An otherwise shoddy defense is capable of being aggressive and opportunistic.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo parlayed his Super Bowl-laden success of building a unit centered around getting to the quarterback, with pass-rush specialists Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, and Osi Umenyiora at his disposal, into a head coaching position with the St. Louis Rams that never panned out. After various stints as a defensive assistant with the New Orleans Saints and the Baltimore Ravens, Spagnuolo is back with New York, aiming to recapture the glory of his tenure with the organization in 2007 and 2008.
Alas, not even Spagnuolo could foresee Jason Pierre-Paul blasting his hand to oblivion on the Fourth of July. JPP, offered a franchise tender in light of a rejuvenative campaign in 2014, was to be the cornerstone of the Giant defense in 2015. With news that he may not play the year surfacing over the weekend, the Giants are left with no options on the pass rush, other than hoping for Johnathan Hankins to build off his eye-opening rookie season and hoping beyond hope for Robert Ayers and Damontre Moore to pass for adequate.
On Sunday, despite injuries in the secondary and at linebacker, from the departure of safety Antrel Rolle to a slew of injuries, including the loss of middle linebacker Jon Beason (knee) and the losses of Justin Currie, Josh Gordy, Bennett Jackson, and Mykkele Thompson (all at the safety position), the Giants defense, not its highly-touted offense, toiled to provide Big Blue a late fourth quarter lead.[su_youtube_advanced url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdLwAOhzJ-4″]
If not for Trumaine McBride stepping out of bounds at the one-yard line after intercepting a ball knocked lose from a crushing Brandon Merriweather hit on wide receiver Devin Street, the Giants would have mustered two defensive touchdowns in one game, remarkable considering New York managed one all of last season (earlier on, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, thanks to a McBride tackle and strip, scooped up a Cole Beasley fumble for a 57-yard return for a score).[su_youtube_advanced url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXxYRDB-p_0″]
Dallas started the game with a 10:27 drive, of which New York held the Cowboys to a mere three points, thanks to great plays by Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara in the red zone. Rodgers-Cromartie, called for a criminally questionable defensive pass interference call in the fourth quarter that set up a Gavin Escobar touchdown to cut the score to 16-13, was beyond serviceable all night, especially given that his defense on Terrance Williams in the midst of the DPI call was otherwise stellar and would have forced Dan Bailey into a 37 yard field goal try. While the onus is on the officials for their mishandling of an otherwise iffy call, there was not much bad to be said of the secondary’s work, at least by the fourth quarter’s midway point, after which the Giants were abused up the middle on two separate Jason Witten touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the latter of which was the byproduct of an especially soft prevent defense employed by New York in the game’s closing moments.