Giants defense getting set for top-ranked Falcons
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Going against one of the NFL's best is a sure way to get a player motivated.
It's one of the reasons the New York Giants' defense is ready for Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium.
''I think we all play this game to compete against the best,'' Giants linebacker Jameel McClain said. ''I think we all play this game to see how we stack up.''
Statistically, the Giants (2-2) are 18th in the league on defense a quarter of the way into the season.
The Falcons (2-2) are tied with Indianapolis for the No. 1 spot on offense.
While that might seem to be a mismatch, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell's unit has been outstanding the past two games, forcing nine turnovers in the wins over Houston and Washington. New York had six in the 45-14 win over the Redskins on Sept. 25.
Now it faces quarterback Matt Ryan and a talented receiving corps that features Julio Jones, Roddy White, Harry Douglas and Devin Hester. The Falcons are not as good on the ground, but they have a diverse group of running backs led by Steven Jackson, who leads the team with 50 carries for 201 yards and a touchdown.
The Giants seemingly have caught the Falcons at the right time. Atlanta's offensive line is banged up.
Center Joe Hawley and right tackle Lamar Holmes sustained season-ending injuries last week and left guard Justin Blalock is battling a foot injury.
Peter Konz will replace Hawley and Gabe Carimi will take over for Holmes. Harland Gunn probably would start if Blalock can't go.
The Giants aren't dreaming of an easy game.
''Not around here because we understand very recently how hard wins are to come by,'' defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. ''Yeah, there might be some match up things we want to take advantage of, but we will never take anyone lightly.''
Falcons coach Mike Smith said the offensive line was one of his deepest units coming into training camp, and line coach Mike Tice has taught his group that Ryan doesn't need a lot of time to find his receivers.
In the team's last meeting in 2012, Ryan threw three touchdowns in a 34-0 win.
Fewell said he is taking the same approach he had the past two weeks. He is trying to get his unit to focus on what it has to do well, which is stop the run and get pressure on the quarterback. His main hope is that Ryan doesn't play better than in their last meeting. If he does, the Giants are in trouble.
''He is the leader of that offense,'' Fewell said. ''He has very skilled people around him. He is coming out of the pocket and making throws on the run better than he did the last time we played him. I think that is just part of his game now. He is very accurate and I have a lot of respect for him as quarterback.''
Ryan has thrown for 1,263 yards and 10 touchdowns. Jones has 29 catches for 447 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
Ryan's receivers have battled injuries this week. Douglas (foot), Hester (ankle) and Jones (ankle) were all limited at practice this week.
''They are a good offense, but we are a good defense, too,'' Giants safety Antrel Rolle said. ''The way I look at it, may the best man win.''
NOTES: First-round draft pick Odell Beckham Jr., is looking more and more likely to make his NFL debut on Sunday. A hamstring injury has kept him out of all five preseason games and the four regular-season contests. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said Thursday that he will pick his spots with the receiver if he plays. ... MLB Jon Beason, who has been sidelined with a foot injury the past two games, expects to play.