- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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Antrel Rolle pleaded with the New York Giants to bring a "dog" mentality and nastier disposition to the field. The veteran safety got what he wished for in Sunday's blowout victory over the New Orleans Saints.
"Oh yeah, I saw a lot of dog," Rolle said with a smile. "No pit bulls. I didn't see any pit bulls. We are saving that for the long haul."
Perhaps that will come out when the Giants' defense really starts playing the way it knows it can. On Sunday, when they face the Falcons in Atlanta, the Giants will be reminded of just how dominant they can be.
It was against the Falcons that the Giants started their playoff march to the Super Bowl by suffocating Atlanta 24-2 in a wild-card game at MetLife Stadium last January.
Rolle says hunting season will continue in Atlanta on Sunday for the dogs in blue.
"We know that we are going up against a great team that is hungry, especially coming off a loss to Carolina," Rolle said on his weekly spot on WFAN radio on Tuesday about the Falcons. "But the game has to be played Sunday.
"And we are going to go after them," he continued. "We have our foot on the pedal now and we are not going to let off under any means necessary. You know, the dogs will be down there hunting come Sunday."
This season, the Giants' defense has had some shining moments, dominating Carolina and San Francisco on the road and holding Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to 10 points at home.
But the defense has also given up big passing plays with breakdowns. Sacks have been hard to come by at times and some teams have gained chunks of rushing yards against Perry Fewell's defense. In five of their last seven games, the Giants have allowed 116 yards rushing or more to their opponent.
While the defense forced four turnovers against the Saints and finally conquered Drew Brees, the Giants still allowed New Orleans to gain 487 yards of total offense.
"We did the things we had to do basically when we had to do them," Tom Coughlin said of his defense.
Brees threw for 354 yards and had a touchdown, and he connected with Josh Morgan on passes of 62 and 44 yards. The Giants managed just one sack while also allowing the Saints to rush for 142 yards.
"It wasn't a signature defensive performance," defensive tackle Chris Canty said. "There were a lot of miscues and things that we have to get cleaned up and corrected, namely the big plays both in the run game and the pass game. We've got to find a way to get those issues fixed."
The Giants sacked Rodgers five times three games ago. But they only have one other sack, which came against the Saints, in their last four games.
"I think a lot of times everyone gets so caught up in the number of sacks and quarterback hits," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "We had a term about keeping the quarterback's feet hot, and I don't think Drew got too comfortable in that pocket."
"I don't think he was able to go through his progressions as much as he has in the past," Tuck added. "And I think that led to some bad throws and guys in the back end made some plays and we were able to capitalize."
The Giants know they will need their defense to step up and play well if they want to repeat as division champs and defend their title in the playoffs.
In their past two wins, the defense answered the call by containing prolific passers like Rodgers and Brees to numbers they can live with. But in their past three defeats -- to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Washington -- the defense either failed to finish in the fourth quarter and find a way to get the opposing offense off the field, or it just didn't show up, as was the case in Cincinnati.
The Giants know what they are capable of doing on defense. They've seen glimpses in recent wins over Green Bay and New Orleans. If they can play like that, and also pressure the quarterback and stop the run better, Rolle might see those pit bulls he's talking about -- especially up front.
"We set the tone," Canty said of the defensive line. "And that's one of the things that that we haven't done consistently in setting the tone for our defense. It makes everybody's job on defense easier and it definitely energizes our football team."
"So we understand that we carry that flag," Canty added. "We carry that banner and we have to pick it up."