And the fifth-year defensive end was “flabbergasted” that no one on Andy Reid’s staff seemed to think it was appropriate to start at least double-teaming him once he started sacking Donovan McNabb at a record pace. Umenyiora entered the Giants’ 16-3 victory over the Eagles without a single sack in their first three games, but he established a franchise record by registering six sacks, matching his entire 11-game total in 2006.
“That was unbelievable,” middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said. “We call him ‘The Great One,’ and (Sunday night) he was the great one. He dominated the game. That was an LT-like performance.”
Umenyiora, who recorded half of the Giants’ league record-tying 12 sacks, shattered the Giants’ single-game record of 4½, established by linebacker Pepper Johnson on Nov. 24, 1991, against Tampa Bay.
“Justice is a very good football player,” Umenyiora said. “It was just one of those nights … but he’s going to be a good player in this league.”
Justice, a first-round draft choice out of Southern Cal in 2006, didn’t at all resemble a good player in substituting for an injured William Thomas (knee).
“That poor kid they had over there, why didn’t they help him?” fellow defensive end Michael Strahan said sarcastically. “I’m 35 and (right tackle Jon) Runyan’s an All-Pro. Who helped that young kid? That really, I’m telling you, you’re going to ruin the guy. His first start and that’s what he gets? That’s not a good thing. You know, in Philadelphia, the poor kid goes out and orders some food, they might do something to it. I feel bad for the kid.”
LT proud of Strahan
Lawrence Taylor teased Strahan about not having “the real” franchise sack record, since Taylor recorded 9½ sacks during his rookie season in 1981, the year before sacks became an official NFL statistic.
“He has some more work to do,” Taylor joked.
All kidding aside, Taylor was extremely happy to see Strahan sack Donovan McNabb in the first quarter to record sack No. 133½ of his 15-year career.
“Michael’s accomplishment speaks for itself,” said Taylor, who was officially credited with 132½ sacks from 1982-93. “His career is a tribute to his unique ability and his longevity. It is a violent, physical game, and I have great respect for a man who continues to play the way he plays in his 15th year.”
Nearly 14 years have passed since Strahan and Taylor were teammates during Strahan’s rookie season and Taylor’s last, but the 35-year-old Strahan smiled wide after beating the Eagles, when he admitted he still looks up to Taylor.
“With LT here, (setting the record) was special, without a doubt,” Strahan said. “I love the guy. I loved watching him as a fan, I loved playing with him as a player, and in my mind there is never going to be another LT. I could have 500 sacks, but there will never be another Lawrence Taylor. He revolutionized the game and was the best defensive player to ever play. I was a school kid the first time I ever saw him play, and I still am like that around him. He’s a great guy.”
Strahan shaping up
Strahan finally feels like he is in regular-season shape, and he believes it is starting to show on the field. Only a month removed from announcing his decision to continue his career, Strahan also feels he has benefited from being part of a defensive line rotation that allows him to take as much as a five-play break during games. Working in Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka has helped him feel fresh in the fourth quarters of their first four games.
“I feel better,” Strahan said. “It’s like preseason is over for me after this game, so it’s time to play and produce. I feel good. I really do.”
Not doing the LT initials proud
Tom Coughlin knows Lawrence Tynes has officially become a problem, now that he has missed two field goals inside of 40 yards and an extra point. He hit the left upright on a third-quarter extra point attempt and was wide right on a 34-yard field goal try in the first quarter.
“I am concerned about the misses, no doubt,” Coughlin said. “We have got to do better than we have been.”
Jay Feely, meanwhile, has connected on all six field goal tries and each of his five point-after attempts with the Dolphins.
Mitchell makes another huge play
Weak side linebacker Kawika Mitchell made another game-changing play, this time a 17-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown late in the third quarter. But it was the play he didn’t make, when he dropped a sure interception in the fourth quarter that could’ve resulted in his second score of the game that the first-year Giant knows he’ll hear about for a while.
“Oh, good God,” a smiling Mitchell said. “I saw green, man. I didn’t see enough brown, didn’t see the ball, and saw a lot of green. It would’ve been (another touchdown). If I would’ve focused on that ball for one more second and brought it in … yeah, I’m going to take a lot for that one. But we got the big win and 12 sacks is huge.”
His teammates think he has come up huge, too.
“He had the big week (on Sept. 23 against Washington) on the goal line, with those stops,” Strahan said. “He scored the touchdown (Sunday night), but he is on probation because he dropped the interception that probably would’ve been his second touchdown. So we’re very happy for him, but he didn’t make enough plays. He cannot rest on his laurels, but it’s good to have him. He’s a playmaker, he’s all over the field and he’s bought into the philosophy of what we need out of our linebackers.”
Spagnuolo’s special night
The Giants’ rejuvenated defense picked the perfect night to show a national audience that new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s schemes can work to near perfection. In addition to their league record-tying 12 sacks, the Giants also limited Spagnuolo’s former team to 190 yards of total offense and prevented the Eagles, who had scored 56 points the previous Sunday against Detroit, from scoring a touchdown.
“It’s not only the system, man, we believe in him as a person,” Umenyiora said of Spagnuolo, who was a defensive assistant with the Eagles for eight years before replacing Tim Lewis. “We love him and we’d run through a brick wall for him. We’re just getting adjusted to (his system) now. ”