EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Five games into the season, the New York Giants had no answers on defense. While the offense handed opponents the ball and points, the once-proud defense that led New York to two recent Super Bowl wins was the unit everyone pointed to when the record read 0-5 and points-allowed column read 182.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Five games into the season, the New York Giants had no answers on defense.
While the offense handed opponents the ball and points, the once-proud defense that led New York to two recent Super Bowl wins was the unit everyone pointed to when the record read 0-5 and points-allowed column read 182.
It was ugly and the players were fed up.
So, one day, they approached coordinator Perry Fewell heading into a game vs. the Chicago Bears, and asked him to consider a couple of changes. To his credit, Fewell listened and agreed.
Looking back, it might be the single reason the Giants (2-6) can hold their heads up entering their bye week.
New York lost to the Bears 27-21 that night. But the defense figured things out in the Windy City on Oct. 10. And there is some hope now, as a result.
After giving up 24 points in the first half, the unit — bolstered by the recent addition of middle linebacker Jon Beason — surrendered three in the final 30 minutes of that loss. The defense didn't allow either Minnesota or Philadelphia to score a touchdown in winning the next two games, however, and suddenly, New York is just two games out of first place in the NFC East.
That's three points in 10 quarters, a streak of 158 minutes, 24 seconds without giving up a touchdown. The only scores the Vikings and Eagles posted were on special teams.
"That's the difference between being 0-6 and winning the last two games," safety Antrel Rolle said of the meeting. "Most people don't understand football. You know it's a very fine line between being good and being bad. Perry is a (great) coordinator. The guy is a defensive genius. But as a unit being on the field, sometimes coaches think some things while players know it's something else. It's something different, and vice versa.
"That's why it's beneficial for the coach and players to be on the same page."
Terrell Thomas, who was named the NFC defensive player of the week for 11 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in the 15-7 win over the Eagles, said the Giants were making too many adjustments early.
"I think the second half of the Chicago game, we saw how good we can be if we simplify things," Thomas said. "I think we were trying to do too much at times, as a coaching staff and as players. Once we got to a stage where we could simplify things and play a lot faster and play with our eyes and speed and talent, you could see the results on the field."
Defensive end Justin Tuck said the before the changes, the defense had a lot of check-with-me calls. They aren't overly complicated but he said they put the players on their heels for a split second and it hurt them. Now, it's more instinct.
"Just let's be an attacking defense and see what happens," Tuck said.
Fewell was not available to talk to the media this week. However, his assistants did talk.
Dave Merritt Sr., who coaches the safeties, said it's obvious the defense is playing faster and communicating better. He seemed to take the meeting with Fewell with a grain of salt.
"I hear everyone talking about him simplifying the game plan. Well, we said that in 2011," Merritt said, referring to the last time the Giants won the Super Bowl, sparked by a late defensive surge. "If you looked at our play sheet going into the Super Bowl, it was two pages, front and back, that were just filled with calls. But I see guys playing faster and communicating more decisively. You know what? I think it's because they decided 'You know what? Enough is enough.'"
Merritt felt the ability of the defense not to splinter after the bad start was equally important. Everyone remained positive and continued to work. No one questioned the calls or the coaches and complained about fellow players. When they had an issue, they went to the coach.
"If you have one bad egg, it can spoil the entire carton," he said. "Right now everyone is buying in to whatever we are trying to do as a whole. There doesn't seem to be any cancerous-type players in the locker room."
Cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta believes the defense has been making progress all season.
"I don't think it's just the last three weeks," he said. "Hopefully as things go on every week, we'll get better. That's the whole idea in coaching, you want the guys to improve daily."
So far, so good.
"I feel good about what we've been able to accomplish the last two-and-a-half games on defense, and hopefully it's something that we continue to build on," Tuck said. "But we have a long way to go, obviously, not only just because of our record but on defense, too. There are still things that we need to improve on."