Improved communication fuels Giants' turnaround on defense
PHILADELPHIA - The losses were piling up -- six straight after a Thursday night game in Chicago -- and a Giants defense that long has set the standard for the franchise was in tatters, giving up 34.8 points per game. Something had to change.
Safety Will Hill said it began with linebacker Jon Beason, who had just been acquired in a trade, calling on defensive players to show up 30 minutes early each morning for players-only video study.
"We said, 'What's not working? What do we think can work?' " Hill said. "The players came together and then we went to the coaches . . . It was a sense of urgency."
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During the 11 days before their next game against Minnesota, coaches and players reached an accommodation, simplifying the defense, improving communication and bringing renewed enthusiasm to the job. Even so, no one could have imagined the turnaround that has transpired.
The Giants' defense pitched its second straight virtual shutout in a 15-7 victory over the Eagles Sunday. The Giants have gone 10 quarters without allowing an offensive score, with the only points coming on a punt return by the Vikings and a fumble recovery by the Eagles.
"I think we just simplified things,'' Justin Tuck said. " Perry Fewell and his staff did a great job of putting together a game plan that allowed the athletes to be athletes. When you start making plays, you feel very confident in yourself.''
Safety Antrel Rolle set the tone on the Eagles' first series, intercepting Michael Vick. On the second series, Rolle sacked Vick.
"My play actually wasn't a blitz,'' Rolle said. "I just fired. It's all about playing beyond the X's-and-O's. I watched a lot of film and I saw an opportunity to make a play, so I did.''
After Vick left with a hamstring injury, the Giants went after rookie Matt Barkley. With the Eagles at the Giants' 2 and trailing 12-0 near the end of the half, Terrell Thomas forced a fumble by Barkley that Jacquian Williams recovered at the 12. "It was a big play,'' Thomas said, "a turning point in the game.''
LeSean McCoy gained only 48 yards on 15 carries one week after the Giants held Adrian Peterson to 28 yards on 13 carries. Those dramatically improved numbers resulted from a meeting of minds.
"After that 0-6 loss, the coaches and players got together,'' Rolle said. "There was a lot of in-depth conversation; there was a lot of speaking as men to men, understanding your strengths and weaknesses -- the coaches trusting the players and players trusting the coaches."
Rolle said there was uncertainty about some pass coverages, and the linemen were uncomfortable with what they were doing in terms of moving around to create certain matchups. Beason's voice was at the heart of the transformation.
"I'm a big believer in 'if something is wrong, you fix it,' '' Beason said. "Let's show up early at 7:30; let's talk through these trouble routes and plays. Sometimes you can be given a technique by a coach, but guys see it differently. If we can get on the same page with everyone doing their job, that's where it's scary.''
Suddenly, a defense that wasn't scaring anyone is beginning to look fearsome again.