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Giants' defense keeping team in the NFC East title race

Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams of the New

Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams of the New York Giants celebrate after a sack against the Eagles at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. Credit: Jim McIsaac

A lot of the attention on the Giants this season has had to do with one side of the line of scrimmage. Whether it is the progress that Daniel Jones has made, the development of the offensive line, or how the team has managed to move forward without Saquon Barkley, most of the juiciest and intriguing storylines have come from the offensive unit. Chances are that for the remaining six games this season, those arcs will continue to generate interest and headlines.

The Giants' defense probably doesn’t mind.

Sure, they’ve probably been the better performing side for most of the season. Yes, they’re the bigger reason why the 3-7 Giants are still in contention in the NFC East. And they, undoubtedly, will have just as much if not more to do with how the rest of the season unfolds and if the Giants are able to win the division and earn an improbable postseason berth.

But it’s their personality to not look for such accolades. In some ways, it’s been coached out of them.

It’s also what has made them successful.

"Something the coaches have implemented in our mind is when you walk into that door, leave your ego out of it," defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. "We don’t care where you came from. If you were a first-rounder, if you were a non-drafted guy, everyone is coming in here to work today. We’re going to treat everybody fairly and everyone the same. I think that type of system is what makes people buy into one big picture."

It's a big picture that is greater than its parts. Williams is the only Giants defender who has been to a Pro Bowl, and he hasn’t had that honor since 2016 when he was with the Jets. The Giants aren’t exactly a no-name defense – they have several players who could receive Pro Bowl consideration this season, including Williams, linebacker Blake Martinez and cornerback James Bradberry -- but they are assembled with parts that are designed to mesh together rather than stand out on their own.

"I think that’s just a testament to the type of group we have," Martinez said. "Every single week we know that no matter who’s going in, just from the leadership from the top down on our defense and our team in general, whoever is going to be in is going to be ready to go."

The Giants' defense is ranked 12th in the NFL in scoring average this season as 23.6 points per game. After allowing 26.6 points through the first five contests (all losses), they are nearly a touchdown better in the last five games allowing 20.6 (and with three wins). It’s good, but all six of the opponents remaining on the schedule are averaging 21.3 points per game or more. In some cases, such as the Seahawks (31.8) and Cardinals (28.7), a lot more.

While the Giants’ offense has improved of late, they are still ranked 30th in scoring (19.5 points per game) and have posted more than 23 points just twice in 10 games. It’s not a unit that the Giants can rely on to keep up with some of the more high-powered offenses they’ll be facing in the final month and a half.

It will be up to the defense to keep the Giants in those games and keep them in the division race.

Can they do it?

"I think a lot of times we show signs of greatness and we can be great," Williams said. "I think there’s times on third downs with some teams we will be lights out and just unstoppable on defense on third downs. There’s times where we give up too many plays on third down. I feel like that’s just the nature of the game. It’s not a perfect game, but you just want to work as much as possible to make it a full four-quarter game. Start fast, end strong. Red zone, all the big things. Just try to finish."

The games. And the season.

New York Sports