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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Best: It's looking like 2007 for Giants' defense

: Justin Tuck #91 of the New York

: Justin Tuck #91 of the New York Giants celebrates after recovering a fumble during the game against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on October 10, 2010 in Houston, Texas. The Giants defeated the Texans 34-10. Credit: Getty


Until the Giants either win it all again or the last of their Super Bowl XLII contributors fades from the scene, it will be tempting to look to the past in search of clues to the present.

So it was Sunday as they fashioned their second consecutive gem on defense, devastating what had been the Texans' top-ranked rushing attack six days after sacking the Bears 10 times.

Surely you recall - who doesn't? - that in 2007 the defense began horribly under a new coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, then figured it all out and eventually stymied the previously perfect Pats.

The Giants have another new coordinator this season, Perry Fewell, and the defense had some shaky early outings, especially in a gruesome rout by the Colts in Week 2.

Now this: The 34-10 breeze over the Texans gave the Giants their first back-to-back victories in a year and gave the defense back-to-back beatdowns.

Houston entered the game averaging 5.5 yards per rush and 172 rushing yards per game, led by Arian Foster's league-best 537.

Against the Giants, the Texans rushed 15 times for 24 yards, a 1.6-yard average, and Foster was limited to 25 yards on 11 carries - including 9 yards on eight carries in the first half.

Time to party like it's 2007, right? You are free to do so if you wish, but one of the Giants' Super Bowl XLII veterans wishes you would not.

"We're getting away from [saying], 'In '07, we were a dominant defense,' '' Justin Tuck said. "We're getting away from that. We're starting to try to make our own identity now.''

Fair enough. But it's also fair to note the similarities in the two situations, and to believe the current trend could and should continue.

The Giants did what they did on the road, against a previously 3-1 team, and with linebacker Keith Bulluck and end Mathias Kiwanuka out and safety Kenny Phillips limited.

In addition to their work against the run, they sacked Matt Schaub three times, intercepted him once, batted down four of his passes and harassed him regularly.

The Texans totaled 11 first downs, 195 yards and 21 minutes of possession time.

Osi Umenyiora, another veteran of Super Bowl XLII who twice forced fumbles on sacks yesterday, said, "I think [Fewell] just has more faith in us and allows us to do the things we're good at.''

How did they do it?

"We didn't do anything magical; we just played within the scheme Perry Fewell set out for us,'' safety Antrel Rolle said, calling it "disciplined, gap-assignment football.''

The idea was to keep Foster, one of the league's biggest early-season surprises, from turning cutback runs into big gains.

Tuck said the key was squaring up and not falling for Foster's rapid changes of direction. In earlier games, Tuck had seen Foster trap eight defenders on one side of the field and take off the other way.

"We maintained our gaps,'' coach Tom Coughlin said "We didn't over-penetrate. We didn't give them any cutback lanes.''

The Giants didn't give them much of anything. Umenyiora set the mood with a sack on which Schaub fumbled on the third play from scrimmage. Soon, the offense sprinted to a 21-0 lead just 2:04 into the second quarter, freeing the defense to be even more aggressive.

It took until two minutes into the second half for Houston to find star receiver Andre Johnson. Schaub hit him for a 48-yard gain.

On the next play, Umenyiora swatted the ball out of Schaub's right hand and Tuck recovered it.

Whether that sort of thing bodes well for the Giants in the coming months - or even Sunday against the mighty Lions, who scored 44 points Sunday- remains to be seen.

But it's a good sign. And it has happened before.


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