Giants DEs upset they didn't get a hand on Romo

Giants defensive end Justin Tuck reacts during the

Giants defensive end Justin Tuck reacts during the second half of a 24-17 loss to the Cowboys in the season opener at home. (Sept. 5, 2012) (Credit: AP)

Osi Umenyiora says there are games in which he plays really well and puts disruptive hits on a quarterback but comes up empty on sacks. Then there are games in which he doesn't play well, is not an upsetting force -- and winds up with one or two quarterback takedowns.

"It might look like I had a good game, but I really didn't," the defensive end said of those second instances Thursday. "Hits on a quarterback, that's a test of true skill. That you're really getting there."

In other words, it's easy to shrug off a sack-free game. But what does it say that the Giants' three defensive ends -- Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul -- not only were held without a sack against Tony Romo and the Cowboys in their Week 1 loss but also were denied a whiff of the quarterback? It was the first time all three played a full game together and were shut out on sacks and quarterback hits.

"That's more troublesome," Umenyiora said.

"Alarming," Tuck called it.

"That was definitely an eye-opener," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said, still flinching from the empty stat sheet more than a week later.

The Giants did manage two sacks against Romo, but both came from defensive tackles. Besides that, Romo was basically unscathed.

Fewell said the Giants have charted their legal hits on quarterbacks over the years.

"When we're humming and playing, when we're doing what we're supposed to do, we average between nine and 10 of those hits in a football game," Fewell said. "They know that that's part of the key to our success."

Against the Cowboys, Fewell counted four. Not that he's brought that number up to the players. It's been an unspoken truth hovering above them for the last week, stewing away, ready to, they hope, boil over against Josh Freeman and the Bucs on Sunday.

"They don't have to say anything about it," Tuck said.

The Giants' defense is built on pressuring quarterbacks. Everything from the timing of the secondary to the positioning of the linebackers is dependent on the linemen getting into the pocket.

"It's just something we know we can't do if we're going to win," Umenyiora said of coming up empty. Fewell called their disruptions "vital."

The Giants' Big Three may have been shut out in the opener, but they're still capable of being a dominant force.

"They've got freaks of nature over there,'' Bucs tackle Donald Penn told the Tampa Tribune. "Pierre-Paul is a beast and I've got a double dose with a little bit of him and a little bit of Osi. It's going to be a tough one . . . a lot of hitting in the mouth."

"We'll get there," Umenyiora said. "There's no panic. It's only one game. We'll be all right."

Tuck was asked if he thinks the three ends will be shut out again anytime soon.

"I wish I was psychic, I could tell you the answer to that," he said. "Because it happened once, I would think it possibly could happen again. But if I was a betting man, I would probably say no."

Is Tuck a betting man?

"No," he said. "But I would probably still say no."

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