Three Giants writers debate how past defensive efforts stack up to Jason Pierre-Paul's Week 12 game:
The pass rush has come alive.
After recording just four sacks in the first five games, the Giants have notched 21 in the last six outings, tied with Carolina for the most in the NFL during that span. A large part of that is due to the play of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who recorded a career-high three sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery that he returned for his third career touchdown in a 27-13 victory over Cleveland.
In this week's "Cover 3" on Giants.com, we asked our staffers to name the last time they saw a Giants defender dominate a game like that in the regular season. Here is what they came up with:
Bu John Schmeelk
Landon Collins in London. The Giants have had some great defensive performances the last few years, but one that still sticks out for me is Landon Collins' game in London. He had two interceptions, returned one for a touchdown, and led the team in tackles with eight (all solo). All he was missing was a sack to give him the trifecta. What made Collins' performance particularly special was the quality of his return. A running back in high school, Collins showed off all his moves as he bobbed and weaved back and forth across the field for a touchdown.
His two interceptions started his four-game interception streak and secured a very important win at a neutral site, which was the second victory of the Giants' current six-game winning streak. He also came down from the safety position and made good fundamental tackles on Rams tight ends and running backs that caught a number of passes in the flat. He was all over the field and a big factor in the Giants' run and pass defense.
Jason Pierre-Paul had an even greater impact against the Browns. He was all over Josh McCown during the game (though his sacks were helped by good coverage and pressure by other linemen) and did his typical good job of setting the edge in the run game. He caught a break on his fumble recovery, with Johnathan Hankins hitting McCown and the ball winding up in his lap for an easy catch and uncontested return. The difficulty of the Collins return is why I give Collins the edge.
JPP'S BREAKOUT GAME
By Dan Salomone
Victor Cruz called it a "vintage" performance, so let's go back to the original. And that, of course, is 2011 when Jason Pierre-Paul became JPP. Specifically, that happened in Week 14 at Dallas.
Pierre-Paul sacked Tony Romo twice, one resulting in a safety in the first quarter, forced a fumble, and blocked Dan Bailey's 47-yard attempt in the final seconds that would have tied the game. That performance cemented Pierre-Paul as a breakout star as the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl that year.
We hadn't seen that type of dominance until this past Sunday. After tying his career-high with 2.5 sacks the week before, Pierre-Paul broke it in Cleveland with three on Josh McCown. He also forced a fumble and returned another for a 43-yard touchdown, becoming the first player in NFL history with at least three sacks and a fumble-return touchdown of at least 40 yards in the same game since 1982, the first year that individual sacks became an official statistic. "I'm not proving anything," said Pierre-Paul, who missed the first half of last season after a life-changing accident. "I told you all last year when I came in, I already won."
DRC PICKS TWO
By Lance Medow
Landon Collins' performance against the Rams in London earlier this season is the easiest choice, but I think it's only fair we at least go back to the archives beyond this season. That's why I'm going with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at MetLife Stadium against the Cowboys in Week 7, 2015. DRC had two interceptions off Matt Cassel in that game, including one that he returned 58 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter that moved the Giants in front, 17-13. Then, on the very first play of the fourth quarter, with New York leading 20-13 and the Cowboys threatening at the Giants 39-yard line, DRC picked off Cassel again on a pass over the middle intended for Brice Butler. That capped a stretch of three straight Dallas possessions that ended with an interception. Brandon Meriweather had one sandwiched in between DRC's two.
Rodgers-Cromartie's performance was impressive for a variety of reasons. The Giants offense managed just 13 first downs, 289 total yards and one touchdown in that game, so the defense and special teams had to do a lot of the heavy lifting. DRC came through with two opportunistic plays that changed the flow of the game. With a three-point lead at the half, the Cowboys received the ball first to start the third quarter and had a great opportunity to pad their cushion before DRC returned his first interception for a score and then later in the second half, DRC once again prevented another scoring chance for Dallas by anticipating Cassel's pass. If you're going to compare any other individual defensive performance to what JPP accomplished Sunday against the Browns, it has to involve at least a touchdown and a handful of disruptive plays. Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie meets all the criteria.