Giants Q & A: Finally, the sacks are back

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith is sacked

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith is sacked by New York Giants outside linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka during the fourth quarter at Candlestick Park. The Giants won, 26-3. (Oct. 14, 2012) (Credit: AP)

Sacks became an official NFL stat in 1982. Isn't it hard to believe the Giants didn't have one until Sunday?

It may seem that way, but the Giants' dry spell reached back only to last month. Still, the defensive front in particular had been struggling to get quarterbacks all season. Finally they were able to bring down Alex Smith four times and Wildcat replacement Colin Kaepernick twice.

So why the outburst?

Two reasons. The Giants changed some things schematically to get better pass rushers onto the field. That included playing Mathias Kiwanuka at defensive tackle on some plays, moving Jason Pierre-Paul around a bit and even relying on first-year linebacker Adrian Tracy to make some plays. The second element was the growing frustration of the Giants' defenders from reading all of the articles that were written about their inabilities. "The nice thing was the pounding away of the pencil on the defensive line," coach Tom Coughlin said. "I think the defensive line finally decided they were going to come out and play."

Six sacks total? Isn't that the number of sacks the 49ers had in January when they pounded away on Eli Manning in the NFC title game?

Yup. "We got the quarterback pretty rattled today," said Pierre-Paul, who was credited with two of the six sacks. "He was out of the pocket and that's what you need, for a quarterback to scramble that way . . . we all worked together and that's what counts."

So Tracy is a linebacker? Wasn't he back to playing defensive end?

Yes he was. But the Giants wanted to put more pass rushers on the field, and one way to do that was to move him back to linebacker. He finished with four tackles and a sack. "We were trying to get different guys in who could show the 49ers a different look," Justin Tuck said of Tracy's part. "We had some packages that were just for him. We had a package in where he was 'the guy,' and he did well."

Was that the first time Tracy was used as part of a defensive game plan?

It was. The coaches told Tracy, who had flashed as a defensive end in the preseason, about their plans for him early in the week, and he embraced the idea. "I wanted a role on this team and on this defense," Tracy said. "Every day in team meetings, I write on the top of my notebook: 'Every player has a role, define your role!' So this week I was able to get into the game plan and hopefully define my role.''

Will that continue? Will the Giants keep using personnel that way or was that a unique response to the 49ers' packages?

Coughlin was coy, but it would be hard to think they'd abandon something that worked so well.

The play on which Prince Amukamara intercepted looked a little familiar, no?

It should. It's the same play that resulted in a touchdown by tight end Vernon Davis against the Giants last season, and one the Giants were expecting. When they worked on it in practice this past week, Amukamara had difficulty with it at first because, as Antrel Rolle said, he played mostly man coverage in college. "I kid him a lot," Rolle said. "I tell him 'You don't have zone eyes.' " This time he did, peeling off his primary player and making it to the sideline to pick up coverage on tight end Delanie Walker down the sideline.

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