The Giants’ defense in Week 4 entered their second straight game without arguably the unit’s top player: defensive lineman Leonard Williams. Wink Martindale’s group saw the effects of missing a player like that in a loss to Dallas the week prior and needed someone like Dexter Lawrence to step up.
After all, New York allowed Cowboys running backs Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott to combine for 178 yards on 28 carries (6.4 yards per carry).
With Williams out again vs. the Bears on Sunday, Big Blue needed superb defensive line play in both the run-stopping and pass-rushing departments, given the absence of Williams’ sheer versatility. Ergo, Lawrence had to come up big.
And boy, did he ever.
The fourth-year player finished with five combined tackles, three quarterback hits, and two sacks. He was on the field for a whopping 94% of the defensive snaps and 33% of the special teams’ snaps. Lawrence’s efforts ultimately prevented the Bears’ offense and quarterback Justin Fields from making too much of an impact. Which, in turn, helped take pressure off the Giants’ offense in a 20-12 win.
“Dexter’s a dog. I love playing with him,” outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari said after Sunday’s victory. “The way he rushes, the way he plays. He’s got that dog in him. And we feed off that. Great teammate.”
Although the Bears’ passing attack is incredibly weak (last in the NFL with 97.5 yards per game), Chicago’s offense can find temporary sparks on the ground. But this Giants defense, even without Williams, prevented the Bears’ run game and the mobile Fields from garnering too much success in that area.
How did the unit get the job done?
“It takes all 11,” Lawrence said after the game. “We had a good week in practice on a short week. Just everybody getting 11 hats to the ball, everybody gang tackling. So, that was just the plan. To keep [Fields] contained and everybody get to the ball.”
Linebackers Tae Crowder and Jaylon Smith (who the Giants elevated from the practice squad for the game), also combined for 11 and seven tackles, respectively. Crowder, Ojulari, and outside linebacker Jihad Ward notched sacks, as well.
Overall, the Giants only allowed 304 total yards and four field goals. For the first time this season, the unit didn’t let its opponent score a touchdown, despite the Bears’ three trips to the red zone.
“Bending, but not breaking,” Lawrence said of the defense. “We’re big on ‘play the next down’. The next play is our play type of thing. You’re kind of seeing that in the red zone.”