EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Since 2012, when the NFL expanded to 32 teams, only three teams have finished first in run defense and last in pass defense in the same season: the 2006 and 2007 Minnesota Vikings, and the 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Not one of those teams finished with a winning record. The Vikings finished 6-10 and 8-8, respectively, while the Buccaneers were 7-9 three years ago.
The defense of the 2-2 Giants, who host San Francisco Sunday night, is currently first in the league vs. the run (69.8 yards game) and 32nd and last against the pass (316.3). Given the final records of those other three teams, is the Giants' current defensive model built for long-term success?
"Well, we've got to get better, obviously, in the one that you're referring to as not being that good," coach Tom Coughlin said today. "And I think we will get better. In the meantime, if we can stop the run and then our pressure on the quarterback continues to build, we'll get better in the secondary as well."
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo isn't lying awake at night worrying about the rankings.
"Look it, nobody wants to be 32nd in anything," Spagnuolo said. "I know when the game is being called and what I'm asking the players to play in the game, we're playing the game to win, not to improve our stats. And that's the truth. So when you get in games, especially toward the end where some of those stats pile up, there were calls in there that say, 'Let's protect the goal line.' Because in some of those games, the only way we lose the game is if they get in the end zone. It didn't matter what they gained. The other that sticks out is the 25-yard run at the end of, which game was it, Washington. But we don't spend a lot of time on stats anyway.
"Is it sustainable? It's sustainable if the points on the board stay where they were the last two weeks. The other thing that we had to come up with and we've done it in the games that we've won, you've got to get turnovers. You've got to create them and when they're there, capitalize on them. By that, I mean we have to come up with the football and we've been able to do that."
Coughlin has long believed that his defense must first stop the run. But that can be done while improving the numbers against the pass.
"I like to be good at both," Coughlin said. "But we're started in the right direction. If we can stop the run against these really good run teams, force them to do things that they don't normally rely on, now you do have to step up and make some plays. You've got to make some plays in the secondary. But along with that may come the aggressiveness in terms of our rush. Although our numbers are not in favor of that, we do have some people that can get in there."
They just have to do it more frequently.
- Dwayne Harris tied for the team lead with five receptions and scored a touchdown in the Giants' victory in Buffalo last week. It was the first time this season the team's third receiver was actively involved in the offense.
"It's just the way things worked out," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said. "Dwayne has been doing a nice job in practice, and to be able to get him the catches on game day was good for him. It's healthy for him, he came through for us, he had a nice day out here today for us, and as he grows more comfortable with the offense and the more his feet talk to him, the more productive he has a chance to be."
- Linebacker Jonathan Casillas was added to the Giants' injury list today with a calf issue, and was one of six Giants who did not practice (five on defense).
The others were defensive ends Robert Ayers (hamstring) and George Selvie (calf), linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring), cornerback Jayron Holsey (concussion) and wide receiver Victor Cruz (calf).
"Injuries are always concerning," Spagnuolo said. "DK (Kennard) hasn't practiced just yet, we're trying to get him to the game if we can. And then we've got some other bumps and bruises. But there's not that many guys there, so we'll navigate through it. Next man up, everybody says in this league."
Cornerback Trumaine McBride (groin) returned to practice, but was limited. Tackle Ereck Flowers (ankle), defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (knee) and tight end Jerome Cunningham (Knee) practiced fully.
Playmakers on 49ers first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike