Head coach Tom Coughlin believes in two things in building a winner – run the ball and stop the run – and his team has done neither as of late.
“There’s a few things that have to be fixed. Certainly you have to stop the run [and] you got to run the ball,” said Coughlin. “We’ve got a bunch of guys hanging around rather than penetrating, making the play on the ball, you know, figuring someone else is going to make the tackle. No, you have to make the tackle. [We have] people out of position, people blocked, [and] not making the tackle, [and] not positioning ourselves … There’s been a lot of poor play with regards to that.”
Coughlin has reason for concern, as the Giants’ run defense has been a sieve in last six games, yielding 191, 84, 80, 248, 119 and 158 yards. That last total was apparently the last straw for Coughlin considering the Steelers are no longer considered a running team.
It was especially hurtful to many within the locker room that Isaac Redman was the one to gash them, considering Redman is listed as the third-string running back behind Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer.
“We can’t be allowing backup running backs do that to us,” said safety Antrel Rolle.
Redman rushed for 147 yards on 26 carries, including the game-winning, 1-yard touchdown with 4:02 left, and it’s left a sour taste in the mouths of the Giants’ players and coaches three days later. The Giants hope they can remedy that problem as they face a Bengals squad (26th in the league in rushing) not known for their rushing prowess. But they are persistent in their approach, as they attempt 25 carries a game and average 3.8 yards per tote.
The Giants hope they can get their own method of fix-it in the form of a healthy Chase Blackburn. The middle linebacker is the team’s leading tackler with 46 (33 solo) and is counted upon as the quarterback of the defense since the eight-year veteran also calls the defensive signals.
Coughlin said he “definitely” missed Blackburn, who suffered a hamstring injury two weeks ago in Dallas, and hopes to see Blackburn fully participate in practice sometime this week.
Blackburn, who had to watch from the sidelines as the Steelers gashed his defense, didn’t sound too optimistic that he’d suit up for the Bengals, but has been encouraging his teammates and dropping advice on how to right the ship.
“We had some poor tackling, I think. Even the runs that were hit for three or four yard gains, we hit them at minus-one, or one yard, or at the line of scrimmage, and they just continued to roll forward for a little bit,” Blackburn said. “For a bigger back like [Redman or the Bengals’ BenJarvus Green-Ellis] we’ve got to get him by his legs and stop them from churning. They do a good job of working their feet [and] continuing to drive. We’ve just got to get [their] feet out from under them so that we can get them in second-and-long and third-and-long, instead of giving them manageable downs.”
Since coming over from the Patriots as a free agent this past offseason, Green-Ellis hasn’t been the prolific featured-back the Bengals thought they were getting. His 487 yards, 3.4 yards per carry and three scores aren’t anything the Giants should fear on paper, but Coughlin said “there’s concern” simply because just about anybody has been able to run on the Giants.
The hope for the Giants is that if Blackburn misses his second-straight game — a high possibility considering the Giants are on a bye the following week — second-year pro Mark Herzlich improves as Blackburn’s fill-in.
Coughlin said Herzlich “played OK, [but] he can be better.” That’s hardly a ringing endorsement of his young linebacker, or the rest of the interior of the defense for that matter. Herzlich did record eight tackles (six solo) against the Steelers, but Coughlin said statistics count only for half the battle when it comes to evaluating the interior run defense.
“It’s been soft, no question,” Coughlin said. “We got pushed a little bit up front. Their big bodies knocked us back and, as I said, from time to time we got a little bit better. We didn’t tackle well. We missed 12 tackles in the game. … So there’s lots of room for improvement.”
Big Blue notes
»Defensive end Justin Tuck put the team’s current funk in perspective when recalling the recent play: “With a handful of plays we could be undefeated [over the last five games]. It’s the NFL. When I retire, I might start doing some studies on what that means, but the NFL is so funny that way. It’s amazing that we lost [to Pittsburgh] and we felt like crap, but if we would have played the same exact way and Ben [Roethlisberger] would have fumbled one of those snaps, and we would have picked it up and scored a touchdown to win the game at the buzzer, we would have come in here today and probably felt like we played the greatest game ever. So it’s all about wins and losses in this league and it doesn’t matter what you do in a loss or what you do in a win. If you lose the game, you’re going to feel like crap. If you win it, you’re going to feel tremendously better.”
»The Giants have received a one-game roster exemption for safety Will Hill, whose four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances has expired.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.