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January 29, 2001

How to Beat the Giants' Defense

Go Hurry-up

The Giants struggle with the two-minute drill. In fact, the only
time the Eagles moved the ball against them in their playoff game
was in two-minute situations. In those situations the Giants rely
more on their base defense because it's harder to communicate
blitzes from the sidelines and change fronts. Plus, their
two-minute routine is so predictable you can almost script what
they're going to do. They're going to run the same three calls at
the start of the series. If you cross midfield, they're going to
blitz once and then go back to the top of the script. It's pretty
easy to get a rhythm going against them.

Account For Strahan And Barrow

The keys for them lately have been Michael Strahan (page 46) and
Micheal Barrow. Strahan will play straight-up in the run game,
but you need power to get him blocked. He'll dart inside, loop
outside, and then he'll bull-rush the tackle. When he does all
that, he'll get a lineman guessing, like the Vikings' Korey
Stringer was, and by then the guy is really confused. I could
see [right tackle] Harry Swayne having a tough time with
Strahan. The Giants will also bring Barrow off the edge against
a right tackle; that can also be tough for a lineman, because
Barrow has good speed.

Outfox Fox

Whether it's handling the blitz or a coverage, [defensive
coordinator] John Fox will keep calling defenses to exploit your
weaknesses until you find a way to handle them. Defensively, the
Giants aren't as fast or as talented as the Ravens, but they make
up for it with their schemes. They'll also get mismatches inside
because [tackle] Keith Hamilton is playing well and Baltimore's
interior linemen aren't very good.

Work on Number 91

Their linebackers are really good, but Ryan Phillips is the one
guy you might have an advantage against. It seems that every time
I've seen them play, the coaches are yelling at him about one
thing or another. He's the kind of guy who's solid with good
players around him, but it seems as if whenever he makes a play
it's because he happens to be in the right place, not because of
anything special he did.

Go After the Secondary

Their safeties are good--they play like linebackers--but their
cornerbacks play like safeties. Everyone in the secondary tackles
well, but you can run by both their corners. Jason Sehorn is a
great athlete, but Dave Thomas is one of those guys who opponents
will always go after. He doesn't give up many big plays, though,
because he has long arms that make it easy to jam receivers, and
they roll coverage to his side a lot. I always thought nickelback
Emmanuel McDaniel was a question mark. He's too small [5'9"] to
play slot receivers on passing downs, but he did make a hell of
an interception against Cris Carter in the NFC Championship Game.

Use Wideout Jermaine Lewis

He could be the X-factor. He can run trick plays, and Baltimore
sometimes does a lot of things to get the ball in his hands.
Qadry Ismail doesn't have great hands, and he's inconsistent.
Patrick Johnson isn't anything special. Lewis has the speed to
cause problems for the Giants' secondary, but he's small [5'7"].
Against big corners like Sehorn and Thomas, he may not get off
the line of scrimmage.

On the Other Hand

If you have speed at wide receiver and a quarterback who throws
accurately, you can hurt the Giants. The Ravens don't have that.
I'd bet anything that New York will give them an eight-man front
except on obvious long-yardage passing downs. I think Trent
Dilfer will hold the ball too long, and the Giants' defense will
make plays on him. New York is solid up front; you can't run at
any guy. Hamilton is superb, and even Strahan, who's supposed to
be the pass rusher in the group, has played the run better than
he ever has. Their linebackers are tremendously instinctive.
Barrow has been reborn. Jessie Armstead is one of the best
sideline-to-sideline players in the league, almost as good as
Ray Lewis.

How to Beat the Ravens' Defense

Confuse The Man in The Middle

You have to block Ray Lewis, which isn't easy, or he will make
every tackle. The best way to go at him is to run misdirection,
because if he can go sideline-to-sideline without worrying about
getting fooled, he's going to have a big game. The other way to
go at him is with a fullback to make sure he's accounted for.
Otherwise, [tackle] Tony Siragusa (page 50) will hold linemen
inside--I mean literally tackle people--so nobody can get to Lewis.
Maybe if you double-team [tackle] Sam Adams and Siragusa and lead
with a fullback, you can run a guy through the middle.

Throw Deep...

You have to beat their cornerbacks with speed. Chris McAlister,
in particular, can't handle it, and the Giants have to set him
up. He likes to cheat on quick routes like the slant, and I could
see the Giants running a lot of slant-and-gos, especially to
Amani Toomer, because the slant is their bread-and-butter route.
McAlister watches the quarterback more than the receiver, so if
New York wants to throw a slant-and-go, Kerry Collins will have
to sell the play as much as the receiver. But I don't know if the
Giants have a burner who can really get deep.

...But Stay Patient Too

Even though it's tough to do, the Giants have to learn to be
happy with three-yard gains. Don't let the Ravens turn you into
a one-dimensional offense, which they're so good at doing. The
run won't be there in the beginning, but don't leave it
entirely. You have to believe in it. Against Baltimore there's a
big difference between third-and-four and third-and-two, so if
you do have a third-and-short, you have to convert it. Don't be
stubborn and try to run for it every time. Instead, have
multiple short-yardage sets and mix things up. Don't let them
key on anything, because if you do, you're done for.

Attack Boulware

Their front seven is tough--Adams and Siragusa are two loads, Rob
Burnett and Lewis have had great years, and Michael McCrary and
Jamie Sharper play full-tilt all the time--but I think the one guy
who might be a weak link is end Peter Boulware. If you run at him
as much as you can and knock him around, he's the one guy who
might be a baby.

Use Barber

Tiki Barber is quick, but I don't think he has the speed to cause
Baltimore problems with the run. Plus, he has that bad left arm,
and I'm sure the Ravens will be all over that. New York's best
chance of using Barber is to try to create situations in which
Lewis is covering him. Ray usually doesn't cover anybody. He just
drops back and lets people catch the ball in front of him before
making the tackle.

Throw Underneath With Caution

You have to be careful throwing the short crossing route. If you
hang a pass or hesitate, it's going to get tipped, or the Ravens
are going to nail you and knock the ball loose. In addition, you
have to drill it in there with the short stuff because they're so
quick to the ball. They're tough against the run, but they have
become more aggressive against the pass. They used to sit back
and wait. Now they come after people and blitz a lot more.

On the Other Hand

There's no good way to scheme the Ravens. They have 11 really
good players, and it's all about [defensive coordinator] Marvin
Lewis. He has them flying around on every down, six and seven
guys hitting you, not taking a play off. And they don't just want
to hit you; they want to hurt you. Every time a ballcarrier
breaks the line of scrimmage, you see everyone releasing, hunting
him down. We looked for a long time trying to find weaknesses,
but couldn't. We went all the way back to the 1999 opener against
St. Louis--nothing.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY WALTER IOOSS JR. COVER D-Day Two Great Defenses Go Head to Head The Ravens' Tony Siragusa and the Giants' Michael Strahan COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY WALTER IOOSS JR. DEFLATING The Ravens' Tony Siragusa (left) and the Giants' Michael Strahan know how to take the air out of an offense. COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS STRONG SUIT Armstead and the rest of the Giants exploit weaknesses until a foe finds a way to stop them. COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES BEST MAN Because Lewis doesn't miss many tackles, New York should employ tactics that draw him out of position.

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