The Giants must be physical.
In January, when Perry Fewell was named the new defensive coordinator, he described his defensive philosophy.
Unfortunately, last Sunday, we did not see this type of defense on the field against the Colts. Fewell assumed the Colts would rely heavily on the pass. Instead of using a base defense, Fewell overcompensated by using a 4-1-6 package. His erroneous assumption backfired. With the Colts offense able to run and pass at will against this Giants defense, the game was over at half time. Despite having been torched by Peyton and company, Fewell is still in denial.
“I still think that we can stop the run with six in the box,” he said. “I learned that we weren’t as sharp as we should have been and that our run fits with the two backers that we had in the football game at that point in time, that we have to concentrate more on that. Hindsight is 20/20, but you took a team that for 13 years, they’ve thrown the football every down. Every year I’ve played them they’ve thrown the football every down.”
Regardless of scheme, the Giants defense must play physical football. This is what was missing. Peyton was sacked once. And Barry Cofield made a tackle for a loss. These were the only defensive highlights. Even when the Colts offensive players were eating up huge chunks of yards, the Giants defensive players were not making punishing hits. Giants GM Jerry Reese, while watching this game, must have been shaking his head. After the Giants disappointing 2009 season, Reese said this about his team:
That was part of what the problem was. I thought half the time we were a physical team, the other half we were not physical. That is one of my three things. The first thing you have to do when you play in the National Football League, you have to go out there and be physical. That is the number one thing that you have to do. You have to go out there and match the physicality of the other team. If you do that, you give yourself a chance to win the game. The other thing is bad fouls. You can't have a lot of unnecessary penalties and those things. You have to play as a team. If you do those three things, you will be in a lot of games, you will win a lot of games. It all starts with the physical play. That is what is most important in my eyes. We were physical half the time, I thought.
No excuses. The Giants must step up their play. Each time Titans' running back Chris Johnson has the ball, they must hit him hard. And make him earn every yard. Because last week, against a tenacious Pittsburgh Steelers' defense, Johnson gained a measly 34 yards. As a result of getting pounded by Pittsburgh defenders, Johnson threw up the "white flag". According to Steelers All-Pro linebacker James Harrison, Johnson gave up in the 3rd quarter. Therefore, we can infer Johnson's will can be broken. And Fewell should let his players know this. If Johnson is hit hard repeatedly, he will mentally check out. Former Giants' running back Tiki Barber has talked about the mental aspect of the game. "And if you lose your mind in this game, you lose a lot." Focus on pummeling Johnson. Get him rattled and he will take himself out of a game. Subsequently, let Vince Young beat you.
Additionally, Chris Johnson is like a Dave Kingman. Kingman, a baseball player, was notorious for either hitting a homerun or striking out. The same could be said of Chris Johnson. In Scientific Football 2009, football scientist, KC Joyner concluded: As much credit as he should be given for being a homerun king, it should also be noted that he was among the strikeout leaders as well. Johnson's 0.9 YPA on runs with at least one POA block loss was tied for the 8th lowest among qualifying backs. He'll hit the hole like no one's business if the blocking is there but if it isn't, Johnson will get almost nothing.
Along with being physical, the Giants must maintain their gap integrity. If Johnson cannot cut back, the Giants will be able to contain him. Most importantly, do not allow him to uncork a long gain. If the Giants follow Fewell's credo, (attacking, aggressive, and eleven hats to the ball), the Giants are going to win this game.
Finally, amateur pugilist and Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh used to tell his players, "We must beat them to the punch!"
Starting today, this should be the Giants battle cry.
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Go Big Blue.