For a few possessions, Tom Brady had to be having Super Bowl flashbacks. He dropped back to pass and saw nothing but white Giants jerseys in his face.
Instead of Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, it was Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter.
Eventually, Brady and the Patriots would find their rhythm and drop Big Blue to 2-4, but not before the future Hall of Famer was sacked three times, hit on six occasions and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
It was part of an impressive performance by the defense, continuing a recent Giants trend of pressuring the quarterback.
“It’s just guys working together and flying around together and believing in each other as far as the pass rush,” Golden said.
Since failing to register a sack in a season-opening loss to the Cowboys, the Giants have 16 in five games, which is tied for the sixth-most in the NFL.
Getting to the quarterback was a major need after the way the past two seasons went in that category. The Giants were 30th in sacks in 2017 and 31st last year.
To remedy those issues, they made changes, signing Golden and drafting defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence in the first round and outside linebacker Oshane Ximines in the third.
“Well, we’ve made improvements. I think that was a big topic of conversation through training camp, how we were going to create pass rush,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “I think, if anything, we’ve shown flashes of being a good football team, and then I still think we’re inconsistent in a lot of areas, but we’re starting to create some rush.
“I knew going into it that Markus Golden had that ability. It was a matter of record that he had been very disruptive the year before his injury, and he’s back and playing really hard. I knew Lorenzo Carter would be better from a year ago. Not to mention the other guys we’ve added, X-Man [Ximines] and so on. Then, I think at times we’re getting pretty decent push on the inside.”
Golden has stood out the most, notching team-highs of five sacks and five tackles for losses. After producing 12.5 sacks in his second season in the league with the Cardinals, Golden posted just 2.5 sacks in 16 games the past two years, partially hampered by a torn ACL. But he has been a difference-maker so far with the Giants. Against the Patriots he had a sack and returned a Brady fumble created by a Carter sack 42 yards for a touchdown.
“I’m all about working, so I worked hard this offseason. I worked in [organized team activities] and even in camp, I just worked hard,” Golden said. “When you put in the work that I was making sure I put in every day and making sure I was taking care of my body even better than I was before the injury, yes, I was confident in myself no matter what. You have to be confident in yourself, especially if you are working hard.”
But what has to be most encouraging for the Giants is the variety of the pass rush. Eleven different players have at least half of a sack, and of those 11, six are in their first or second season in the league. Lawrence and Ximines have combined for four sacks and five tackles for loss, the duo improving by the week, giving the Giants reason for hope in the future as well as the present.
“Big Dex is an animal out there, you see it on film,” Golden said. “He really stood out on film as far as running to the ball, pushing the pocket and flying around. I’m excited for all of them, but Big Dex is making a big jump and you can see it when you turn on film.”
You can see it, not just from Lawrence, but the entire Giants defense, They’re starting to develop a pass rush. Just ask Tom Brady.
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