As balanced as Matt Ryan and Michael Turner make Atlanta’s offense, the Big Blue defense needs to be as even-keeled against it.
The 19th-ranked run defense (giving up 121.3 yards per game) will try to marry the pass rush on Sunday, and it all starts with the first level.
“We stop the run first, and getting to the quarterback is second,”
The Giants did both last week against the Cowboys, racking up six sacks and seven quarterback hits while limiting them to 49 yards rushing.
Meanwhile, Ryan, who set the franchise record for passing yards in a season, comes into MetLife Stadium with the No. 3 running back in the league. Turner broke a record of his own in the regular season finale, becoming the franchise leader in touchdowns in just four years with the team, and put up 172 of Atlanta’s 251 rushing yards in Week 17.
The 5-foot-10 Turner reminds defensive end
“You draw a lot of comparisons to Maurice Jones-Drew, but bigger,” Tollefson said of Turner, who finished the season with 1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns. “Those guys up front do a great job of opening holes early and then him getting up to the second level. You’ve got to try to get some good bodies on him up front and try to slow him down a little bit. Because if you don’t, he gets that head of steam going and that’s a tough deal to ask a cornerback to tackle a big ole back like that.”
Pierre-Paul and Tollefson both said gap control will be paramount, but most importantly they’ll have to trust the players lined up next to them.
“This is a game of inches,” Tollefson said. “If you’re lined up a little wrong here or there, they can kind of scheme you out of the gap. So first off, we’ve got to make sure we’re lined up right and then get off blocks. We’re not blocking dummies. Obviously we’re a gap-control defense, but ‘Oh, I’ve got my gap’ – well, the guy is running by you, why don’t you try to tackle him. So we’ve got to try to get some helmets on him.”
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