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Giants' defense finds simple works best
Aah, Media Day. The insanity. The intensity. And I'm just talking about seeing Maria Menounos.
BUILDUP TO INDY
- Super Bowl XLVI: 6:30 p.m. ET, Sunday
- Manning family vs. Brady
- Super Bowl Cheat Sheet
- Patriots' Kraft still hurting
- Belichick needs to secure legacy
- Billick's matchups and storylines
- Jacobs savors another Super Bowl
- Eli's leap could come in Peyton's place
- Super Bowl odds a mix of science, art
- Giants linebacker a true inspiration
- Ochocinco has 86'd 'me' attitude
- Reason for Giants' turnaround
- Giants' Coughlin forging a legacy
- High price of the Super Bowl
- Not about Boston vs. New York
- Picks, predictions
Once again, Rich Gannon and I hosted our SiriusXM NFL Radio show from Media Day, getting countless nuggets from the players and coaches participating in the Super Bowl.
1. Remember the Redskins
In Week 15, the Giants trailed the Washington Redskins by 20 points in the fourth quarter. A run to the Super Bowl? Please. The Giants, rightly, were getting booed out of their own stadium, en route to getting swept by the immortal Rex Grossman and the Redskins.
The Giants were subsequently counted out by the media elite who cover the NFL, including me. Giants to the Super Bowl? Heck, they were going to lose to the Jets in Week 16 and miss the playoffs.
And then coordinator Perry Fewell got the attention of his defense. It saved the season.
Defensive lineman Dave Tollefson told us that the guys learned, "You can't have days off and the importance of attention to detail."
Safety Kenny Phillips said Fewell got after the guys about communication breakdowns that were leading to big plays.
Cornerback Aaron Ross explained: "We came together that week after meetings, after practice. We went to each others houses. Our season was on the line, and we knew these things were correctable."
While the Giants players, to a man, gave Fewell credit for simplifying the plan and communication that previously left the Giants vulnerable to the big play, Fewell chose to remember it as, "the week the players decided to come together and right the ship."
It clicked. The hard work and the focus paid off. And the Giants haven't lost since.
Here are some great examples of how far Eli Manning has come as the Giants' quarterback.
Defensive tackle Chris Canty said the mentality is, "Don't screw it up on defense because we know Eli will win it for us in the fourth quarter. Look at what he did against San Fran after getting hit so often."
Offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie termed it as, "The fourth quarter, crunch time, is Eli time."
And offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride made a valid point when he explained, "Actually, 2010 was the best year of his career in so many categories. People didn't realize it because he threw some interceptions. And I understand you can't separate that. But he really improved with his pocket awareness and sliding in the pocket, keeping plays alive."
Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes said Manning is, "Tough to tackle. You have to wrap him up because when he escapes; he makes plays downfield."
3. O yeah
Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien says it isn't overwhelming wearing two hats, prepping for the Super Bowl and being the new head coach at Penn State. And with his savvy, and his good friend Josh McDaniels re-joining the staff, I believe that.
And O'Brien is focused for the Super Bowl. But he's energized to coach Penn State. O'Brien talked to Joe Paterno before the longtime Nittany Lions coach passed away. And while he wanted to leave the bulk of the conversation private, he said they shared the same beliefs on building a program and academics.
O'Brien will take what he learned from Bill Belichick, but unlike other failed Belichick disciples, O'Brien will be his own man.
4. Ridley's believe it or not
Patriots running back Stevan Ridley remembers 11 months ago at Lucas Oil Stadium running a 4.7 at the NFL Scouting Combine, with the pundits wondering why he came out early. Now, he's in the Super Bowl.
Ridley was inactive on for the AFC Championship Game after he put the ball on the ground. He was disappointed but motivated to prove to Belichick he can play in the Super Bowl.
5. Less is Moore
Defensive back Sterling Moore, arguably, saved the Patriots' season when he batted a potential game-winning touchdown out of Lee Evans' hands in the AFC Championship Game.
But Moore hasn't seen a replay. He has no interest. Moore tells us, "I got beat. I had bad technique. I can't watch!"
6. "Best athlete on the field"
Care to guess?
According to Patriots defensive lineman Gerard Warren, it is defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. In fact, Warren says, "With the things I've seen him do at his size, he is the best pure athlete in the NFL. Seriously."
Cornerback Kyle Arrington says that Wilfork got the defense back to fundamentals after the two-game losing streak at midseason. Arrington said: "Vince told us to ignore the noise. He is a great leader on and off the field. Personally, I never want to let him down. I try to copy what he does."
7. Dream big
DJ Ware has a Super Bowl vision. The Giants third-down back said, "I want to pick up a block for Eli in a big moment as he throws a touchdown."
An unselfish runner dreaming of blocking and helping the team. No wonder Giants coach Tom Coughlin loves this cat.
8). On the Mark
A lot of people, myself included, thought the Patriots' defense would be compromised when they lost defensive end Andre Carter for the season.
And then came Mark Anderson.
Anderson says he learned the Belichick way and everything clicked for him. And what's the Belichick way? Anderson said: "Intensity in practice. Attention to detail. Extra studying." He's been a difference maker. And Anderson is the key to the Patriots' pass rush in the Super Bowl.
9). Chase for glory
On Thanksgiving, Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn was unemployed. Now he's in the middle of things for the Giants' defense.
Blackburn didn't have kids when he was with the Giants and they won the Super Bowl to cap the 2007 season. Now he has two young boys. He is motivated by celebrating with them on the field. I had the chills listening to him.