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Giants’ Defense Gets Workout

October 6, 1997

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ Contrary to expectations, the trademark of Jim Fassel’s New York Giants isn’t a wide-open West Coast offense.

It’s an overworked but stingy defense that coordinator John Fox tongue-in-cheek calls a ball-control defense because it’s been on the field nearly 34 minutes per game.

In Sunday’s 20-17 win over Dallas, the defense worked overtime, facing 81 plays as the Cowboys held the ball for 40 minutes, 37 seconds.

Despite gaining 428 total yards, the Cowboys got only three field goals, a late touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion.

New York has only give up two touchdowns and a total of 37 points in its last three games.

``I’m not into stats,″ Fox said Monday as the Giants (3-3) started preparations for Sunday’s game at Arizona. ``Obviously you don’t want to give up 400 yards as a defensive coach, but we’ve won both games we’ve given up 400 yards.″

The Giants gave up 447 yards in a season-opening 31-17 win over Philadelphia.

``Right now we’re making a statement this is not the same old Giants,″ said safety Tito Wooten, who turned around Sunday’s game late in the third quarter with a 61-yard interception return for a touchdown. ``We’re building our own (defensive) personality and reputation and trying to win every game. By the end of the season, the defense should be a very polished unit that makes very few mistakes.″

Fassel, who made his reputation helping turn around struggling offenses, admitted Monday that he basically asked his anemic offense not to lose the game against the Cowboys.

That was even before Dave Brown re-aggravated a strained muscle in his chest and was replaced at quarterback by Danny Kanell.

``The point is we thought if we played well enough on defense that we could make them grind it out and earn it,″ said Fassel, whose offense is averaging 251.7 yards.

The surprise in the game was that the Giants did not blitz as much as had been expected. Last week, Chicago threw maximum blitzes at Troy Aikman and got to the Dallas quarterback several times in a 28-7 Cowboys’ win.

``If we gave them 27 points we were not going to win the game,″ Fox said. ``If you live by the blitz, you die by the blitz and we were in no position to give up a lot of points.″

So the Giants concentrated on keeping plays in front of them and they tightened things up in the red zone, an area where the Cowboys are struggling and more predictable.

``We don’t have a philosophy about giving up deep plays,″ cornerback Phillippi Sparks said. ``Coach (Fox) just said go out and don’t worry about your mistakes. That’s what we probably needed to hear. If you’re worried about being here or there, you’re not reacting. We need to go out there, be relentless and just play.″

And the defense does not care how long it is out there. The defense isaveraging nearly 71 plays this season.

``All we know is it’s going to be a fight,″ linebacker Corey Widmer said. ``We’re going to fight from beginning to end, whether it’s 20 plays or 80 or 90 plays. We have been through some tough times and matured.″

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