From the desk of: DO IT FOR THE DUKE
NEW YORK GIANTS FOOTBALL: It's Coach Perry Fewell's Responsibility to Keep the Heat On the Packers in Chilly Green Bay.
The Giants are heading back to the Frozen Tundra of Green Bay for another game of the ages. But unlike the last time these teams met back in East Rutherford, the Giants are much better equipped to battle the Packers; not to mention the elements; during Sunday's upcoming arctic expedition to the Dairy State.
We last played the Packers at Giants Stadium without the services of Osi Umenyiora. Justin Tuck still wasn't feeling so well. Michael Boley was still getting his legs under him in his first game back from a hamstring injury. Chase Blackburn hadn't become the smart reinforcement yet that he is at the present time. Chris Canty and Antrel Rolle hadn't yet achieved their present levels of play either. Only recently do things seem to be coming together. And when you consider the Giants' Secondary hasn't suffered any more of those embarrassing meltdowns they endured prior to and during the Packer game, it's reasonable to say Green Bay's offense will be facing a slightly different unit than the one the Packers narrowly defeated in Week Thirteen.
The three things that stick out most about that last game are Eli's pick-six; the Packers returning the last kick-off back to mid-field setting up an easy game winning field goal; and Aaron Rodgers continually scrambling out of the pocket and exploiting acres of empty field in front of him. Every one of his rumbles were back-breakers. With several reasons to chose from as to why the Giants lost that game, I say Aaron Rodgers' legs were a huge difference in the game. That goes hand in hand with an inability to stop Green Bay on third down.
Interceptions and Special Teams can be worked on and corrected however. That last matter about Aaron scrambling isn't so easy. Last game Aaron Rodgers managed to stay a finger tip away from the Giants' (depleted) rush. He created plenty of time living outside the pocket and as a result, coverage eventually broke down. Or, he just tucked the ball and ran for big yardage.
In this season's big rematch, first and foremost, the biggest difference going into this game is the Giants are healthier. In addition to the past casualties mentioned above, Aaron Ross appears to have been cleared to play Football again after being taken out of last week's game with concussion symptoms.
The Giants now have something I've dubbed Defensive Synchronicity. The state of The G-Men and the Department of Defense heading into Sunday looks promising.
Perry Fewell has demonstrated his willingness to turn up the heat as well. With the return of key players he's been much more aggressive lately. That was far from the case last time we played Green Bay. In that game, Coach Fewell decided to rush only three men for a substantial portion of the game. Early on it had it's affect. But like I mentioned, because the three man rush never did get to Fee Range Rodgers, and because Coach Fewelll refused to blitz, the game turned out to be one continuous down field study in busted coverage.
Even though it was the Chiefs who ruined Green Bay's undefeated season, I happen to like how the Lions handled Aaron Rodgers even more, regardless that it came in a losing Thanksgiving effort. The Lions didn't let their Defensive Ends over-pursue Aaron Rodgers and risk blowing by him when he stepped-up in the pocket. Detroit instead brought pressure up the middle. The Ends maintained discipline and kept lane integrity. When Aaron Rodgers stepped up or tried scrambling, the Defensive Ends caved in on him. I caught that on ESPN by the way.
In the Giants last three games, it didn't take long before Marc Sanchez, Tony Romo, and Matt Ryan were all made to look like they quit at some point in the game. The Defensive Pressure oppressed them like 100% humidity in Costa Rica. Aaron Rogers won't be nearly as meek or as accessible to the Giants as the last three QB's were. Rodgers is a much more polished cat than that. So, they'll have their work cut out for them trying to get a hold of an elusive guy.
Amid my confidence right now, I have one major concern. The Giants have not come up with an answer for the no-huddle offense. When teams speed up the game, the Giants Defense gets bogged down. And why not; no substitutions. I would imagine the Packers are fully aware of this flaw in the Giants game. As I trust Coach Fewell is aware of it as well. While Atlanta never had a chance in last week's game, Dallas employed hurry-up tactics in the third quarter in the season finale with great success until the Giants closed that game out.
I haven't hammered Perry Fewell nearly as much as I usually pound Coach Gilbride. Somehow, especially after last game, Gilbride has somehow managed to stay on my good side this season. In his second full season as Defensive Coordinator, Perry Fewell is still trying to win many people over even though the Giants already signed him to an extension.
I will say this much about Perry Fewell, on a week to week basis, he is very adaptable. When it comes to schemes and deception, he's no Spagnuolo. But that's fine. Defensively speaking, Jason Pierre Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka have carried this unit. But Perry Fewell's adaptability has gotten the Giants to within a game of playing for the Conference Championship. Somehow he kept it all together with band-aids and scotch-tape, and finished strong as we head into Sunday. With his side of the ball decimated by injuries this season, through sheer necessity we've witnessed Perry Fewell employ everything from Turtle Shell Mode at times, to watching him unleash fury upon three straight teams. So it's safe to say that adaptability and heavy doses of straight forward aggression are his strengths. Then, there's always a measure of individual effort that a Coach has no control over, nor can account for. For instance, no one coached Osi how to bend Offensive Linemen backwards (see Falcons game) and still bring both him and the quarterback down simultaneously.
Super-human feats of strength are one thing, but what the Giants need now more than ever, is for Perry Fewell to get this one right. Whether it's by brute force and ignorance, or through more scientific methods of planning and preparation, we are about to find out if Coach Fewell was worth the extension he signed, and if he can follow through this Sunday in the spirit and tradition of Giants Football; which in part is predicated upon a dominating Defense.