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AFL guest analyst

By JOANNE KORTH

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 22, 2001


The host of ESPN's NFL Matchup, Merrill Hoge played fullback for the Steelers from 1987-93 before finishing his career with the Bears in 1995. He spoke with staff writer Joanne Korth about ways the Giants can be successful against the Ravens' top-rated defense.

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The way you score on the Ravens is to take your shots on first and 10 and third and short. You have to be able to go down the field. The thing is, how many shots do you take, and do you hit one?

The Giants have been one of the best at thinking protection first. They play a lot with two tight ends, they use run-action and keep those tight ends and backs in to block. They use two receivers to the slot side and attack a particular zone coverage.

What's intriguing about that is the Ravens are terrific in zone coverage. They play so disciplined and know where their help is. But the guy I've watched who you can get in zone coverage is defensive back Chris McAlister. He will take chances, jump on stuff, anticipate routes.

On third and short, the Ravens like to lock up and play man coverage. The Giants can't be thinking first down, they have to be thinking touchdown or big play. Now it's easy for coaches to talk about that when they're sitting in a nice room but will they be able to call that? They have to take advantage of those opportunities when the Ravens are thinking, "Stop the run," or "Don't give up a first down." That's when you'll have your shots to go down the field.

Because the Giants ran the ball early in the season, people think they are a running team. They are a passing team. Coach Jim Fassel treated quarterback Kerry Collins like a rookie, brought him along. In the first part of the season, Fassel was building confidence, winning games with his defense and running game. Then he slowly put more responsibility on Collins. There is no question Fassel is going to ask Collins to win the game.

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