EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Defense for the New York Giants starts with the front four.
Stopping the run and forcing the opposition into passing situations will let loose possibly the best group of pass rushers in the NFL. It was the formula the Giants used in 2008 in pounding Tom Brady and stunning the previously unbeaten New England Patriots in the Super Bowl – and the game plan hasn’t changed for next weekend’s title game rematch in Indianapolis.
The Giants (12-7) want Brady on edge every time he passes. Throw a ball. Expect to be hit. Even the threat of being hit might be enough to influence a play. And that just might be the difference with a ring at stake.
“Look at ‘07. That was pretty much the reason why we were in the game, because we kept him off-rhythm,” defensive end and captain Justin Tuck said. “Obviously he is the main reason why (they) are successful. The way to kill the snake is to take off his head. The way to kill an offense as potent as that one is making sure you take care of Brady. Our defensive front will put a lot of pressure on itself to make sure that we do our best to get after him.”
The Giants finished tied for third in the NFL in the regular season with 48 sacks, including 11 in victories over the Jets and Cowboys in winning the NFC East title. They have added nine more in their three playoff wins.
What makes the pass rush so formidable is that it’s not only four guys. The Giants’ line is eight deep. All Pro Jason Pierre-Paul led the team with 161/2 sacks in his second season, while Osi Umenyiora added nine in only nine games. Tuck and backup defensive end Dave Tollefson had five apiece, Chris Canty added four and fellow tackle Linval Joseph had two. There’s also linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, who had 3 1/2 sacks playing as a lineman in passing situations.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell says not only does his line get to the quarterback, they get on each other. When the linemen hold their meeting, it’s more than a review of the game or practice – it’s trash-talking time.
“We compete amongst each other and if Justin gets a sack, I want two,” Pierre-Paul said. “If I want two, then Osi wants three. Basically you can say that we are greedy but in a good way, to help our team out. We try to get there quick enough to help our secondary cover better and try to get to the quarterback as fast as we can.”
Kiwanuka said the presence of so many pass rushers pushes everyone.
“We have a number of guys, you look at the roster, Dave Tollefson is a guy who came on and had a strong year and played very well,” Kiwanuka said. “From top to bottom, in that room, we have guys who could be starting on other teams. We’re just not fighting for sacks. We are fighting for playing time as well. Everybody wants to be the guy but at the end of the day, it’s about the win and that’s what also is important.”