Simplifying Giants' defense turned it around

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Matt Barkley is sacked by Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Matt Barkley is sacked by defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins #96 and Mike Patterson #93 in the fourth quarter of a game at Lincoln Financial Field. (Oct. 27, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty

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Sometimes less is more, particularly when the goal is to allow as few points, yards and plays as possible. So it shouldn't be a surprise that the Giants' defense seemed to turn around when they started using less of it.

At halftime against the Bears, the Giants had allowed 24 points and were a touchdown away from becoming the first team in NFL history to allow at least 30 points in each of its first six games. That's when several key members of the defense approached coordinator Perry Fewell with a suggestion.

They were getting bogged down with calls and checks and all of the intricacies involved in their system. They wanted it simplified.

"You know, Perry is pretty good at scheming, he really is,'' said Justin Tuck, one of the players who approached Fewell in the Soldier Field locker room. "But sometimes you can have so much and it slows you down because mentally you're thinking about all the checks you have.''

Since that decision to scale back the calls and just play football, the Giants' defense has allowed no touchdowns and only three points. They have won two games and came within inches -- on an Eli Manning pass to Brandon Myers -- of winning a third.

"It was the Chicago game,'' Terrell Thomas said after Sunday's win over the Eagles, pointing to when the defense began to click. "We should have won that game. We gave up too much in the first half . . . I think right then and there was the turning point for us as a team, that we'd had enough.''

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It wasn't a coup, the players were sure to point out. They did not topple the government of their defensive dictatorship or anything like that.

Tom Coughlin said he was pleased with "the voice, the honesty, the openness about being able to discuss those kinds of things with your coach and the coach making a very serious attempt, without putting us in a position where we're not doing enough, to do some things to help simplify [the defense].''

This isn't the first time Fewell reacted this way and found favorable results. Late in the 2011 season, the players asked him to simplify the defense, at that point switching from playing mostly zone, which required complicated communication, to more man-to-man coverage.

Fewell wasn't available to speak to reporters Monday, but in January 2012, he said this about adjusting: "I think that as a coordinator and as a leader, you're most effective when you're listening, not talking.''

He even has a Super Bowl ring to drive that message home every now and again.

There may be some fool's gold in the Giants' longest streak without allowing an offensive touchdown since they lasted 15 quarters in 2005. They haven't exactly faced the Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks during the span, blanking units led by Josh Freeman, Matt Barkley and a gimpy Michael Vick. Still, no touchdowns is no touchdowns.

"The second half of the Chicago game, we saw how good we can be if we simplify things,'' Thomas said yesterday. "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.''

Tuck called it a "check with me'' defense that the Giants played for most of the first half of the season. And rather than being upset with the coach who put them in that situation, Tuck said he's happy things seem to have been straightened out.

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"I give [Fewell] a lot of credit for saying: 'We need to simplify this,' '' Tuck said. "We agreed. And he's put together three pretty good game plans back to back where we've played pretty awesome. Hopefully, we can continue to do so.''

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