Lewis on the Defensive

Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis has come under plenty of fire due to the club's shoddy defensive play in recent weeks. On Tuesday, Lewis accepted full responsibility for what's gone wrong so far. Here's what he had to say.

Q: Do you know why you're not playing as well as you need to?

A: We're studying that right now. That's what we're doing. When I'm not down here, I'm up in the room looking at every situation we're not playing well in – obviously the red zone and third down. The run game, we're playing fairly well. Unfortunately, the third down is just keeping us from doing anything that we really want to do – getting them off the field, giving the offense an opportunity. And the red zone is not very good.

Q: Your players are surprised by this whole thing, because there was talk in the preseason about being a top five defense and now you're sitting near the bottom. How surprised are you?

A: I've been in the league now, this is however many years – nine years with the Steelers and this is my third year here. Nothing really surprises me very much. I remember we talked like that, too, when I was in Pittsburgh, fortunately. We were able to fight our way through some things and get into some playoffs, get into some championship games when it looked fairly bleak early. So I'm not surprised. I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed that we're not better than we are at this point. We still have some guys who we're working very hard with to get the communications (down), to get on the same page. It's cliché, I know, and it's coaching jargon, but at the same time, that's what we have to do. We have to take all of those parts that are new to the system, that are fresh to it, teach them what to do and get them to perform.

Q: Do you think the problem is miscommunication right now, or are you looking at yourself thinking the game plan is designed incorrectly?

A: I will tell you this: I know from a responsibility standpoint, it's my defense. When I got hired here to coordinate the defense, that's exactly what I got hired to do – coordinate it and put it together. From a communication standpoint, if they're not coordinated, if there are people running free – which you all, I'm sure, have noticed – it's my responsibility to get it corrected. Not necessarily just to find the fault, but to get it corrected. I'm not so much interested in whether or not it's this or that. Of course, you have to identify the problem in order to fix it, and that's what we're trying to do right now. Looking through all of our cutups and so forth – that's what we do every day to try to figure out what the problem is and then get it fixed. It's not necessarily a player. It's not necessarily the scheme. It's not necessarily individually any one thing, but just like any other problem, there's always probably a combination of everything, and that's what we're trying to tell.

Q: I know you're trying to get as much pressure as you can with four guys. Do you agree that that's not working?

A: I'm not sure that I get the question. I think I see what you're saying. Am I purposefully not calling blitzes to…

Q: Did you think that you had a good enough front four to get enough pressure with just those four guys?

A: I still believe that. I still believe that.

Q: And how often have you tried that in these first few weeks?

A: I don't know. I know, in general, my history has been probably about a 32-33 percent blitzer in a game, and we're a little bit higher than that right now.

Q: Are you less comfortable with that?

A: No. Not necessarily. I think it fits the situation. You have to do what you have to do to win each game. It's going to change. It will be different every game, every opportunity.

Q: So you think you're running about a 40 percent blitz, then?

A: No, just a little less than that.

Q: And how successful has your study been of getting where you need to go with the blitz?

A: Probably 50-50. It needs to be higher than that, obviously.

Q: LaVar Arrington is only blitzing about a quarter of the time. Is that because you're still trying to figure out how to use him, or is that what you're limited to by his physical skills at this point?

A: I would say this: if your perception of using him to blitz straight ahead and so forth was that he was going to do it 100 percent of the time he was in there, then you were misguided. We're just playing football. We're just playing defense. We're operating the defense based on what the situation gives us and the opportunities that we have based on down, distance and personnel. If what they have in calls for him to rush, or Antonio (Pierce) to rush, or someone else to rush, we're really just trying to play the game and not necessarily alter the entire game plan because he's on the field. We're trying to fit him in and manage him in with all of the things that we're trying to get done.

Q: Is that not what he does best?

A: We're still working on that. We're still trying to find exactly what it is that he does best and what he does as it relates to this entire defense – how he fits in with everyone else – because when you bring him, obviously other people have to play certain positions. And maybe they're not good for them as a match-up in the receiver corps. So it's a much bigger picture than just one guy.

Q: Physically, can he do everything that you ask him to do?

A: Yes. I think so.

Q: Is it fair to say that the first couple of game he hasn't blitzed as much because Peyton Manning knows how to find holes when guys are blitzing and the last two weeks, guys have been good at escaping?

A: The first game, I think he blitzed 11 times. That's what you said. It was more. And only five times or something like that on passes, or whatever? He was in 41 plays, I think. When you rush him, you're looking for that big impact. If we don't get it but we expose someone else, then it's not worth it, so you go to something else. So in the course of trying to call the game, you have to evaluate where you are, the down and distance, what's the field position, who do they have on the field, who is the quarterback, are you up, are you down – There's much more to it than just worrying about how many rushes ‘this' guy gets. There's a bigger picture. There's a bigger game to it.

Q: Will you be blitzing more against other teams? Did you blitz the amount against these teams that you did because of who the quarterbacks are?

A: Not necessarily because of who the quarterbacks were, but because of the game in general. The big picture. It has nothing to do with any one person. We blitz according to the plan, according to when the plan tells us that we can. If it doesn't match up very well, then we try not to.

Q: Are your pressures way down after three games from what you wanted?

A: No. You're talking about the actual pressure on the quarterback?

Q: Yes.

A: Oh, yeah, that's down. I thought you meant called pressure. They are. We're not getting nearly as much pressure on the quarterback as we need to, but that's what we're working on. We sit in here every day trying to figure out the best way to do it. Is it by movement? Is it by straight rush? Is it by called blitz? Is it zero coverage blitz? Is it just all-out? We're trying to evaluate those things right now, and we'll continue to do that.

Q: Coach Coughlin said that of five touchdowns, on four of them there was no discernable coverage. That can't all be pressure. That has to be big-time miscommunication.

A: Like I said before to Arthur's question, it's probably a little bit of both. I take full responsibility for it, no question about it. That's my job. It's my role. I understand that. I have to do a better job of getting all of that ironed out. Obviously there's no defense to put in that says, ‘Let that guy go, we want to score a touchdown right here.' We don't do that. That in mind, obviously, either I didn't explain something correctly during the course of the week, or the player didn't understand it. Either way, it ends up in a touchdown. It doesn't matter. Physically, we're not handicapped with regard to athletes. We have talent and we're going to get better.

Q: Coach Coughlin said yesterday that Arrington played better on Sunday. What does that mean?

A: He played better.

Q: What I'm saying is, the stat sheet was the same.

A: What stat sheet?

Q: The stat sheet as far as number of tackles and…He didn't have any sacks, but Coach Coughlin said he played better and you're agreeing.

A: When you watch the tape with a coach's eye, you have the review. You're not seeing errors. You're not seeing mistakes.

Q: You mean out of position?

A: No, errors. Mistakes. You're not saying, ‘Ok, that was a mistake. That was a mistake. That was an error. That wasn't right.' You're just not seeing mistakes and errors.

Q: Mental errors?

A: Errors. Technique, mental, what other types of errors are there?

Q: Missed tackles.

A: No, a missed tackle is not an error. It's just a missed tackle. It goes under that category. It's either an error or a missed tackle.

Q: As you study yourself in the next couple of weeks, are you going to change a certain percentage of what you do to call the game?

A: I would suppose that that would have to happen. Obviously, I know Coach Cowher used to say, ‘If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten.' We don't want to get any more of this. We have to do something differently.

Q: Will it be more pressure, or different pressure…?

A: I don't know. I would be able to tell you that after we get done with this thorough evaluation.

Q: Well, you're already blitzing more often than is typical, so it doesn't sound like you're saying in order to get the pressure, you'll bring more pressure. That's too simple.

A: We're going to find out. We have a tremendous wealth of experience on our coaching staff. We're going to tap into it and we're going to find a way to get the job done. That's what we're really here for. I don't know if it's zero coverage. I don't know if it's one coverage. Blitz zone, fire zone, two covers, three covers – I can go through the whole book, but we're going to find a way to get it done.

Q: Is this as bad as you ever remember it being as a coach?

A: No.

Q: What was worse?

A: Other games. When you look at the stats, other games. It was a strange game. It was a strange game. To be 35-3 or whatever at halftime, that was interesting.

Q: What was disappointing or shocking about miscommunications in the back, because –

A: I would say disappointing. I wouldn't say shocking. I've seen other teams and been a part of other teams where you've had new parts that have had some gaps, for one reason or another. At this stage, three games into a 13-game season, we have time. It's a long football season. We have time. I don't feel like the noose is there. If about Week 10 we're still doing that, we're in trouble. But now, I don't feel that way. I feel like we can get what we need to get ironed out. I think we can get it done.

Q: When you look at this team right now, do you think physically you have any difference of opinion from what you thought a month ago?

A: I don't. That's what we're continuing to work on, and that's an excellent question. The fact of the matter is, you always are continually searching for whatever it is that your guys do well, what positions you can put them into. I still am convinced that we can rush the passer. I still think that we can cover people. What else is there? I still think that we can tackle, that we can do all of the things that we need to do defensively to win. I think that the guys on this team right now are capable of getting that done.

Q: With all the scheming you can do, at some point do you just have to rely on the fact that you have Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, and they should have more than one sack at this point?

A: I have to help them. Nothing in this business – and you know what I'm talking about, you guys have been covering it long enough – nothing is a shoe-in. Nothing is a gimme. We still have to work our butts off to get the job done. And I have to help them.

Q: Why do you think they only have one sack between them?

A: That's a good question. The fact of the matter is, when you watch people the way they protect against us, it should make it easier for the secondary because a bunch of guys are staying in hitting people. But they get chipped quite a bit. Michael gets a lot of attention. We played two west coast teams that have quick-rhythm passing. Do you know about the west coast offense, with McNabb and Hasselbeck, it's a lot of three-step drops. Quick rhythm and chips. And I haven't done a good enough job of coaching.

Q: Moreso on the tiptoe than in the past?

A: Oh yes. I think they had 14 ½ and 11 between them of the 40 we had last year. They had most of them.

Q: Strahan always draws attention. Do you think it's more on Umenyiora this year?

A: Well, that's what's supposed to happen when you're good, and he's getting it.

Q: What have offenses done on game day that has surprised you a little bit?

A: That's a good one. You've been reading too many papers. No. That's a good question, but nothing. Absolutely, not a – I did read Hasselbeck's statement about the four wides. My brother is with the Seattle Seahawks and I told him the night before the game we were expecting four wides and three wides because of the tight end situation. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out, now does it? Sometimes some people give statements where they just kind of talk. That was not even close to being accurate because we knew that Jerramy Stevens was out and we knew, because it's a league-wide thing, they had to share that 88 wasn't practicing. We knew that Heller was their starting tight end. It wasn't rocket science. Obviously, you're going to use something other than your base offense for two tights.

Q: Can you give one reason why there are so many receivers running clear?

A: Just one? Me. I haven't done a good enough job. I have a new secondary coach, I have two new secondary coaches that I'm trying to teach every day. I'm trying to get the message from me to them to the players. If I said something to (someone in this group) and passed it around, it would probably come back to me differently. That's what I have to get ironed out. I have to make sure that the way defense needs to be operated --the way I see it – is the way it gets done on the field. That's what I'm talking about. Athletically, we're talented. Physically, we can get the job done. We have to make sure that we're playing the same defense at the same time and that we see the same routes so that everyone reacts to that stimulus, the route – boom -- the same way, and they get it done.

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