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Giants' Chris Canty, Linval Joseph, Rocky Bernard are Quietly Getting The Job Done


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Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan took the snap out of the shotgun on first-and-15 late in the second quarter, deep in Atlanta territory, and by the time he completed his three-step drop, the Giants’ defensive front had already collapsed the pocket. Again, as has frequently been the case in recent weeks, a member of the Giants’ vaunted pass rush was draped all over an opposing quarterback and Ryan was sacked for an 8-yard loss in the 24-2 Giants victory Sunday.


On this play, the culprit wasn’t any one of the four defensive ends so often credited for wreaking havoc. It was Rocky Bernard, a defensive tackle. Yes, the Giants have those, too.


For Bernard, an 11-year veteran, it was his first sack since last season and he reveled in the rare spotlight, delivering the signature shoulder shake sack dance he had popularized during his seven seasons in Seattle.


“We joke about that all the time as far as ‘the defensive ends of the New York Giants,’ ” defensive end Dave Tollefson said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, we got D-tackles, too!’ But obviously it’s kind of like an unsung hero type of deal because you could argue that their job is much more important than ours.”


While the Giants’ rotation of stalwart defensive ends has received plenty of accolades in recent weeks, the attention has partly come as a product of improved play in the interior from Bernard, Chris Canty and Linval Joseph — both against the run and pass.


“Defensive ends always get more credit,” retired Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said. “One, because you get more sacks because you’re in a better position to get sacks. And secondly, we’re just absolutely better looking. That’s another reason.”


It was the interior’s ability to hold strong in the middle that stonewalled Ryan from gaining ground on either of his quarterback sneaks on fourth-and-1. And they were crucial against the conventional run as well, holding Michael Turner, the league’s third-leading rusher in the regular season, to just 41 yards on 15 carries.


Yet, it’s difficult for the casual viewer to appreciate their impact — there isn’t much glory in eating up blocks in the trenches and creating gaps for linebackers to make plays in.


“It’s not the sexy part of the defense, but it’s very much appreciated inside this locker room,” linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said.

Such success against the run forces teams into obvious passing downs, and that’s when the ensemble of defensive ends — the Giants often play four ends on the line in passing situations — can make a substantial impact.


“The play of those guys has been overshadowed,” Strahan said. “I think it’s just because we look at the numbers of sacks and the guys who make those plays that stand out. But without those guys inside playing the way they’ve played the last few weeks, you’re not going to get great play out of the defensive ends. If you do, it’s going to be sporadic.”




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But, as they have shown in recent weeks, the defensive tackles can hold their own in getting to quarterbacks.


In addition to Bernard’s takedown of Ryan on Sunday, Canty had a sack in three of the Giants’ last four regular-season games, including one of the Jets’ Mark Sanchez that gave the Giants a safety.


“The pressure’s on them to get sacks, too, now,” Tollefson said. “No one’s a blocking dummy.”


Then there’s Joseph, who had the best game of his young career the last time out against the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 4, recording a career-high nine tackles. In that contest, the Packers, like most teams do against the Giants, had a game plan to slow down the defensive ends, allowing the tackles to make plays when available.


Joseph said he expects more of the same on Sunday and against a quarterback as dynamic as Aaron Rodgers, they will also need to provide a rush up the middle to prevent Rodgers from stepping up in the pocket and force him into any one of the Giants’ ends where they can reap the rewards of an interior push.


It may not conclude with a defensive tackle showcasing a sack dance, but that isn’t a concern for them.


“I like it like this,” Joseph said. “We’re like the O-linemen in a sense.”



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