The New York Giants’ 25-3 upset over the Carolina Panthers featured an outstanding effort by its much-maligned defensive unit that, coming into the game, ranked 27th overall and was tied for 29th in points allowed (29.5 points per game).
But that same Giants defense found a way to clamp down on the Panthers (who averaged 23.6 points per game), holding them to just three points on a 45-yard field goal scored on their opening drive, and just 173 yards of total offense.
From their run game to their pass game, the Panthers offense struggled to move the chains and put points on the board. Some of their shortcomings were self-inflicted through penalties. But the Giants defense orchestrated a well-balanced attack to minimize the damage against them.
“This was big time,” Giants defensive end Leonard Williams said when asked how much this defense needed a game like this.
“As a unit, we kind of talked about putting the team on our back more. We take pride in being a defensive team and you know so far this year we haven’t really been stepping up to the plate and I think this was a really big game for us. We didn’t allow any touchdowns and we’re putting our offense in some good field position and we closed the game out like we wanted to.”
After coming off two back-to-back games in which they allowed first 44 points to the Cowboys and then another 38 against the Rams, holding the Panthers to only three points was a big step in the right direction.
“I think we did a good job on first and second down,” Williams said when explaining what he felt made the difference this week. “It allowed us to get in some good third down situations where we were able to pass rush and then also actually be successful at the pass rush.”
Of the season-high ten hits and six sacks the Giants defense recorded against the Panthers, 1.5 sacks and three hits came from Williams alone. This impressive feat was recognized by Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold, once a teammate of Williams’s when the two played for the Jets.
“Leo’s a good player--he always has been,” Darnold said. “So I knew personally that he was going to come out and (be) ready to go like he always is.”
The Giants pass rush wasn’t the only unit that had a strong showing. Despite all the issues the Giants pass coverage has been through, they also put together a lights-out performance, collecting a season-high seven pass breakups and one interception.
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“I think we communicated well all around throughout the whole game,” said cornerback James Bradberry when asked what this group did differently to succeed. “I don’t think we did a good job of that the past few weeks, so, I think that was different today.”
Bradberry, who accounted for the lone Giants interception, did so when the defense implemented zone coverage, a play-calling tactic that worked well in generating turnovers last season.
But the 2020 Pro Bowl cornerback continued to point toward the improved communication among the defense's back end as the key to its success.
“This year I think we’re communicating well and alerting certain indicators that the offense is giving us,” Bradberry said. “Making sure everyone is on the same task. I think that’s one thing that’s helping us out right now.”
With just about everything clicking on defense for the Giants, they were able to disrupt the Panthers offense, making it near impossible for them to establish any kind of momentum.
“Yeah, I think obviously we credit the defense. They came out here and played a heck of a game,” Darnold said. “But it’s also us not executing, so we’ve got to figure out the details and understand that everyone’s got to be on the same page every single play and if we’re not, then we’re going to get out of rhythm and we’re not going to have the drives that we want.”
Next week, the Giants will take on the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night and will have to bring their best defensively once again if they aim to give their offense a chance to deliver another victory.
“It always starts with fundamentals,” head coach Joe Judge said when asked about the assessment of the defense’s performance. “The call, the scheme, the check, whatever it is against a certain opponent, that’s going to be different week by week.
“When we turned the (tape) on last week from the Rams game, there’s a lot of stuff that we had to correct, right? Not all of it will apply to what we’re going to do against the Panthers, but the fundamentals always apply. That’s what we had to do; that’s our emphasis right now, being a good fundamental team, eliminating mistakes.”
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