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Notebook: Defense stingy in 3 key categories

WINK-MARTINDALE-BRIAN-DABOLL

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Sometimes in the NFL, numbers don't add up as it seems they should.

Take, for example, the Giants' defense. The unit is 28th in the NFL against the run, allowing 144.4 yards a game and last by giving up 5.7 yards a carry. In seven games, the defense has intercepted one pass and recovered five fumbles (plus three by the special teams). Twenty teams have more sacks than the Giants' 13.

Despite that, the Giants have the NFL's sixth-ranked scoring defense, at 18.6 points-per-game. That's the number that most concerns defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, especially because it's a big reason the Giants enter Sunday's game in Seattle with a 6-1 record.

"I think as long as you keep your points down, it doesn't really matter," Martindale said this week of the other defensive statistics. "The other things – your red zone numbers, your points and your third downs – show them that we're playing good defense. Those are really the top three things, and we've got to get them in third downs."

The Giants have been extremely stingy inside the 20-yard line. Their opponents have made 25 trips into the red zone and scored only 10 touchdowns, a 40% success rate that places the Giants' D fourth in the league.

On third down, the Giants rank sixth, giving up conversions on just 34.5% of opposition attempts.

"I think it's attention to detail by the players," Martindale said. "We've gone against some good quarterbacks, and we've had some success. I think it builds their confidence as well."

This week, Martindale's primary concern is the Seahawks' offensive talent. Veteran quarterback Geno Smith leads the NFL with a career-high 73.5 completion percentage and is one of four quarterbacks with a 100+ passer rating. Rookie running back Kenneth Walker leads the NFL with 353 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground in the last three weeks. Wide receiver DK Metcalf is expected to miss the game with a knee injury suffered last week. But Tyler Lockett has 41 receptions, and Smith's 11 touchdown passes have been divided among six different receivers.

"With those receivers and that back, the way they're blocking as a unit up front, they're doing a really nice job of running offense and keeping everything off balance," Martindale said.

Last week, the Giants faced Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence, who is a gifted passer, but a second-year pro. Smith is a 10-year veteran who can present problems because of his experience.

"I think guys are able to freestyle a little bit easier when they've been around the block and understand things," safety Julian Love said. "They're able to make checks and reads as opposed to a younger guy getting a lot from the script and the game plan and the coaching and their mike (linebacker). That's what it is, really, young versus old.

"And in this style of offense, they'll hurry to the line of scrimmage, and the offensive coordinator (Shane Waldron) will still be talking to the quarterback (through the helmet speaker) at the line of scrimmage. He can tell them a little bit more and gather more information that way. So, it's the pace of the game with the veteran quarterback and the style of offense."

Martindale said he can't recall ever facing a team with two rookie tackles, as the Seahawks have in first-round draft choice Charles Cross on the left side and third-rounder Abraham Lucas on the right.

Martindale said, "I think that both those guys are playing well as rookies. And with the mix of the run and the pass, it would be different if it's just they pass all the time. They don't. They run the ball. They try to keep you off balance."

View rare photos of the all-time history between the New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks.

*The Giants are one of just four teams that started the same five offensive linemen in every game this season (joining Cincinnati, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh). That will streak will end Sunday.

The team announced today that left guard Ben Bredeson and rookie right tackle Evan Neal are among the six players who will not play in Seattle. The linemen suffered knee injuries last week in Jacksonville. Coach Brian Daboll said he is "leaning" toward starting the players who replaced them against the Jaguars - rookie Joshua Ezeudu at guard and Tyre Phillips at tackle. Phllips is listed as questionable with a toe injury

"It's the life of a line coach," said Bobby Johnson, who is, um, the Giants' line coach. "You prepare for this all the time. And to be honest with you, it happens more than it doesn't. I challenge anybody to go find the last time a team started with a starting five and finished that season with that same starting five, and they didn't have an interruption throughout the season. So, you prepare for it. You practice it every day. I've had interruptions before, so it's kind of part of the deal."

*Also sidelined are tight end Daniel Bellinger (eye), wide receiver Kenny Golladay (knee), linebacker Oshane Ximines (quad) and cornerback Cor'Dale Flott (calf). Defensive lineman Leonard Williams (elbow) and defensive back Jason Pinnock (foot) are questionable.

*Bellinger, who has scored three touchdowns this season, underwent surgery to repair a fractured eye socket he suffered last week in Jacksonville.

"I just feel bad for him," tight ends coach Andy Bischoff said. "He has made such good progress every week, and it was a vicious injury. The ability for a fist to go through a mask like that is just so uncommon. Fingers go through there, but for that to happen, I just feel for him and his own wellbeing.

"If you look at the replay, it clearly was an accident. To get your whole fist in there, there's just not that much space. Again, I feel for him. It appears like he's on a good track of recovering. That's a good thing."

*Offensive lineman Nick Gates could be in uniform Sunday for the first time since fracturing his left fibula and tibia in Washington on Sept. 16, 2021. Gates, who underwent seven surgeries, was added to the roster this week.

"He's ready to go," Daboll said. Asked if Gates will be active, Daboll said, "We'll get to that point, but probably. I'd say probably."

If he is in uniform Sunday, it will be a milestone for Gates.

"Definitely, when I see that jersey and put on those pads for the first time since Week 2 last year, I think that'll hit me a little bit," he said. "And that'll be a good feeling. But once that happens, you got to erase that. We have a game to play. So, it's a quick moment. And after that, you've just got to go."

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