Giants’ defense has to step up on Eli Manning’s special day


Eli Manning’s big day on Sunday will be a two-pronged affair.

He will be inducted into the Giants’ Ring of Honor for his work at quarterback for 16 years, the longest run of any player in franchise history. He will have his No. 10 jersey retired — truly a rare achievement — based largely on the two Super Bowls he helped win for the Giants, as he was named MVP in both of them.

Manning won those two Super Bowls despite directing offenses that scored just 17 and 21 points against the Patriots, in games four years apart. Twice, he spearheaded fourth-quarter touchdown drives for the winning points. Yet if his defense had not risen up, not once, but twice, to thwart and often pummel Tom Brady, neither of the two silver Lombardi Trophies would be in the case at the Giants’ facility and No. 10 would not be out of usage, Manning’s alone for posterity.

It takes a defense to win, and that is the lesson the Giants of today need to remember as they face the Falcons in a meeting at MetLife Stadium of two 0-2 teams.

Teams do not get split down the middle, but if they did, the Giants’ offense would be 1-1 this season and the Giants’ defense would be 0-2. This is not supposed to be the state of affairs for a team that won six games in 2020 largely because its defense was ultra-competitive. This group returns largely intact, with the addition of Adoree’ Jackson at cornerback and with safety Xavier McKinney healthy from the get-go. Rather than leading the team, however, the defense has been a drag on the Giants.

The Giants will need to lean on their defense to take down the Falcons.
The Giants will need to lean on their defense to take down the Falcons.
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

“The good thing about my job is you get another test the next week, and that’s the best part about it,” defensive coordinator Pat Graham said. “Whether I failed the test last week, I get another crack at it, so I’m looking forward to it.’’

The Giants who get paid to coach and play defense all failed in Week 2. Any time the Giants score 29 points, they should win, and that Washington put up 30 to beat them in that Thursday night game means all involved had 10 days to get things right.

“I think the biggest thing is just the attention to detail,’’ linebacker Blake Martinez said. “I think there’s just little lax lapses out there, and they’re finding it this year I think more. I think for us, it’s just focusing in on those things because it ends up being kind of a one-off thing. One guy here, one guy there, or you go to the sideline and it’s like, ‘Oh, OK, hey, I need to fix this small thing.’ Next thing you know it’s a big snowball effect.’’

Asked if he suspects opposing teams went to school on what the Giants did on defense in 2020, Martinez said: “Potentially. Probably in some sort, some way. More tape you put out there, teams are going to look at some kind of tendencies we have.’’

If so, it is up to Graham to change those tendencies. Pairing Jackson with James Bradberry was supposed to free Graham up to use more man-to-man coverage, something that has not happened. Teddy Bridgewater and Taylor Heinicke exploited large seams in the pass defense and, if those seams remain, there is reason to believe Matt Ryan will be able to do the same for the Falcons — especially if the Giants’ edge rushers continue to lag behind.

“At the heart of it, I play zone coverage,’’ Graham said. “Zone coverage, you play with zone vision, break on the ball. That’s why you play zone.

“We’re going to see what’s best for this game — zone, man, whatever it may be, pressure, not pressure — but, again, it’s a calculated risk and calculated decisions in terms of what we think is best and we’ll rock and roll from there.’’



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