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Coach's game plan

Giants want their defense to dictate the game

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Posted: Friday January 26, 2001 11:39 AM
Updated: Sunday January 28, 2001 10:11 AM


Former NFL coach Ron Meyer, an analyst for the CNN/Sports Illustrated television network, discusses some likely game plans for the New York Giants in their Sunday showdown with the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV.

These two teams are similar in a lot of ways. I think Jim Fassel, the coach of the Giants, is probably thinking his defense is just as good as the defense he's going up against. So he's going to play to that defense.

He still has to do something offensively. He has to at least try the running game. Tiki Barber is, essentially, a specialty back. Ron Dayne is still learning, and he doesn't have that needed burst of speed. So they're going to be rejected in there. Still, he has to go with them.

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The one thing the Giants can get out of their running game is that they'll burn up some clock, and that's playing to your defense. It also protects the quarterback, Kerry Collins. So when they get to the point of having to throw the ball -- and they will -- Collins needs to be healthy.

The Giants will take their shots deep against the Ravens. They have to. That's the only weakness of the Baltimore defense. Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer have to get deep, or at least threaten to, or they'll play right into the Ravens' strength.

The Giants will pull out game tapes of the Jets' game, when the Ravens gave up 524 yards. And the Jets weren't the only team to crack the Baltimore defense. The Raiders had chances downfield against the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. They just didn't complete them.

I like the big uglies the Giants have up front on the offensive line. Glenn Parker, Lomas Brown, those guys. I think they match up well with the Baltimore defensive front. So I think Fassel thinks he can throw the ball on them. And if he gets 10 points up on the Ravens, he'll do just what Baltimore coach Brian Billick will do if the Ravens go up by 10. They'll both lock it up on you and let the defense take over.

Fassel knows that the quickest way to lose a game is to have something disastrous happen to you, something like a turnover in the passing game. That's why, if Fassel and the Giants get ahead, you'll see the running game come out on you.

Defensively for the Giants, they have to take running back Jamal Lewis out of the game. The problem for the Giants is I don't think their run defense is as good as the Ravens'. And Lewis is the best back on the field. He'll come at you in bunches.

Fassel will let Michael Strahan disrupt things up front. He'll be making his way into the Ravens' backfield sooner or later. The Ravens will have to protect their quarterback, Trent Dilfer, and one way to do that is to hand the ball off. So, again, stopping Lewis is huge for New York.

When the Giants force the Ravens into throwing, the key is stopping tight end Shannon Sharpe. He'll be in those nasty splits and all over the place to get him down the field. He's fast, too. He's really a wide receiver in a tight end's body.

The linebackers for the Giants have to jam him at the line, and they have to hit him if he catches the ball. The safeties will need to keep an eye on him, too. But the key is punishing him with linebackers. If he gets into the secondary, you have problems.

Sharpe will catch his passes. But if the Giants do things right, he'll also get splattered.

Neither of these teams will hesitate to go to their kicking game. The first team to get ahead may well be the team that wins. And it easily can come down to a field goal. The biggest challenge for the Giants' special team will be covering Baltimore kick returner Jermaine Lewis. He has to be shut down. The Giants may even think about kicking it out of bounds on him.

You want great hang-time on their punts and kickoffs, great discipline in the coverage lanes and an intensity that matches the Ravens'. Because you know the Ravens will be bringing that.

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