"We have a lot more depth, quality depth," MLB Antonio Pierce said. "We have guys who are stepping in and getting our defense exactly the way a Pro Bowler like Osi (Umenyiora) does. Mathias (Kiwanuka) is not a bad player himself. We didn't lose (anything). We just kept on ticking, and that's how we have to do it."
Kiwanuka certainly answered the bell in his first NFL start. He posted six tackles, a five-yard sack and a forced fumble.
"He's a good young football player that we've worked in and tried to get him in there some as we've gone along," Tom Coughlin said. "He had a big opportunity and I'd just say on the surface he looked like he played well."
"He played well," Michael Strahan said. "He got a lot of hits on the quarterback and had good form on his jumpshot. He's going to be a great one before it's all said and done."
Strahan said the rookie wasn't lacking in confidence. "The coaches said ‘they're going to run at the rookie.' Mathias said, ‘I'm not your normal rookie.' "
"I'm no regular rookie," Kiwanuka answered. "I told them that. After I made that first play I wanted to make another and another and another."
While Kiwanuka's performance was the most noteworthy due to his solid game and first-round draft status, Carlos Emmons and R.W. McQuarters were also key contributors.
Emmons returned to the starting lineup after missing three contests. He played at strongside LB in place of LaVar Arrington and did a solid job, posting three solo tackles. McQuarters started at right corner in place of the injured Sam Madison. He had one solo stop, but seemed to do a good job in coverage.
All in all, it was a great job by the defense, which very well might have been headed to a shutout had David Tyree not committed a foolish second-quarter penalty that led to Tampa's only points.
Pierce, who had a team-high eight solo stops, wasn't the least bit surprised that New York's second-stringers stepped up.
"I think we showed in training camp and preseason – the reason we were 4-0 in preseason is because our twos and threes played so well," he said. "They played like starters – our back-ups played like starters. That's how they played. On defense, you only carry so many guys, and everybody you carry, even on the practice squad, has to be prepared. I credit the coaches and the front office for getting guys here that were more prepared to play right away."
Desperately seeking sack: Michael Strahan came close, as his four hits on the QB would attest, but he was unable to break Lawrence Taylor's all-time Giants sack mark.
"They weren't going to make it easy," he said. "Nobody wants to be the one to give me the sack."
With 132.5 career sacks, Strahan will try again Sunday against the Texans.
Little man on campus: Rookie cornerback Kevin Dockery might stand only 5-8, but he continues to make big plays. In Dallas, Dockery intercepted a pass and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown. Against Tampa Bay, he knocked away a pass intended for Joey Galloway and tackled Ike Hilliard for a five-yard loss on a punt return.
Lousy homecoming: If Ike Hilliard was hoping to show the Giants what they were missing, he didn't exactly get the job done. Hilliard had only one catch for three yards against the team he toiled with from 1997-2004 and returned six punts for a 6.5-yard average.
CBs down to 3: With the injuries to Sam Madison and Frank Walker, the Giants were down to only three cornerbacks against the Buccaneers. As a result the Giants dressed only starter Corey Webster, R.W. McQuarters, who started for Madison, and rookie Kevin Dockery. RDE Osi Umenyiora was inactive due to injury, as was DE Justin Tuck and, as usual, rookie WR Sinorice Moss. For the first time this season, RB Derrick Ward dressed. He made the tackle on the game's opening kickoff and said his foot "felt great" after he participated in about 10 plays. OTs Na'Shan Goddard and Guy Whimper were New York's other inactives. Tim Hasselbeck was the third quarterback.
Been a long time: Kiwanuka joined fellow rookie Barry Cofield as starters on the defensive line. The last time the Giants started two rookies on the defensive line was Oct. 5, 1987, when Curtis Garrett and Anthony Howard started a strike-replacement game against San Francisco.
Golden oldies: Last Sunday was Giants Alumni Day. The Giants recognized the 50th anniversary of the 1956 NFL championship team. Twelve players from that team were on the field and introduced to the crowd at halftime: Ben Agajanian, Frank Gifford, Herb Rich, Alex Webster, Ray Beck, Sam Huff, Gerald Huth, Ken McAfee, Andy Robustelli, Harland Svare, Bob Schnelker and Cliff Livingston. Also on hand was trainer John Johnson, who still works every day in his 58th season with the team.
The 1956 team was Wellington Mara's favorite. The championship ring from that season was the only one he wore. His son, Giants president John Mara, now wears that ring.
Approximately 60 former Giants were introduced as they walked onto the field at the half, including Hall of Famer Harry Carson, Joe Morris, Ottis Anderson, Brad Van Pelt and Howard Cross.
Series notes: The Giants have won six of their last seven home games against Tampa Bay and now lead the all-time series, 10-6.
Home sweet home: The Giants continue their three-game homestand with games against Houston and Chicago (now a primetime contest) to follow. This is the first time the Giants will play three consecutive regular season home games since Sept. 26-Oct. 9, 1983, when they hosted Green Bay, San Diego and Philadelphia. They won the first game before losing the next two.
NFC East: With the Giants' victory and Philadelphia's loss to Jacksonville, New York (5-2) moved a game-and-a-half ahead of the 4-4 Birds, with the tiebreaker advantage of having already beaten the Eagles in Philly. The Cowboys entered their Sunday night game in Carolina with a 3-3 mark while the woeful Redskins (2-5) must have enjoyed a much-needed bye.
Kiwi-led D Doesn't Miss a Beat
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