Mix-and-match secondary could dictate Giants' fortunes vs. Dallas Print
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Friday, 11 January 2008 13:09
NFL Headline News

 EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -The New York Giants' task in Sunday's playoff game is simple, but far from easy. They must slow down a Dallas offense that rivals New England's in its variety and quick-strike capability.
It's something few NFL teams have been able to do this season, and particularly the Giants, who have been used as a chew toy by Tony Romo, Terrell Owens and the gang.
In two regular season wins, Romo has thrown for just under 600 yards and eight touchdowns against New York.
If the Giants hope to have any chance of reaching the NFC championship game for the first time since the 2000 season, they will need another big game from a secondary that has undergone numerous makeovers due to injuries.
The unit played well against Tampa Bay in last weekend's wild-card game, intercepting Jeff Garcia twice and holding the Bucs to 207 yards passing. In its last three games, the secondary has intercepted five passes after intercepting none in its previous four.
``They did a great job last week, but part of our success was due to our defensive line getting pressure,'' linebacker Kawika Mitchell said. ``We've got to do the same thing this week. We all work together, so if the defensive line isn't getting its job done, the back line won't be able to do its job.''
That may be problematic for the Giants, who sacked Romo only two times in the two games, a glaring deficiency for a team that led the league with 53.
Another concern is the Cowboys' big-play capability.
In Dallas' 45-35 victory in September, Romo had seven completions of 20 yards or more, including touchdowns of 47 yards to Owens and 51 yards to Sam Hurd. New York allowed only three 20-plus pass plays in a 31-20 loss on Nov. 11, but all went for touchdowns.
``Every team in the league thrives off big plays,'' cornerback R.W. McQuarters said. ``They have a lot of weapons, and Romo does a good job moving in the pocket. We just have to minimize the big plays, not allow a long run after a catch and tackle well.''
With Sam Madison (abdominal strain) doubtful and Kevin Dockery (hip flexor) out for Sunday, the Giants will again shuffle the deck in the secondary and hope to produce a winning combination. In all, nine players have started at the four secondary positions this season.
McQuarters started the first Dallas game and eventually was replaced by rookie Aaron Ross. Corey Webster, the Giants' top draft pick in 2005, didn't start for the most of the season, but had a strong game against Tampa Bay with an interception and fumble recovery.
``I don't think our confidence level was shot after we played them,'' McQuarters said. ``We just gave up some big plays you don't want to give up. We've been confident since Day 1. The chemistry is good, it's gotten better over the year, and guys are playing well.''
Coach Tom Coughlin said center Shaun O'Hara (knee) and tackle Kareem McKenzie (ankle) were expected to play Sunday. O'Hara sprained a knee against New England and missed the Tampa Bay game; McKenzie injured his ankle against the Bucs.
 

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