnesota (11-3) to make the playoffs for a fifth straight year. New York is a game behind Dallas and Green Bay in the race for the final wild-card berth.
In recent weeks, the defense has been the weak link, particularly in a critical 45-38 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 13.
The Giants allowed six plays of 20 yards or more in the game, and much could be attributed to the lack of pressure on Donovan McNabb.
``We've been working to put it together and on Monday night, everything clicked,'' said defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who replaced Osi Umenyiora in the starting lineup three games ago. ``It was like one of those games where we said, 'Enough was enough,' and we went out there to perform from beginning to the end and that's what you get.''
Cofield, who starts with Robbins at defensive tackle, said the line hasn't changed in recent weeks. The technique it has used from the start of the season is the same.
``Obviously the longer you go without making the big plays, the more pressure you put on yourself,'' he said. ``Maybe you find a way to turn up the intensity in a game that is as important as these last three are. We didn't rewrite the book. We just continued doing what we had been doing and it worked for us. Once you get the first one, the rest can come in bunches.''
Alford, who was placed on injured reserve after hurting a knee in the preseason, said injuries have been a problem.
While Cofield and Robbins haven't been hurt, both had offseason knee surgery. Umenyiora has shown the effects of missing a season and Tuck has battled a shoulder injury since early in the season.
Canty, who was expected to be a major contributor, hurt a calf in the opening game of the season and is just rounding into form.
``They were trying to find a good fit or a good situation for everybody and it took a long time,'' Alford said. ``I think it just clicked against the Redskins.''
Canty expects the success to carry over in the final two games.
``Confidence comes from demonstrated performance,'' Canty said. ``Seeing that we can do it and the way we can play when we are focused and honed in on what we have to do as a team in all three phases, it definitely should be a confidence builder.''
The question now is, can the Giants be consistent?
``We know what we have resting on these last two games and we know that everybody has to be at their best when their best is needed, and definitely now is the time to be at your best,'' cornerback Kevin Dockery said. ``We have to ride that wave against Carolina this weekend.''