The New York Giants are the NFL's last-ranked defense. The New England Patriots are the league's highest-scoring offense. When he hasn't been having nightmares, Giants' defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has surely cooked up some type of plan to slow Tom Brady and the Pats. Right?
"We need a couple of breaks, maybe he'll [Brady] have a bad day," Spagnuolo said. "That's what we're hoping for."
That's it? That's all the Giants have got? Hope the best quarterback in the league has a bad day?
Seriously, there is more to the Giants' plan than that. The Giants will try to make Brady uncomfortable, and they hope to create some turnovers. Neither of which will be an easy task.
The Giants have a league-low nine sacks, and even with the possibility he will be playing in front of a makeshift offensive line getting to Brady won't be easy. He is getting rid of the ball quicker than any quarterback in the league.
"I thought it was 2.15 or something ... or 2.18. Coach Coughlin had it the other day in the meeting ... it's fast, I know that," Spagnuolo said. "If you can push it a little bit and get him uncomfortable. ... And we've got to cover better, we'll mix the coverages up a little bit and maybe get a couple of knockdowns. There's no secret to it, he's back there in the gun and he's going to throw it. We've got to find a way on the back end to play a little bit tighter."
The Giants lead the league in takeaway/giveaway ratio at +12. The Patriots, though, are second at +7 and Brady has thrown only two interceptions all season.
"Hopefully when the guys catch it, we can get the ball out of the pass catcher," Spagnuolo said. "He's not going to throw it to you. He's going to make you earn an interception."
Here are other takeaways from Spagnuolo's weekly Thursday meeting with reporters.
On dealing with Rob Gronkowski
"Just sheer size makes it tough. We don't have anybody with that kind of size, a lot of teams don't. We're thinking about borrowing some of our tight ends that are as big as him, put them up there," said Spagnuolo. "But no, you've got to fight in different, other ways. Try to get him at the line of scrimmage and put three guys on him, I don't know. Find a way to take him away, he's pretty good."
On Jason Pierre-Paul
Spagnuolo admitted that the defensive end played more than expected, saying Pierre-Paul "probably talked [defensive line coach] Robert Nunn into going a few more than we anticipated." What did Spagnuolo think of Pierre-Paul's play in his first game since his July 4 fireworks mishap?
"Rusty, like you would expect him to be. He's trying to find his, I don't want to say find his niche, just find his tools, then oil them up and get ready to go," Spagnuolo said. "He's had another week under his belt, so hopefully that makes a difference this week."
On losing Johnathan Hankins
The Giants best defensive tackle tore a pectoral muscle while trying to make a tackle last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hankins forced a fumble, but is done for the year and has already undergone surgery.
"That's unfortunate for him. He reached out, I don't know if you saw the play, he reached out and tore his pec. We'll miss him, we'll miss him dearly," Spagnuolo said. "We've got guys, and obviously you see the roster move that we made. But we'll rotate in there, Cullen (Jenkins) may get in there and play a little bit more. We'll have to do the things that we do that make up for when a guy gets hurt. But we'll certainly miss him, he was playing good football I thought."
On blitzing less than he has in the past
Giants' fans remember Spagnuolo as an aggressive defensive coordinator who dialed up a number of creative blitz packages during his first stint with the Giants. Despite the team's inability to rush the passer most of the season, this time around Spagnuolo has relied much more on the four-man pass rush. The Giants blitz on 19 percent of defensive snaps, the seventh-lowest percentage in the league. League average is a blitz on 30 percent of snaps. Thursday, Spagnuolo acknowledged that and offered an explanation:
"There's a lot of reasons, I don't want to go into all of them. But one of the things that does get tough is when the parts are changing. There's certain positions that change a lot," Spagnuolo said. "And the other thing is we're always being cognizant of wanting our guys — look it, I think we function best, with this group of guys, and that's what you're always assessing, the guys you have — the group of guys that we have, who I love, play better when you just let them play. Less thinking, just play. I just think we function better that way.
"So some of the things you're talking about take a little bit more. So we've been trying to stick to things that we do and know and try to play fast, that's kind of been the motto."