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When the Giants hit their bye in Week 9, they will have concluded the first half of the season with five straight games against All-Pro or Pro Bowl-caliber running backs. Judging by the run defense against the first two, it's a step in the right direction for the 0-5 Giants.
First up was Kansas City's Jamaal Charles, who is currently fifth in the NFL in rushing yards. The Giants held the former first-team All-Pro (2010) and two-time Pro Bowl selection (2010 and 2012) to 65 yards on 18 attempts in Week 4, including 14 yards on seven runs in the first half.
Next was the NFL's leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, who gained just 46 yards on 20 rushes in the Giants' loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. His 2.3-yard average was the fourth-worst of his career in 49 starts.
"Like I said the other day, to hold a runner with the ability of McCoy to 46 yards is quite an impressive thing," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Tuesday about the 2011 first-team All-Pro running back. "We worked hard last week. The guys worked very hard at that and they took great pride in the preparation and we're going to have to continue to do that."
Now the Giants prepare for Matt Forte on a short week leading up to the Thursday night game with the Chicago Bears. After that, it's the reigning NFL MVP, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, followed by the second meeting of October against McCoy and the Eagles.
Although it hasn't translated to wins or even impressive ranks – the Giants are tied for 27th in rushing yards allowed per game due to a string of quarterbacks with the ability to scramble – it is not by accident they are holding up against some of the best in the NFL. In the more accurate gauge of run defense, the Giants are 14th in giving up 3.9 yards per rushing attempt.
While credit goes to linebacker Spencer Paysinger, who is responsible for lining up the defense, the bolstered defensive line is paying off.
Second-round draft choice Johnathan Hankins made his NFL debut last week after being inactive the first four games and playing behind veteran defensive tackles Linval Joseph, Shaun Rogers, Cullen Jenkins, and Mike Patterson.
It was an injury to Joseph that led to an opening for Hankins, who had five solo tackles against the Eagles.
"That was huge because they were the No. 1 rushing offense in the league," said Hankins, who had one of the Giants' nine tackles behind the line of scrimmage. "So to do that, it just comes from hard work. We prepared our butts off. So we're going to take it into this week against the Chicago Bears, and we know that they are a well-balanced offense. We've got another challenge ahead of us, and we need to get a win."