In 2007, the New York Giants rode an incredible defense to perhaps the most amazing upset in Super Bowl history when they beat the previously undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. That Giants defense was led by a front four that had no equal, especially from a pass-rushing perspective.
Led by the efforts of Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, the line was joined with extreme effectiveness by hybrid lineman Justin Tuck, whose ability to press the pocket and get in Tom Brady’s face in that Super Bowl game may have made all the difference.
Strahan is gone now, peddling sub sandwiches and working on FOX’s pre-game coverage, but there’s a new line in New York, and it’s doing a lot of damage. Umenyiora was just named Defensive Player of the Month after putting up seven sacks and six forced fumbles in October. Tuck is still pressuring quarterbacks with abandon as well, but the real news about this particular G-Crew is that it’s a great defense from front to back.
The Giants rank third in sacks with 24 (tied with the Green Bay Packers), but they’re also second in the league in yards per attempt allowed with 6.2. Not bad for a defense missing endbacker Mathias Kiwanuka since late September with a herniated disc (neck) that eventually put the talented pass-rusher on injured reserve. New defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is getting a great deal of the credit, and as head coach Tom Coughlin said earlier this week, that’s as it should be.
“Well, I think that the idea of the way in which we play our people – and certainly when we had Mathias we even had a more flexible approach – that has been with us, we’ve done that,” Coughlin said earlier this week. “Perry has brought own touch and we’ve had a chance as we experienced the 2007 and 2008 teams, for example, we have a lot to draw upon and Perry certainly has done that. He studied our team from the day he arrived here – our 2007 and 2008 teams. I think we’ve done a good job with that. I think we’ve done a good job of utilizing our personnel.
“We feel that there’s a lot that these individuals can do and so you try to put them in positions where they can take advantage of their skills.”
This week, the Giants are going up against a Seattle team beset with injuries – left tackle Russell Okung, the sixth pick in the 2010 draft, is still tending to an ankle injury, and Matt Hasselbeck will not go in this game due to concussion issues relating to last Sunday’s eight-sack debacle against the Oakland Raiders. But as Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said on Wednesday, it doesn’t matter what you throw at this defense.
“It’s obvious that we have to do a really good job of mixing all of the [offensive] concepts to make sure that we can at least keep them out of sync as much as possible. That means you have to keep changing up and you have to do the things that you do in that kind of a situation. They play really aggressive and attack. They have a terrific four-man rush – they do pressure, they pressure effectively along with that. But they have the kind of four-man rush that you like; they can mix their coverages, they play a lot of zone, and they try to give you trouble with their ability to break on the ball, which is excellent.
“Their quickness and mobility back there in the secondary is very good. Since the Chicago game they’ve really caught on and I’m sure it took a few weeks to get everybody captured, but he [Fewell] has them going now and they’re a very, very difficult group to go against.”
That has been the theme all year for the Giants’ defense – it’s why they’re most likely the most dangerous team in the NFL, and why they have to be considered to be a serious deep playoff threat. Fewell and Coughlin have put fundamentals behind the flash in a way that has impressed everyone they’ve played against — and every upcoming opponent.