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Defense makes sure game doesn't slip away for Giants Live

Antrel Rolle celebrates a sack in the fourth quarter of a game against the Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. (Jim McIsaac) 
by Casey Musarra


The Giants’ streak of holding the opposing offense scoreless for nine straight quarters ended 53 seconds into Sunday’s game against Oakland at MetLife Stadium. But what could the defense do after the Giants fumbled the opening kickoff and the Raiders returned it to the 5-yard line to set up a 1-yard scoring run by quarterback Terrelle Pryor?

It went like that the entire first half as all 17 Raiders points resulted from turnovers, including a pick-6 by cornerback Tracy Porter for a three-point halftime lead.

“Things weren’t pretty at times, but we never broke,” safety Antrel Rolle said. “We always stayed together and we played with extreme effort.

When the Giants needed it most, their resurgent defense produced a third-quarter goal-line stand that held the Raiders to a field goal after they had a first down at the 1-yard line and a 65-yard interception return by cornerback Terrell Thomas that led to the go-ahead touchdown in the Giants’ 24-20 victory.

“Huge” was the operable word to describe what it meant when Rolle tackled running back Rashad Jennings for no gain on first down at the 1. A surprise second-down pass wasn’t close, and then a 5-yard penalty pushed the Raiders back before another incompletion and a 24-yard field goal by Sebastien Janikowski for a 20-14 lead.

Rolle admitted he was in the wrong place at the right time to tackle Jennings. “I was supposed to run with the motion and cover the guy that has extended motion,” Rolle said. “I kind of put myself at the ‘mike’ [middle] linebacker at that point. I put myself in a bad situation. There was nothing else left for me to do but make the play. When all else fails, see ball and go get ball. That’s my mentality.

On the other hand, sometimes you play like you practice, and that’s why Thomas was positioned on the Raiders’ next series to pick off a Pryor pass and return it 65 yards to the Oakland 3.

“I made the same play in practice,” Thomas said. “I was waiting for it all game. They were giving me two by two slants, but they hadn’t run it all game. When they motioned, I kind of knew it was coming, so I stayed inside, and I jumped it.

It looked as if Thomas might score when he cut to the middle of the field to evade a Pryor tackle, but that slowed him enough to get caught from behind. No matter, running back Andre Brown scored two plays later on a 1-yard run for a 21-20 Giants lead.

That cheered Thomas, who is coming back this season after his third knee surgery, because Brown was playing his first game since suffering a broken leg in training camp. “I was happy to make a great play,” Thomas said, “and Andre finished it off for us.

Thomas, who was NFC defensive player of the week in the Giants’ previous win in Philadelphia, is an inspiration for the Giants’ defense. “That’s two games in a row Terrell has definitely had the play of the game, a game-changing play,” Rolle said. “His heart is the size of Texas, and that’s something that we need.


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