Besides stopping the Cowboys rushing attack, the Giants must pressure and contain Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Romo, an elusive quarterback, is able to improvise on any given play. When pressured, he has a knack for evading the pass rush. When flushed out of the pocket, Romo makes plays. Here are a few videos showing his out-of-pocket prowess against the Giants:
In their match up earlier this year, Romo threw FOUR touchdowns. And guess what? All four touchdowns were a result of him being out of the pocket. Furthermore, according to ESPN's Next Level, Romo's numbers outside of the pocket is outstanding. Against Tampa Bay, all 3 of Romo's touchdown passes Saturday were thrown outside of the pocket. Romo entered the game completing 61 percent of his passes outside of the pocket, third in the league am long qualified quarterbacks. Romo now leads the league with 10 touchdown passes outside the pocket, along with no interceptions. It is paramount the Giants do not allow him to scramble. What can the Giants do differently?
With DE Osi Umenyiora expected to return for the Giants, this is a tremendous uptick. Umenyiora's strength is his ability to rush off the edge. In other words, Osi is a fantastic speed rusher. Since Osi will be playing, this will allow embattled Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to leverage his talent. According to NFL Films' All 22 tape guru Greg Cosell, Fewell made defensive modifications against the Jets.
1. Giants showed Tuck and Pierre-Paul inside in 2 point stances with LB Williams and Boley outside, Different alignment with a lot of pressure and coverage possibilities
2. Pierre-Paul now a movable chess piece; Aligned at DE, at DT, in a 2 point stance in the middle
Keep in mind, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is very limited. As Cosell noted, "Jets had no intermediate or downfield passing game, Receivers did not win v. predominant man coverage and Sanchez is not a tight window thrower." Unlike Sanchez, Romo can make accurate throws outside the numbers. The Cowboys have a downfield passing game, as compared to the Jets.
Indeed, Fewell believes the Giants have to get interior pressure. “I think our tackles are really the key – the guys like Chris Canty and Linval Joseph getting that push in the middle. I think that’s really the key. And then for us not just running up the field on the guy so that we create running lanes for him because he is a good scrambler also. But I think the inside push is really what we need.” Although Fewell talked about Canty and Joseph getting a push, JPP is going to be the focal point. On obvious passing downs, Fewell can slide JPP to defensive tackle. Having JPP at defensive tackle will enable the Giants to get an interior push. Why is interior pressure critical? Giants back up quarterback David Carr elaborates: "that’s very difficult for a quarterback, it’s very disconcerting because a lot of times it can get you off your read,’’ Carr said. “You see color [defender], you feel something in front of you, the natural tendency is to step up as a quarterback and when there’s nothing to step up into, that’s a tough spot for us." Given that JPP is so athletic, if he can not get to Romo, getting his arms up will hinder Romo's throwing lanes.
Osi, Tuck, and JPP on the field at the same time, without question, will create favorable mismatch problems for the Giants. Will the Cowboys use max protect formations? If they go ahead with max protect, fewer receivers will be involved in running routes. This would be an advantage for the Giants. But as we are all aware, the Giants have had coverage problems all season long. To be more blunt, they have allowed receivers to find wide open areas in their defense. Because of these miscues in coverage, currently, the Giants are 27th against the pass: allowing an average of 255 yards per game. Ouch! Here at UltimateNYG, we have vilified Fewell for using too much soft zone coverage. In other words, by doing so, Fewell is not leveraging his players' talents. We do not have access to the official All 22 tape, but seeing too many blown coverages is unacceptable. And it is important to repeat James Allen's observation. James, a commenter here at UlimtateNYG who also attends Giants' games, opined: "...for all the pressure the Giants put on Sanchez, there were plenty of open receivers down the field as a result of a zone that is so soft it's stunning (and you can only really see how much from being at the game)."
Therefore, the defensive keys for this important game are the following:
1. Stop the run.
2. Get pressure and contain Romo. Make him throw from the pocket. And make the pocket "noisy". ie a term Greg Cosell uses. A "noisy" pocket is when a quarterback is surrounded by offensive and defensive players.
3. Play aggressive coverage. Indeed, defenses have evolved over the years. Teams do not play just zone or man to man. In some cases, defenses will play man to man on the outside while playing a zone in the middle of the field. Or defenses may play man to man on one side of the field. While playing a zone on the other side. Memo to Fewell: Play more press man vs the Cowboys.
4. Speaking of coverage, the Giants have to minimize blown coverages. Seeing another play in which Dez Bryant is backpedalling into the end zone with no Giants' defender within 20 yards is uncalled for.