Giants’ de­fense car­ries team to win­ning mark

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Tom Cana­van AP Sports Writer

If there has been a con­stant in the New York Giants’ three­game win­ning streak, it’s been that Steve Spag­n­uolo’s de­fense has had to make a fourth-quar­ter stand to se­cure the wins.

If there has been a con­stant in the New York Giants’ three-game win­ning streak, it’s been that Steve Spag­n­uolo’s de­fense has had to make a fourthquar­ter stands to se­cure the wins.

Last week, the de­fense stopped the Ea­gles at the New York 17 af­ter Eli Man­ning threw his sec­ond in­ter­cep­tion of the fourth quar­ter in a 2823 win.

The unit had to pitch a shutout over the Rams in the fi­nal three quar­ters in a 17-10 win in Lon­don on Oct. 23.

The streak started with the de­fense hold­ing in the wan­ing sec­onds af­ter the Ravens got to the Giants 24 in a 27-23 win.

“We know how good we can be, but we are not there yet,” line­backer Keenan Robin­son said. “We still have a long way to go. We haven’t done any­thing yet.”

The job for the de­fense will be tougher Mon­day night when the Giants (5-3) host the Cincin­nati Ben­gals (3-4-1) at MetLife Sta­dium. While the Ben­gals’ de­fense has strug­gled this sea­son, their of­fense is stacked.

Andy Dal­ton has had a 100-plus quar­ter­back rat­ing in four of his last five games. A.J. Green leads the NFL in re­ceiv­ing with 59 catches, and his 896 yards are No. 2 over­all. The run­ning game is av­er­ag­ing 120.3 yards, with Jeremy Hill gain­ing 5.0 yards a pop. Gio­vanni Bernard gains roughly 4.0 yards per run and is sec­ond on the team with 31 catches.

There’s more, too. Tight end Tyler Eifert re­turned to the lineup in Lon­don on Oct. 30 and had nine catches for 102 yards and a touch­down.

‘’Man, they can run the ball or pass the ball,” Giants de­fen­sive end Olivier Ver­non said Fri­day. “They have a good quar­ter­back and they have a good re­ceiver as well. They have good weapons on the of­fen­sive side of the ball, so we just have to play our ball.”

If there is one thing that the de­fense has done well, it is stop the run. New York is ninth in the league, lim­it­ing op­po­nents to an av­er­age of 93.9 yards. Only three teams have got­ten 100 yards on the ground — Green Bay (147), Min­nesota (104) and Dal­las (101) — and none in the last three games.

“You have to make them as one-di­men­sional as pos­si­ble,” line­backer Devon Ken­nard said. “We have to go in and stop them on first and sec­ond down when it comes to the run game and make them have to throw; put them in third-and-long sit­u­a­tions and make it harder on them.”

Stop­ping the run is go­ing to fall on the Giants’ front seven with tack­les Johnathan Hank­ins and Da­mon Har­ri­son stuff­ing the mid­dle, Ver­non and fel­low end Ja­son Pierre-Paul hold­ing the edges and fun­nel­ing the plays back in­side.

Safety Lan­don Collins gives the front seven an ex­tra boost with his abil­ity to come into the box. He leads the team in tack­les, sacks and in­ter­cep­tions, pick­ing up three in the last two games.

“He’s a big key part of their de­fense,” Dal­ton said of Collins, who has taken ma­jor strides in his sec­ond sea­son. ‘He’s all over the place, and you have to know where he is. He’s been play­ing well for them. For a guy to lead in sacks and in­ter­cep­tions, it shows how great a player he is.”

The de­fense has also ex­celled in the red zone. It has al­lowed only 11 touch­downs in 28 pos­ses­sions, the best in the league at 39.3 per­cent.

There are con­cerns, though. Too many big plays sur­ren­dered: The Ea­gles had seven plays of 20 or more yards last week and prob­a­bly would have had more points had they not failed on two fourth-down plays in New York ter­ri­tory and had a field goal blocked.

“Some­times big plays hap­pen,” said Robin­son, who has done an ex­cel­lent job re­cently cover­ing tight ends. “We want to make sure we play dis­ci­plined, sound foot­ball so we limit the big plays. Some­times they are go­ing to make the great catch or the great throw. If we are giv­ing up big plays be­cause we are not in the right po­si­tion or made the wrong call, that’s what we have to elim­i­nate.”

Still, this is a ma­jor im­prove­ment from a year ago when the de­fense blew leads ei­ther in the fourth quar­ter or over­time in six games.

“I feel good,” said cor­ner­back Janoris Jenk­ins, the free agent signee who has given New York a shut­down cor­ner­back, one who will prob­a­bly draw Green on Mon­day night. “I have been say­ing it since the be­gin­ning of the year, I think we can be spe­cial, and I still feel that. We just have to con­tinue to work.”

NOTES

WR Vic­tor Cruz (an­kle) did not prac­tice for the sec­ond straight day. He hopes to play . ... Coach Ben McA­doo moved the prac­tice into the team’s bub­ble with winds gust­ing.

BILL KOSTROUN — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Giants de­fen­sive end Olivier Ver­non, left, and cor­ner­back Eli Ap­ple, right, tackle Ea­gles run­ning back Dar­ren Spro­les dur­ing the sec­ond half of the Giants’ 28-23 win in East Ruther­ford, N.J., on Sun­day.

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