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Giants just sticking to what they know

Against a fierce Ravens D, they're hoping their offensive diversity pays off.

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 28, 2001


TAMPA -- Don't tell anyone, but here's how the Giants plan to attack Baltimore's defense, stingiest in NFL history:

They'll try to stick with what put them into the Super Bowl.

They'll be aggressive. But not too aggressive.

They'll run the ball (one of their staples) but won't depend on it.

They'll pass the ball, but not so often as to get away from their game plan.

And they'll hold onto the ball at all costs because turnovers can kill.

Oh, and do something about linebacker (and NFL defensive player of the year) Ray Lewis.

See how simple it is?

"I don't know if you find a certain way (of attacking the Ravens defense) without trying to change what got us here," Giants offensive coordinator Sean Payton said. "You try to attack areas you may feel are their weaknesses, but there aren't many as you look across the board.

"They've got an outstanding secondary. Their front seven is as good as any in the league. That's the reason they're ranked as high as they are. ... Their statistics have put them in that category. It's something they've earned, and rightfully so."

Running back Tiki Barber said the best way to attack the Baltimore defense is to do what the Jets and Redskins did: stretch the field. "The Jets put up 500 yards by spreading them out. ... There is something to be learned from that."

New York's ground game is considered its strength. That can be misleading, wide receiver Amani Toomer said. "I think everybody may be underestimating our offense because of the way we play sometimes," he said. "We gear it down sometimes and try and run the clock out like we did against the Eagles in the playoff game.

"But then we showed against the Vikings that we can air it out and move the ball up the field. I think we're underrated, but that's because we try to play to our defense."

Few teams were as balanced as the Giants: 11th in the league in rushing, 13th in passing and overall.

"Against Pittsburgh," Payton said, "we had to throw the ball quite a bit because they had a very good defensive front. We had to throw the ball early on. So each week, depending on the tempo and flavor of the game, that might change. ... It's important that we give X number of players on offense certain touches. Amani Toomer needs to touch the football early. (Running back) Tiki Barber, (wide receiver) Ike Hilliard, (tight end) Pete Mitchell all have to get their touches.

Lewis is the common denominator. Runners, receivers, quarterback Kerry Collins and his front line; all mentioned him first or close to it when discussing Baltimore's defense.

"When you have an athlete that's as big and fast as he is, and is a good enough athlete to just run around the field, not blocking him is going to cause havoc on your offense," Barber said. "And you see that time and time again because of the two big guys in the middle (defensive tackles Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa). You can't move them. You can't get a guy up to block on Ray Lewis and it allows him to make plays."

Toomer said he hopes to see the Ravens playing man-to-man coverage. "It's a mano y mano personal battle," he said. "If they only play zones, they have a whole bunch of people helping each other out. Once they go man on man, you have to beat only one person to score a touchdown."

The last time New York played a Super Bowl (here, 10 years ago), Scott Norwood's missed field-goal try for Buffalo in the final seconds enabled the Giants to hold on to a 20-19 victory. Thirty Super Bowls ago, Jim O'Brien's field goal in the final seconds gave the Baltimore Colts a 16-13 victory over Dallas. Giants kicker Brad Daluiso was asked if he would like a shot at last-minute glory -- with a chance of infamy, of course.

"I secretly harbor a hope that it's 45-0," he said.

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