EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — There was an unexpected mystery around New York Giants headquarters just days before this weekend’s NFC East showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles (9-4).
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell missed his weekly press conference with the media on Thursday. The Giants (9-4), of course, told the media not to worry. Fewell would be available on Friday.
That didn’t stop the speculation. Was Fewell locked in a room drawing up some super-secret game plan to shut down Michael Vick and the Eagles on Sunday at New Meadowlands Stadium?
No one wanted to say.
Players believe Fewell will have something for them. Last month in Philadelphia, the defensive guru had a simple plan. Either keep Vick in the pocket or force him to roll to his right if he breaks containment. The goal was to make the left-hander throw across his body when he was on the move. For the most part, it worked. Vick was limited to 258 yards passing and no touchdowns.
In a season filled with great Vick moments, that game really didn’t have one. The Eagles, in fact, scored just one touchdown in five trips to the red zone. But — thanks to LeSean McCoy’s 50-yard, fourth-down, fourth-quarter run with less than five minutes to play — the Eagles still managed to escape with a 27-17 win.
The difference between winning and losing might have been a fraction of an inch on McCoy’s run. Vick bobbled the snap and Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora seemingly was a fingertip away from deflecting Vick’s pitch.
“I was frustrated because I thought we should have won and we gave them the game,” Umenyiora said Thursday. “Anytime you do that, I know how tough it is to win in this league and you don’t want to give anyone the game, and that’s what we did.”
While many wonder what Fewell will come up with Sunday, players are expecting more of a tweak than a new gameplan. Why change something that worked?
“We have to do more,” cornerback Terrell Thomas said. “We lost that game. We had the lead in the fourth quarter and lost it. We lost the fourth quarter. Our team is built around our defense and we take responsibility. We obviously had a lot of turnovers (five) and misfortunes, but we have to win that game for our offense and our team.”
The Giants blitzed Vick plenty in the first game, but defensive lineman Justin Tuck said not all of the blitzes were called.
“There were a lot of secondary blitzes, a lot of things that are keyed blitzes,” Tuck said. “It wasn’t necessarily called blitzes. It might have looked like they were blitzes and that might be one of the reasons we had more success. We’ll tweak some things here and there and solve this problem of a five-game losing streak against the Eagles.”
Veteran safety Deon Grant says Fewell allows his defenders to think on the field and not be robots.
“I think that’s good that Perry gives us that freedom,” Grant said. “It keeps the offense off balance. They (the Eagles) can think we’re going to go in this formation and they are definitely going to do this. But Perry says if they come in this, do that. He gives us the freedom to change things.”
Linebacker Keith Bulluck said flushing a quarterback away from side of his throwing arm is not novel. The oddity with Vick is that he is a left-hander. So where the Giants would want either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady to scramble to their left, the goal is to make Vick go right.
“He is a mobile quarterback and you want him to be mobile away from his strength,” Bulluck said, “away from where he can throw the ball 60 yards with a flick of his wrist.”
DeSean Jackson, who has burned the Giants with big plays in recent years, was limited to five catches for 50 yards in Philadelphia. Jeremy Maclin had the big game instead, catching nine passes for 120 yards.
Cornerback Corey Webster said the defense did a good job of slowing Jackson at the line of scrimmage, allowing the line to get pressure on Vick.
“I’m very confident he’ll come up with something,” Webster said of Fewell. “We’ve been doing it all year and everyone is buying into the system. Nothing new this week. We’ll go out and do the same thing.”
Safety Antrel Rolle said the Eagles will tweak their offense as much as the Giants do with their defense.
“It’s all about how bad do you want it,” Rolle said. “That’s what it boils down to.”
NOTES: LB Michael Boley did not practice because of a bruised shoulder. He expects to play Sunday. … G Chris Snee (hip) worked on a limited basis, along with C Shaun O’Hara (foot), T Shawn Andrews (back) and receiver Mario Manningham (hip).
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.