Giants' defense carrying team to 5-3 record at the break
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) If there has been a constant in the New York Giants' three-game winning streak, it's been that Steve Spagnuolo's defense has had to make a fourth-quarter stands to secure the wins.
Last week, the defense stopped the Eagles at the New York 17 after Eli Manning threw his second interception of the fourth quarter in a 28-23 win.
The unit had to pitch a shutout over the Rams in the final three quarters in a 17-10 win in London on Oct. 23.
The streak started with the defense holding in the waning seconds after the Ravens got to the Giants 24 in a 27-23 win.
''We know how good we can be, but we are not there yet,'' linebacker Keenan Robinson said. ''We still have a long way to go. We haven't done anything yet.''
The job for the defense will be tougher Monday night when the Giants (5-3) host the Cincinnati Bengals (3-4-1) at MetLife Stadium. While the Bengals' defense has struggled this season, their offense is stacked.
Andy Dalton has had a 100-plus quarterback rating in four of his last five games. A.J. Green leads the NFL in receiving with 59 catches, and his 896 yards are No. 2 overall. The running game is averaging 120.3 yards, with Jeremy Hill gaining 5.0 yards a pop. Giovanni Bernard gains roughly 4.0 yards per run and is second on the team with 31 catches.
There's more, too. Tight end Tyler Eifert returned to the lineup in London on Oct. 30 and had nine catches for 102 yards and a touchdown.
`'Man, they can run the ball or pass the ball,'' Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon said Friday. ''They have a good quarterback and they have a good receiver as well. They have good weapons on the offensive side of the ball, so we just have to play our ball.''
If there is one thing that the defense has done well, it is stop the run. New York is ninth in the league, limiting opponents to an average of 93.9 yards. Only three teams have gotten 100 yards on the ground – Green Bay (147), Minnesota (104) and Dallas (101) – and none in the last three games.
''You have to make them as one-dimensional as possible,'' linebacker Devon Kennard said. ''We have to go in and stop them on first and second down when it comes to the run game and make them have to throw; put them in third-and-long situations and make it harder on them.''
Stopping the run is going to fall on the Giants' front seven with tackles Johnathan Hankins and Damon Harrison stuffing the middle, Vernon and fellow end Jason Pierre-Paul holding the edges and funneling the plays back inside.
Safety Landon Collins gives the front seven an extra boost with his ability to come into the box. He leads the team in tackles, sacks and interceptions, picking up three in the last two games.
''He's a big key part of their defense,'' Dalton said of Collins, who has taken major strides in his second season. `He's all over the place, and you have to know where he is. He's been playing well for them. For a guy to lead in sacks and interceptions, it shows how great a player he is.''
The defense has also excelled in the red zone. It has allowed only 11 touchdowns in 28 possessions, the best in the league at 39.3 percent.
There are concerns, though. Too many big plays surrendered: The Eagles had seven plays of 20 or more yards last week and probably would have had more points had they not failed on two fourth-down plays in New York territory and had a field goal blocked.
''Sometimes big plays happen,'' said Robinson, who has done an excellent job recently covering tight ends. ''We want to make sure we play disciplined, sound football so we limit the big plays. Sometimes they are going to make the great catch or the great throw. If we are giving up big plays because we are not in the right position or made the wrong call, that's what we have to eliminate.''
Still, this is a major improvement from a year ago when the defense blew leads either in the fourth quarter or overtime in six games.
''I feel good,'' said cornerback Janoris Jenkins, the free agent signee who has given New York a shutdown cornerback, one who will probably draw Green on Monday night. ''I have been saying it since the beginning of the year, I think we can be special, and I still feel that. We just have to continue to work.''
NOTES: WR Victor Cruz (ankle) did not practice for the second straight day. He hopes to play. … Coach Ben McAdoo moved the practice into the team's bubble with winds gusting.
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