Another elite tight end for Giants to face
January, 18, 2012
By Matt Ehalt | ESPNNewYork.com
It's the gauntlet of tight ends.
The Giants have faced elite tight ends in both of their playoff wins, and that will continue Sunday when they take on San Francisco and Vernon Davis. Davis, a former first-round pick, was the hero of the 49ers' win over the Saints with 180 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning score.
"He's an NFL tight end and he is good at what he does," Giants safety Antrel Rolle said. "He is very explosive, a deep threat, he can get upfield, he can make defenders miss. That is what makes him pretty special."
Once perceived to be a problematic area for the Giants, Big Blue has excelled in shutting down elite tight ends in the playoffs. In the 24-2 win over Atlanta, the Giants held veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez to just four catches for 44 yards. Gonzalez finished fifth among tight ends in receiving yards this season.
Last week, the Giants put an emphasis on shutting down Jermichael Finley, who torched them for six catches and 87 yards as well as a touchdown in their meeting on Dec. 4. On Sunday, the Giants held Finley to just four catches for 37 yards despite being targeted nine times in the game. Finley was third among all tight ends in touchdowns this year.
"Keep giving them different looks," linebacker Michael Boley said of how the Giants have slowed down two top tight ends in the last two weeks. "Don't give them something to key on. Keep giving them different looks. Keep them off their game. Keep them off balance."
Now the Giants turn their attention to Davis, who has come on strong in his last two games. After posting just one 100-yard outing in the first 15 games, Davis has rebounded to top 100 yards in each of his last two games.
In Sunday's win, he had a huge catch that helped give the 49ers prime field position on their game-winning drive and later collected the decisive score. His 180-yard day was his season-high showing.
"Vernon Davis is a very good football player," defensive tackle Chris Canty said. "He presents a lot of challenges for each level of the defense, from defensive line from a blocking standpoint to the linebackers and secondary and coverage. So he's a tremendous weapon for them, he's a team leader for them. We have to be prepared for that."
When the Giants faced Davis in the teams' first meeting on Nov. 13, he had three catches for 40 yards and registered a 31-yard touchdown on a play in which the Giants' had a busted coverage. A few Giants mentioned how Davis' speed is what makes him so tough to defend.
"I think he is a lot faster than pretty much every tight end you are going to face in this league," Rolle said. "I think he is definitely among the fastest, if not the fastest. That is what puts him over the edge."