The difference between success and failure in the NFL boils down to five-second bursts, the amount of time it takes to run a play.
If you look at the first three seconds of most of the Giants' defensive plays in Sunday's game against Pittsburgh, the Giants defense dominated the run. But it was the last two seconds – the extra yards – that did Big Blue in during the 24-20 loss at home.
"One of the biggest things is finishing the play and not letting them get the extra yard," linebacker Mark Herzlich said. "We talked about that a few weeks back where it's that one extra yard. Fight for that one extra yard on offense; stop them from getting that one extra yard on defense. They fought harder for that one extra yard than we did. It kind of came down to that, and that's why they were able to capitalize."
Time after time, Giants defenders had Isaac Redman wrapped up only to see the Pittsburgh running back escape the pile and gash them for yards. Redman racked up 147 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, including a 28-yarder before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. It was one of nine first downs the Steelers picked up on the ground, enabling Ben Roethlisberger to kneel down three times to run out the clock.
"It was the second-effort plays," Herzlich said. "Whether it was one or two extra yards a play, that put them in third-and-short. And that's when they were able to capitalize. He ran front side a lot of times, bounced back around outside. That's the kind of stuff we can't let happen and we have to tackle better."
It was an emotional week for Herzlich. Not only was he – and the entire region – dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but he was also preparing for his first start of the year at middle linebacker.
Stepping up in place of the injured Chase Blackburn, Herzlich notched eight tackles in his first start since Nov. 28 of last year (when he made two straight appearances in that role as a rookie). While Michael Boley made calls in the huddle, it was Herzlich directing traffic on the field.
The increased playing time, however, didn't take the sting out of the loss.
"We lost, so not very good," he said when asked how he felt about his performance. "I think that for the most part I was in the right spot for the plays. I thought I played pretty well, but there are definitely some times when I could have played better and capitalized on some of the plays."
Herzlich added: "It's exciting. It's fun. We're out there playing. I'm out there playing. It's great until the end. Losing is miserable no matter how much you play you get, how many tackles you make. Losing is devastating. I think that's how the whole team feels. That's how I feel, and we've got to get better."