Perry Fewell is angry. We know this, because the Giants' defensive coordinator said so today. Only he didn't use the word "angry." He did, however, eliminate any ambiguity about his feelings in the wake of his unit's poor performance Monday night in a 49-24 loss in New Orleans.
"I thought Monday we just didn't play well," Fewell said. "We were outplayed, outhustled. They've played with more effort, more energy. We got outcoached. We just didn't play well last week. So for whatever reason, I can't explain that, I don't think any of those guys can explain that either. We prepared well. We didn't perform well – bottom line.
"It was so disappointing from my perspective as I watched it on Monday and then watched it the next day. It was one of those games that you wanted to bury. The energy level and what we did, it baffled me. It baffled me. You are supposed to have answers, but sometimes you can't explain something like that."
Fewell vowed the defense will play better this week. That is an absolute necessity, considering the next team on the schedule is the Green Bay Packers, who are merely 11-0, lead the league with almost 35 points a game and have a quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, who tops the league in completion percentage and passer rating and has thrown for 33 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
"Obviously, we need to play with more energy," Fewell said. "We have to play with more passion. That was a game against a playoff football team. We have aspirations of being a playoff team. Sometimes, it's just the will. It's the will to get it done. We didn't will ourselves to get it done. That's what I can't explain, why we didn't will ourselves to get it done because we prepared well enough to get it done and we just didn't do it."
Fewell said he hadn't experienced anything like that in his two years running the Giants defense.
"That happens in football," he said. "That team was fresh (the Saints were coming off their bye). They were hot. They were in their home environment. They got on us and they hit us in the mouth and we didn't respond. That's what I'm more disappointed about than anything else. We didn't respond. We had an opportunity to stand up and respond to a team that came out and was on fire and we didn't do that. I expect us to do that this coming Sunday."
The game was as much fun to watch as a multi-car accident. New Orleans' 49 points were the most allowed by the Giants in 12 years. The Saints gained an astounding 577 yards, the most given up by the Giants since 1943 and the second-highest total allowed in franchise history. The winners had 31 first downs. Drew Brees threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns and New Orleans ran for 205 yards.
It got so bad, Fewell admitted some defensive players stopped short when the Saints were running free on certain plays.
"No doubt - and that was disheartening," he said. "As me being the coach and the leader of the defense, that was disheartening. When I say it was disheartening, it was disappointing more so than it was disheartening because we don't coach that.
"We don't coach pulling up short and we're not going to accept pulling up short. So we won't pull up short again."
Yes, the defense got hit in the mouth, a line Fewell clearly didn't save for his weekly media session.
"I've never been on a team where a team punches you in the mouth and you won't punch back," safety Deon Grant said. "Usually, we'll be the first ones to punch. Last week, those guys punched us in the mouth and we didn't have an answer for it. We didn't play our game. When we turned on our film from Monday, we didn't know who each other was. We weren't playing our game. Guys weren't finishing. Weren't being as physical as we could, not finishing plays."
One of the specific problems has been the decline of the pass rush. The Giants averaged 3.5 sacks a game through the first half of the season. In the three games since, they have three sacks total. Two weeks ago, the defense was credited with one hit on Philadelphia quarterback Vince Young. In New Orleans, Brees walked off the field without being sacked.
Opposing offenses have ratcheted up their efforts to stifle the Giants' pass rush with more max protections. But Fewell said that is no excuse for the lack of pressure.
"Sometimes, you have to will yourself to win," Fewell said. "You can't always scheme an opportunity for them to come free. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. Sometimes you just have to beat a double-team. I've seen that many times. Some of our guys are able to beat double-teams and we just haven't been doing that."
As they prepare for a team that has its sights on an undefeated season, the big questions are whether the Giants have enough time and manpower to reverse their fortunes and vastly improve their play on Sunday.
"I think so," defensive end and captain Justin Tuck said. "But obviously it's not going to be us talking about it. We have to go out there and start being about it. I think we've talked enough. Yes, to answer your question, yes. Those practices (this week) are enough (to get things turned around). But we have to get the most out of those practices. Figure out a way to get every look and take advantage of that opportunity."
They must do it while compensating for more injuries, which has been a season-long theme. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora has a sprained ankle and likely will not play. Nor will rookie middle linebacker Mark Herzlich, who started the last two games but is now in a walking boot with a sprained ankle.
"We still have enough (weapons) in the room," Fewell said.
So where will the improvement originate? Fewell hinted he's had some pointed one-way conversations with his players this week.
"We all have an internal drive," he said. "That's why we play this game. It's nothing that I do or I say because these guys are professionals. They got to this level and they're competing at the highest level of competition because they have something within them. Sometimes you have to give them a kick in the (butt) to get that motor going, but they have that. Sometimes you have to give them a good shake to remind them of what's at stake and what we're playing for, but they all have that will. You just have to stoke that will up a little bit."
Fewell devises the plans, leads the practices and calls the defensive plays during the game. But ultimately, the players must take ownership of the defense and play with the effort and intelligence that will give the Giants a chance to beat Green Bay.
"We've been dealing with adversity our whole season," Grant said. "This right here is small. That's' how we better be looking at it as a unit. It's small. It's easy to be fixed. When you're talking about major injuries, you can't fix that, when guys are gone. This right here can be fixed. We have the opportunity to come, go out there and go to meetings every day, go out there on the football field, watch film to prepare for the opposing team. That's our way to really fix these things going on. We're going to take advantage of it."
"There should be a lot of pride in this locker room," safety Antrel Rolle said. "With that being said, hopefully guys did go in the mirror and look at themselves. I know I surely did. But I don't wait 'til after the game. I was doing it during the game, after the game, when I got home today, tomorrow, I'm going to continue to look at myself in the mirror, and ask myself, 'Am I being the best possible player I can be for this team?' And you know, I'm not going to stop doing that 'til we get to where we need to be."
*Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride also has issues. Right at the top is the Giants playing four consecutive games – three of them losses - without a first-half touchdown, which hasn't happened in 28 years.
"It's been very frustrating," Gilbride said. "You look at the San Francisco game, that's about as good a drive as you'll ever have and then to come up with field goals is very, very frustrating. Last week, we drove right down and threw the interception in the end zone. We can put ourselves in position, but that's only part of the responsibility. Once you put yourself in position you have to finish it and we haven't been doing that. And then the Philly game, of course, we had a couple major drops that would have set us up right away. I'm pleased with some of the movement we've had, but no question, it's all about finishing in the end zone."
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