By Sean Hartnett
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The Giants were tested on Sunday as Tony Romo attempted to lead the Cowboys back from a 23-0 deficit.
All season long, the Giants’ secondary has been their Achilles’ heel, and Romo was able to take advantage of that weakness as he threw for a career-high for 437 yards. One man stood firm against Romo’s aerial assault and came up with three crucial turnovers that proved vital as the Giants squeaked out a hard-fought 29-24 victory.
That man was Stevie Brown. The Giants’ 25-year-old strong safety has been an unexpected solidifying force after stepping into Kenny Phillips’ shoes. He wasn’t expected to be a major contributor when he signed in April, but Brown has made the most of his opportunity.
“There is just a motto around here,” Brown said Sunday. “If somebody goes down, you have to fill in, and you can’t have a let-off. And that’s how everybody thinks around here.”
Brown has started the Giants’ past four games in place of Phillips, who has been unavailable since sustaining a knee injury against the Eagles in Week 4.
The former Michigan Wolverine has gone beyond expectations. Sunday was the biggest proof of Brown’s growing reputation around the league.
His first of two interceptions came 5:37 minutes into the first quarter when he slid in front of Dez Bryant to pick off Romo and marched the ball to the Cowboys’ 27-yard-line. This set the stage for more big plays in the fourth quarter as Brown turned his game up a notch.
When the Giants regained their lead late in the fourth quarter, Brown was the security blanket the G-Men desperately needed as Antrel Rolle left the game with a head injury. Brown pounced upon a loose ball after Felix Jones coughed it up at the Cowboys’ 45-yard-line.
On the Cowboys’ next drive, Brown again intercepted Romo, who threw off-balance after being chased out of the pocket in the red zone on fourth down.
It was a nervy finish for the Giants as their offense failed to put the game away. Ahmad Bradshaw came one yard short of a first down and New York was forced to punt, giving the ball back to Romo and the Cowboys with 44 seconds to work with.
Romo had multiple opportunities to take shots at the end zone. After a couple tense moments and an overturned touchdown call, the Giants were fortunate to sneak out of Cowboys Stadium with the victory.
“That’s the way it is in this division,” Tom Coughlin said during his postgame press conference. “Every time we come here, it’s a nail-bitter in some way, shape or form.”
Following his three turnovers on Sunday, Brown now leads all NFL defenders with seven turnovers. He’s a huge reason why the Giants’ defense doesn’t always break when it’s been tested throughout 2012.
The Giants are the 26th-worst team in the NFL against the pass as they’ve given up 273.5 passing yards per game. If not for Brown’s timely plays and nose for the ball, they wouldn’t have a sizable NFC East lead with their sterling overall record of 6-2.
It remains to be seen what kind of role Brown will have once Phillips returns to full health, but in the meantime his contributions have been nothing short of outstanding.
Which begs the question — What can’t Brown do for Big Blue?
How impressed are you by Stevie Brown’s contributions? Sound off below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.