Yes, it's going to be Mathias Kiwanuka. The rookie will start at right defensive end for the Giants…
TD or not TD?
Yes, it has. Heading into the Tampa Bay game, New York had scored on 17 of its 18 forays inside the opponents' 20-yard line for a 94 percent success rate. But more importantly, more than half of those scores resulted in seven points for Big Blue. With an explosive offense like the Giants boast, nothing less than a TD is accepted.
To wit: Early in their contest with Washington on Oct. 8, the Giants struggled mightily to score touchdowns down deep and had to settle for three Jay Feely field goals, a fact that didn't make Plaxico Burress feel all that warm and fuzzy.
"I'm pissed off, pissed off," said Burress recalling when New York's offense was turned away at the door. "Against Washington we got in the red zone three times and had to settle for field goals. We were upset. We were really upset. It was nothing they did; it was stuff we did. If we don't score a touchdown, we're mad."
With the exception of that Washington game, New York's offense hasn't been mad all that often. The Giants have scored 90 out of a possible 163 red-zone points, good for 55 percent. But as much as New York's been on fire lately in what coach Tom Coughlin optimistically likes to refer to as the green zone, they're still only barely in the top half of the league in that department.
For New York, it's a question of attitude as much as anything else.
"It's big. Whenever we get the football down there, we're expecting to score," Burress said. "I think we maybe didn't score three times the last month. Our offense has gotten into a rhythm down there and has been successful. We feel we have so many options. Since the field is short, the defensive team pretty much has to know who they're going to double-team and who they're going to try to take away."
It's that short field that changes the entire dynamic of offensive play.
"There's less room for error down there," O'Hara said. "When you get inside the 20, the safeties aren't as deep as they usually are. It seems like everybody is in the box. The margin for error is much smaller. You crank the intensity up because it's the last few yards. It's almost like that movie, ‘The Longest Yard.' When you're on the 1-yard line, that's the longest yard."
"Everything is so critical because there's not a lot of room to move around there," Burress added. "There's not a lot of motion out there and we're not flipping the tight end or anything. We're just lining up. When we line up in the red zone, we know who's getting the ball."
Of New York's 10 red zone TDs through the first six weeks, tight end Jeremy Shockey has collected four of them, including a pair in Atlanta, while bruising running back Brandon Jacobs has added three more.
"When you get in the red zone, you have to get points out of it," Jacobs said. "We work really hard and try to be real consistent in that part of our game. It doesn't matter which back is in there – me or Tiki (Barber). You know 21 can get it done. It's a great honor to be a part of one of the better red zone packages in the league. I study my playbook and know where people are going to be and then just hit it and get it."
Most players point to the maturation of quarterback Eli Manning as the primary reason for their red-zone success.
"Eli is a year older and he pretty much knows what the defense is trying to do," Burress said. "He reads all his progressions, but he pretty much knows where the ball is going to go when we line up. That's the rapport we all have. It makes you want to go out and get open so you can be successful."
"It's Eli's knowledge of what to do with the ball," O'Hara added. "You love having a big target like Plaxico and Jeremy and then also being able to hand the ball off to a glorified offensive lineman like Brandon Jacobs."
It was no surprise at all that Manning wasn't interested in accepting any credit.
"I think part of it is just being able to run the ball down there, where you're getting into better situations, being able to run the ball into the end zone," said Manning, who has seven TDs against only one INT in the red zone. "Also, on first and second down, when you're in there, you're running it and you're getting into third-and-3 or 4, where you have a chance to throw for a touchdown or just get the first down. You just get in better situations. Also, just guys making some great plays down there, making the right reads, good play-calling and just doing what we're supposed to be doing and making tough plays."
Manning did at least admit that additional playing time has made him and his mates more comfortable operating deep in enemy territory.
"Well, I think it's a combination of everybody being more experienced, me knowing where to go and guys doing the right things and getting open," he said.
Coughlin has noticed not only smarter but faster play from his quarterback, obviously a key to success down low.
"I see that getting better all the time," he said of his QB's speedy decision-making.
According to Burress, the Giants have so many different weapons that it's unrealistic for a defense to consistently stop Big Blue.
"(Amani Toomer) has been playing great, he's been catching the ball," Burress said. "Tim Carter has been phenomenal. If you want to double Shockey, you're going to leave me one-on-one. If you want to double me, you're going to leave Shockey one-on-one. Then if you want to double both outside guys, there's nobody inside to support the run against Tiki and Brandon. If you're the defense, it's just one of those things that you have to kind of pick and choose and hope you gamble right."
Despite only boasting one red-zone TD thus far – a two-yard grab to put away the Redskins – Burress enjoys when he's the option to finish drives, especially when the 6-5 receiver is called on to go up and over his defender.
"That's the greatest thing about playing this game is playing one-on-one," he said. "I don't really get it much in the red zone because I have an advantage over guys. But when Eli puts it up there, that just shows the confidence he has in my ability. I just relish the opportunities to make plays down there.
"If we can just keep going out and doing what we're doing in the red zone we'll be a hard team to stop."
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