EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As can happen when a team is getting its butt kicked every week, the players on the New York Giants' defense were tired of getting their butts kicked every week. So the week of their game in Chicago against the Bears, a group of them approached defensive coordinator Perry Fewell with some new ideas. It wasn't an angry meeting or an accusatory one, and Fewell didn't take it as such. But after a second straight game in which the defense didn't allow a touchdown, everyone around the team seems to agree it was a productive one.
"Just getting on the same page, I think, and simplifying some things to the point of, 'Let's go out there and see if they're better than us,'" was the way defensive end Justin Tuck characterized the meeting Monday, as the Giants dispersed for their bye week. "Just let us be an attacking defense and see what happens. And I think the last three games, the defense has been that way. The adjustment period was the first half against Chicago, and after that it's been kind of locked in."
A few things have come along with that, including the presence of early-October trade acquisition Jon Beason at middle linebacker and a couple of opponents in the Vikings and Eagles that are dealing with significant quarterback problems. But multiple players said after Sunday's game and again Monday that the results of that meeting a few weeks back have been showing up in successful scheme adjustments and better execution. After collecting just six sacks in their first seven games, the Giants got four in Sunday's victory in Philadelphia.
"We all saw something that wasn't working, and we tried to come up with some subtle ways to make it better -- players and coaches together," Tuck said. "Perry is pretty good at scheming, and I think sometimes it can slow you down. I thought we were a 'check-with-me' defense early in the season, and that's not really a good way for us to play. We want to be aggressive."
"We were adjusting too much and just not playing fast," cornerback Terrell Thomas said. "And I think, in the second half of the Chicago game, we saw how good we could be if we simplified things. I think we were trying to do too much at times, as a coaching staff and as players."
One thing that remained steady and reliable about the Giants during their 0-6 start to the season was the attitude in the locker room. Had there been nasty backbiting or public finger-pointing during that rough start, it's possible that a meeting such as this could not have taken place -- or at least that it would have been more contentious. But safety Antrel Rolle described it as "a lot of speaking to each other as men," and that's the part that appears to have made head coach Tom Coughlin proud.
"The honesty, the openness about being able to discuss those kinds of things with your coach," Coughlin said. "That's what I make of it."
It'll be interesting to see whether the defense can continue to show the same kinds of results against what Coughlin described as "let's be frank -- a very difficult schedule in the second half of the year." But if nothing else comes out of the miserable stretch with which the Giants opened this season, the players and coaches at least know they can be honest with each other about what they think is wrong. And that's a pretty good blueprint for getting things fixed.