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News » Film study: Strong defense has Giants soaring

Film study: Strong defense has Giants soaring

Film study: Strong defense has Giants soaring
Steve Spagnuolo closed his eyes, seemingly mouthing the words "one time." The FOX cameras had caught a moment of vulnerability in the Giants' defensive coordinator, imploring his guys to get a stop.

NFL Week 13


Defensive linemen need fresh legs. They chase, chase, get cut, chipped, and chase some more. Spagnuolo masterfully ensured renewed hamstrings on his pass rushers last season, using Fred Robbins and rookie Jay Alford to spell starters inside, and subbing Mathias Kiwanuka on the end. Combine that with the flexibility to play budding star Justin Tuck inside or outside, and Spagnuolo had the recipe for getting a pass rush in the NFL.

This season he's achieving the same results despite Strahan and Umenyiora's absence. While Umenyiora rehabs and Strahan enjoys a seat with the FOX NFL Sunday crew, Kiwanuka and Tuck are now full-time starters alongside defensive tackles Robbins and Barry Cofield. Alford, Dave Tollefson, and 12-year vet Renaldo Wynn spell them effectively whenever Spagnuolo needs them.

Kiwanuka is somewhat of a Umenyiora clone, resembling an NBA forward more than a defensive end, although not as graceful. Chasing around Cowboys quarterback Brad Johnson a few weeks ago, Kiwanuka looked like a praying mantis chasing a tree bug. Either way, he's been very good hurrying passers (7 sacks) and forcing runs inside. But his productivity, like each of his front-four mates, is predicated on having fresh wheels.

Mixing up his front-four combination, Spagnuolo has gotten better at cooking up different blitz concoctions. Against Arizona last Sunday, he gave Kurt Warner — already anointed League MVP in some circles — all he could handle. One play Spagnuolo prepared a veggie lasagna (linebacker blitz over center), then on the next, threw a seared salmon pasta (fake inside blitz, send a corner off the edge) at the vaunted Cardinal offense.

I wouldn't have been the least bit surprised if Eagles Jedi-blitz-master Jim Johnson was hiding under a NY baseball hat somewhere on the sideline.

Ironically, the two turnovers the G-Men created came when Spagnuolo gave Warner plain salami ... no blitzing. With just the front four rushing, Justin Tuck stripped Warner on the first drive of the second half. The next turnover was a classic case of disguising coverage: corner Terrell Thomas masked his intention to drop into the deep-in zone. Warner released, thinking he had the skinny post open; instead he had a wide-open defensive back. Interception.

The two-time MVP produced a 300-yard day, and Team Warner put up 26 ... but once again, Spagnuolo's unit did enough to get the win.

Next up: Team Zorn.

What I learned

I'm still "in like" with Washington quarterback Jason Campbell's game, not in love. As good as he's been under head coach Jim Zorn's tutelage, sometimes he thinks too much. He struggled opening week with the pressure and coverage schemes Spagnuolo threw at him.

It doesn't matter what defenses have thrown at running back Clinton Portis this season; he's torn it up. Still, I believe New York will contain Portis by not letting him get to the edge — I trust Tuck and Kiwanuka more than I do the 2008 Hogs.

Speaking of hogs, New York could use running back Brandon Jacobs this week. But even if he doesn't play, I think Eli Manning and the offense will score as much as needed.

Pick: Giants

Odds and ends

  • What a Thanksgiving for the Titans' running game. Chris Johnson is a physical specimen — fast and damn good. LenDale White is big, slow, but effective when I've watched him.

  • Watching the second half of the Lions' Thanksgiving "classic" is an hour-plus of my life I'll never get back.

  • Dallas' first 18 plays on Turkey Day produced 13 first downs. Awesome.

  • Flozell Adams Watch: It's 3rd-and-goal from the 10 in the third quarter last week versus the 49ers ... Dallas is driving. Flo' gets called for a false start, and blames it on the defense for jumping first.

    The officials agree. Referee Mike Carrey sets the ball down on the 5-yard line. Flo' jumps off, and it's suddenly 3rd-and-goal from the 10 again. Not awesome.

  • Author:Fox Sports
    Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
    Added: November 29, 2008

    Therrian Fontenot Name: Therrian Fontenot
    Position: CB
    Age: 27
    Experience: 2 years
    College: Fresno State
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