You aren’t the first quarterback to be defeated and deflated by the New York Giants’ front-four pass rush. With all due respect to Newton, who said it “was nothing the Giants did” that led to his Carolina Panthers’ offensive nightmare in Thursday’s 36-7 home loss, the Giants had a lot to do with frustrating last season’s offensive rookie of the year. This was supposed to be Newton’s big breakout, his first career prime-time game against a depleted, reeling New York secondary. Instead, it was a reminder of the main reason why the Giants are reigning Super Bowl champions. While the injuries are piling up on the back end, there’s nothing wrong with their strongest, now trademark position, defensive end. The trio of Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora were greatly involved in producing the worst game of Newton’s short career. In addition to his single-game low 40.6 passer rating, he was held to just six yards rushing on six carries. “At the end spot, you want to set the edge and make sure he doesn’t have a way outside,” Tuck said of the Giants’ successful game plan vs. Newton. “At the tackles, you definitely want to get pressure up in his face.” That combination is what makes New York’s defensive line so tough for passers to handle, and most quarterbacks it faces don’t have the athletic gifts of Newton – see the Patriots’ Tom Brady in two Super Bowls. In the base set, there is Tuck and the freakishly explosive Pierre-Paul flying off the edge. They then have the luxury of having Umenyiora coming in with fresh legs. Through the course of the game, the Giants then look to get the right individual mismatches for that trio, taking their versatility to be effective from the tackles. “We have a very athletic d-line,” Tuck said. “Our mentality every game is to stop the run, take that weapon away from them, and get the game in situations where we can kind of control the sticks and get them in obvious third-down, second-and-long passing situations. “That is when we can do what we do as far as rushing the passer.” What the Giants do is relentlessly, aggressively go after the passer, with the goal of consistently racking up hits on him, even if they don’t show up on the stat sheet. Tuck didn’t have a sack on Thursday but Pierre-Paul and Umenyiora provided 1 1/2 of the two drops of Newton.
Although Newton didn’t offer much insight on what the Giants did to thwart him, his tight end, Greg Olsen, had a good assessment. “They can rotate a lot of guys in and out,” Olsen said. “Even when they don’t have pressure, they have some guys with long arms that can bat the ball down.” Newton is just one big, strong athlete. The Giants have them in abundance up front to compensate for their familiar, growing issues in the secondary, especially at cornerback. Terrell Thomas is lost for another season with a knee injury. Prince Amukamara is playing his way back from a high ankle sprain. Michael Coe became hamstrung in Week 1. On Thursday, Corey Webster had to leave the game for a while with what was revealed to be a broken hand. Safety Antrel Rolle wasn’t immune, suffering a scary knee laceration late against the Panthers. But with the Giants’ front four doing its job upfield, it didn’t matter. Consider that unheralded defensive backs Stevie Brown and Jayron Hosley had two of Newton’s three interceptions from mistakes under pressure. The Giants had trouble coming together defensively until late last season because of injuries to Umenyiora (knee, ankle) and Tuck (neck). They missed a combined 11 games, and Pierre-Paul also needed to play through a head injury. Unfortunately for Brady in Super Bowl XLVI, he felt the Giants’ pressure at full tilt with all three ends at full health. That was Brady. This was Newton, who is a very talented, but still a very green passer in the face of pressure. Knowing just how dejected his quarterback was after the game, Panthers coach Ron Rivera knew that the Giants’ defensive front was most responsible. “They did a nice job of mixing it up and moving things around,” Rivera said. “Unless you slow them down some, bad things are going to happen.” As long as Pierre-Paul, Tuck and Umenyiora stay healthy at the same time, the Giants can overcome anything adverse that happens behind them in their defense.