Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Updated: November 4, 8:44 PM ET
Giants aim to contain Wes Welker
By Ohm Youngmisuk
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Pittsburgh Steelers didn't devise some elaborate scheme to slow down Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, according to Antrel Rolle.
"They played ball, man," the Giants safety said of the Steelers containing the Patriots' offense in a 25-17 win last Sunday. "They didn't do anything spectacular, they weren't double-teaming, they weren't doing anything ... they just lined up and kicked their ass. Bottom line. That is what they did. They stayed on them the whole game, not just Wes Welker, everyone. They played great ball."
If Rolle has his way, the New York Giants (5-2) will do what the Steelers did against New England -- attack the Patriots' pass defense, keep the ball away from Brady and keep Wes Welker quiet.
The Steelers held Welker to his lowest output this season with six receptions for 39 yards.
Still, there is no bigger challenge in the slot than Welker. But Rolle didn't want to really discuss why the slippery Patriots receiver has given so many other teams fits this season.
"I don't know, you've got to ask those guys he's giving trouble to," Rolle said. "I don't plan on having to answer those questions. Our job is to go out there and do what we need to do as a unit. It's not going to be a one-man defense. It's not about Wes Welker. There's 10 other guys you have to account for. They run a very respected offense and they're good at what they do."
Even though the Giants struggled with winless Miami last Sunday, they are eager for Sunday's test in New England. In fact, it almost feels as if the Giants are energized by the challenge of facing coach Bill Belichick and Brady.
"Personally, I love it," Rolle said. "I love the challenge. I love going against the best. It's a true testament of where our defense is."
When told that he sounds confident about the Giants' chances of duplicating what Pittsburgh did, Rolle displayed his typical swagger.
"I'm confident every week, man," Rolle said. "I am confident every week. I am a cocky (guy)."
Despite the bravado, Rolle and the Giants secondary will have to find a way to slow down the NFL's third-ranked offense.
Pittsburgh managed to do that by keeping the ball out of New England's hands for 39 minutes. Brady completed 24-of-35 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers in the limited time he possessed the ball.
The Giants also will have to find a way to do a better job defending against the run and the no-huddle.
They are allowing 145 rushing yards or more in their last five games. Also, the Giants have surrendered big plays this season, giving up 32 yards or more on a play 11 different times.
Welker, who did not practice on Wednesday due to a neck issue, has caught passes for 99 yards and 73 yards this season and has 124 yards or more receiving in a game four times this year.
Since the Giants' secondary has been hammered by injuries, having lost cornerbacks Terrell Thomas, Bruce Johnson, Brian Witherspoon and Justin Tryon for the season, Rolle has had to cover slot receivers at times.
The Giants could opt to put Corey Webster or Aaron Ross on Welker. Webster has been covering the opposing team's best receiver this season.
"We play good receivers in the slot all the time," Rolle added. "(Welker's) definitely a monster elite receiver in the slot position. He makes a lot of things happen. Brady also helps him out with that. And they have a great offense. They have a great chemistry."
The Steelers controlled the clock through the air as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw 50 times for 365 yards. The Giants, who have had all sorts of problems running the ball this season, likely will have to do the same with their fourth-ranked passing offense going up against New England's 32nd-rated pass defense.
The Giants also will have to rely on their other strength -- putting pressure on Brady with their pass rush, which leads the NFL with 26 sacks.
"They like to throw the ball but the first thing, and always first thing with us, we want to stop the run," said safety Kenny Phillips. "If we do that, our D-line will have a great time.
"(Brady) is very accurate but I think if we get after him we can rattle him up a little bit."
Getting pressure on Brady would certainly conjure up memories of the last time they faced him in a meaningful game -- Super Bowl XLII. But the Giants are keeping those cherished memories from the 2007 season in the past.
The Giants have enough to worry about in the present and the future. The New England game opens a brutal six-game stretch that includes San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Green Bay and Dallas.
"I don't worry about our schedule," Rolle said. "I think our schedule needs to worry about us. That's my approach. That's the way I look at it, and that's the way I'm always going to look at it."
And certainly the Giants and Rolle have taken a close look at what Pittsburgh did to slow down Welker.
"I don't know how many passes he got this past Sunday," Rolle said. "Pittsburgh did a great job with him. And, you know, he's human at the end of the day. He is a great receiver and you don't take anything from him but he is human at the end of the day. The game has to be played on Sunday and I will answer more questions after the game."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com.