- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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The literal push for the playoffs will start up the middle.
As the Giants prepare to try and stop Tony Romo in Sunday night's showdown for the NFC East title, the defense is going to need a big push inside from its defensive tackles to help prevent Romo from making plays outside the pocket.
"I think our tackles are really the key – the guys like Chris Canty and Linval Joseph getting that push in the middle," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "I think that's really the key. And then for us not just running up the field on the guy so that we create running lanes for him because he is a good scrambler also. But I think the inside push is really what we need."
The last time the Giants faced Dallas, Romo lit up the Giants for 321 yards and four touchdowns while completing 21-of-31 passes. While the Cowboys lost, Romo posted the highest quarterback rating he ever had in a losing effort. There were several big plays that Romo made out of the pocket to burn the Giants for long gains.
While Jason Pierre-Paul has been arguably as good getting after the quarterback as any defensive end in football this season, the Giants need their interior players to get in on the action against the Cowboys. That will put the emphasis on Canty, Joseph, Rocky Bernard and perhaps Jimmy Kennedy, if he is active, to win the interior battles.
"We got to do our jobs, stay in our lanes and push the pocket," Joseph said. "He's not that tall so pushing the pocket, he starts to freak out a little bit, so if you push the pocket and keep him inside, hopefully you make a lot more plays."
Joseph said that the Giants plan to try and force Romo to his left when he has to throw, as that makes throws more difficult for him as right-handed thrower. Romo also currently is dealing with a swollen hand that may or may not have an effect on how he can throw the ball in both teams' biggest game of the year.
"Any time you can get in a quarterback's face it's good," defensive end Dave Tollefson said. "You don't want him to have that good eyesight down the field. So of course it's important. It's important for all four positions to make sure you stay within the lanes that you're rushing and stuff like that."
If the defensive tackles can push the pocket as they hope, it could make it a long night for Romo and company. That would be a welcome sign for a Giants defense that struggled to slow down Dallas' quarterback in the first meeting.
"We just have to play a more solid game, more technique and fundamentally sound and stop hurting ourselves," linebacker Michael Boley said. "We did that a lot last game."
1dDan Graziano and Adam Caplan