The only way to stop a great QB who has great offensive skill position players around him is to get after him with a pass rush. If you can do it with just the DL so that you can still drop 6 or 7 into coverage, even better. The Giants defense picked up steam and started to play better the last few games of the season and everyone attributed it to the following significant changes:
- The DL got healthy: Tuck recovered from some of his nagging injuries and Osi returned to the field.
- Boley returned to health and shored up the LB play
- DC Fewell changed the play calls, went to less conservative zone coverage and mixed in a higher percentage of man-to-man underneath with cover 2 zone on top.
Second big improvement in the LB corps besides Boley is the improvement of the other LBs - Blackburn has been a net add to the group, but Kiwanuka and Jacquian Williams have both greatly improved their play. Perhaps the same reasoning can be applied to these two as we used for JPP. Kiwanuka is a natural DE, played that position his entire college career at BC. He was shifted to LB two years ago, then was shifted back to DE last year and now is playing at LB again. My hope is that he will be shifted back to DE next year, but for now, it is probably true that his learning curve is steep and he has to develop instincts for the position. Williams, another USF product like JPP, played LB at USF, but probably did not grow with the same level of quality coaching in college that exists at the major football factories like LSU, Alabama, Tennessee, USC, etc. Therefore, for him too, every game of experience is invaluable towards becoming a legitimate NFL LB. Williams has tremendous speed and has the potential to play the LB position at a high level for many years. He made a lot of bad mistakes and gave up big plays early in the year, when he was thrown onto the field and forced to play all 3 downs before he was ready. Now they have reduced his package somewhat and he plays primarily the nickel LB. He has excelled the last several weeks in pass coverage, often lining up against the opposing TE man-to-man. He held down 3 very good TEs - Keller, Witten and Gonzalez. He was matched up against Finley in the Green Bay game and Finley had a big night. Williams went for the INT on the first play of the winning FG drive at the end of that game and gave up a 25 yard completion. This will be a tough cover for Williams or Boley, but holding down Finley is important part of the defense for the Giants. Williams success in covering TEs allowed Fewell to go to a more aggressive man scheme dedicating DBs to covering WRs.
Back to the subject - Giants have to play great defense and hope to hold the Packers to around 28 points. It will be tough to score that many points, Giants have to play a very clean offensive game with no big turnovers and cash in on their chances with TDs, not FGs. This game is in the hands of the QB - Giants should sprinkle in some runs, but should not be afraid to throw the ball deep.
When the Giants were heading into the first Dallas game at 6-6, having lost 4 in a row, playing poor defensive football, I truly thought there was no way the Giants would make the playoffs. I even entertained dark fears that the Giants would run the table (in a bad way) and finish at 6-10. Look where they are now: in the playoffs, wildcard win in the bank and a game this Sunday against the best team in football, # 1 seed in the NFC. This NFL season has been filled with more unexpected results than any other season I can ever remember.