When the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons play Sunday at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. ET/FOX) in an NFC Wild-Card game, Atlanta coach Mike Smith is well aware of what his team has to do in order have success against the Giants' defense. Handle the Giants' vaunted pass rush.
"The challenge is to try to eliminate the pressure on the quarterback, it is not just the sacks. They have done a good job of creating sacks but it also has to do with the number of hits, the ability to move the quarterback off the spot and they do have good numbers with sacks," Smith said Wednesday. "They do a good job of creating pressure and I think it is really based on their talent and they have some great players upfront."
The Giants finished tied for third in the league with 48 quarterback sacks. Only Minnesota and Philadelphia (50 each) had more. The Giants sacked Dallas quarterback Tony Romo six times in Sunday's NFC East-clinching victory over the Cowboys.
Jason Pierre-Paul leads the Giants with 16.5 sacks. The Giants' pass rush has also been bolstered the past couple of weeks by the return to form of two-time Pro Bowler Justin Tuck, who had just five sacks during an injury-plagued season after getting 11.5 a year ago. Tuck, though, registered sacks in each of the final two games as he appears to -- finally -- be getting healthier. Osi Umenyiora returned to the lineup Sunday after a four-week absence and recorded two sacks.
"It is a very efficient pass rush that is based on rotation and moving guys around in different spots. I think coach Coughlin and his staff, specifically coach Fewell, do a very good job of moving guys around. They do a good job of not having guys in the same place so it is going to be very important for us to have a good understanding of what they are trying to do," Smith said. "Some of the stuff that they do is going to be a little exotic. For example, Pierre-Paul can line up at defensive end on the right side or left side, DT or nose tackle or in a standup position. There are some things that you are not accustomed to seeing a lot of times so it is going to be very important for us to do a good job of identifying and not having free rushers."
The Falcons allowed 26 sacks this season -- only five teams allowed fewer. Yet, in a recent chat with SB Nation Atlanta editor Jason Kirk he expressed concern about the Giants' defensive line.
"Two things I fret about as a Falcons fan: good opposing defensive lines and wide receivers. The 2011 line has done a better job as of late keeping Ryan clean than it did at the outset, thanks to some personnel switch-ups, but I've been impressed by the Giants' defensive line depth for years now," Kirk said.