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Giants must get to QBs and not let them escape

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90) pressures Pittsburgh

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90) pressures Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (5) on a throw in the first quarter of a preseason game, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: AP

It should have been Damontre Moore's highlight, not Calvin Johnson's.

The Giants' second-year defensive end made a strong charge at the Lions' Matthew Stafford in the first quarter of Monday's opener and had him lined up for a sure-thing sack. But then Moore got buck fever. Stafford juked. Moore went flying past him.

Next thing he knew, Moore was on the turf without a quarterback in his grasp and Johnson was catching a 67-yard touchdown pass, high-stepping into the end zone.

"It was eating me up,'' Moore said Thursday of having to live with the whiff on what would've been his first NFL sack. "It's still eating me up to this day.''

Moore said he learned some good lessons on that play. Don't leave your feet. Don't get too excited. Take better angles. But the entire Giants defense learned something from that game, too, and if it's going to succeed this season, the players need to start applying it.

It wasn't long ago that getting a quarterback off his spot was good enough, that flushing him from the pocket was practically as good as a sack, and simply applying pressure was acceptable. Now, with mobile quarterbacks on virtually every team, "almost'' is almost useless.

Even moderately athletic quarterbacks like Stafford can elude pass rushers and extend plays long enough to find success. Three of the Lions' touchdowns came on plays on which Stafford might very well have been sacked, with the line in position to bring him down but unable to take advantage.

"The game has changed from the standpoint that you have athletic [quarterbacks] that can move no matter what,'' Tom Coughlin said. "If you don't get a good wrap on the quarterback, they just slide to an open area and make the play. So yeah, you've got to wrap him up.''

Robert Ayers Jr. was the only Giant who recorded a sack Monday.

"We've got to get to the quarterbacks,'' defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "It wasn't good enough. I need to do better, everybody needs to do better on that defensive line and you've just got to get to the quarterback. We stopped the run, but we've just got to get to the quarterback.''

This week's opponent, Carson Palmer, isn't known for his running ability, but in the Cardinals' win over the Chargers, he had a 12-yard run and gained 29 yards on four carries.

"He's not known as a scrambler, but he is a 4.7 guy [in the 40-yard dash], '' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "He made a big play on Monday night getting out of the pocket and got a critical first down. I think that quarterbacks today are more athletic and they are using their legs more, and it causes a problem for the defense.''

Fewell said the key to combating that, in most cases, is to win the one-on-ones. That's what Moore did to get to Stafford. Fewell said Moore had a positive grade on all of his 10 defensive snaps except for one -- the one he missed on. Right up until the moment he went sailing past the quarterback, that was a positive one as well.

"It would have been, yes, because it would have been a sack,'' Fewell said. "No doubt.''

Instead, it went down as an almost -- and a touchdown for the opponent.

"Who knows what could have happened?'' Moore asked. "That could have been a difference in the outcome.''

New York Sports