Giants’ pass rush has dried up in winless season

Putting pressure on the quarterback has been the trademark of
the New York Giants’ defense for decades.

Lawrence Taylor, Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and
Jason-Pierre-Paul were just a few of the guys who had opposing
quarterbacks looking to get rid of the ball as quickly as
possible.

The pressure forced mistakes and it was a key to the team’s four
Super Bowl titles, particularly the last two under coach Tom
Coughlin.

That rush is gone, and it might be one of the biggest reasons
the Giants (0-6) are off to their worst start since 1976.

New York has a league-low five sacks heading into Monday night’s
game against the Minnesota Vikings (1-4), and it has Coughlin – and
his line – searching for answers.

”We have definitely underachieved this year,” defensive tackle
Cullen Jenkins said Friday. ”So we have to get better.”

The Giants have legitimate excuses for failing to get to the
quarterback. They have not put opponents in many third-and-long
situations and even more importantly, the team has not played with
the lead much. In six games, New York has led for roughly 30 of 360
minutes.

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell insists there isn’t a magic
formula for sacks. The team can use a couple of stunts up front or
bring extra people to rush, but even that hasn’t produced much
pressure.

”Sometimes you just have to get to the quarterback, you know,”
Fewell said. ”We can try to become more creative and do some
things of that nature. It just comes down to you have to win the
individual battle, and sometimes you have to beat two people. The
ball is coming out quick, but sometimes you just have to will
yourself to get there, and if the ball comes out quick, knock it
down.”

Fewell said sacks tend to come in bunches and the defense is
working hard to get on a roll.

”It’s going to happen for us,” Fewell said. ”We’re talented
enough.”

Coming into the season, many expected Pierre-Paul to become a
dominant player again after having back surgery in June to repair a
disk problem. He had 16 1/2 sacks in 2011 and 6 1/2 last season
playing hurt.

Pierre-Paul, however, has struggled. He missed all of training
camp and he just isn’t the same player – yet. The four-year veteran
has even struggled this week. He has not been feeling well and he
missed practice on Friday because of illness.

But Coughlin expects him to play on Monday.

”He really wants to go out there and play well,” Tuck said.
”When it hasn’t happened for him, he takes it hard, so the people
around him have to keep him built up because he is a heck of a
football player.

”Obviously, it isn’t going his way right now. He just needs to
find a way, like all of us. Find a way to make a play and get in a
groove.”

Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who leads the team with 1 1/2
sacks, said the line has picked up the pace this week with the goal
being to put Vikings newcomer Josh Freeman in some definite passing
situations.

”We have to make the quarterback go from read one to read two,
and as soon as he gets there, it’s on us as defensive linemen to
get to him before he gets to his third read,” Kiwanuka said. ”We
have to make sure we are defeating the man in front of us if we’re
on a one-on-one and if we are playing a game, we have to have crisp
timing.

”If we do, we’ll get there.”

NOTES: After missing the last four games, cornerback Corey
Webster (groin) hopes to play on Monday. … Center David Baas
(neck) also expects to be back after being sidelined the last three
games.

Online: AP NFL site: http://pro32.ap.org/