Pass rush flusters Bucs
Michael Strahan and his Giants defensive mates did to Jeff Garcia on Sunday what the Bucs have done to quarterbacks for the past decade: They left him battered and bruised. Eleven times the Bucs quarterback was driven into the turf at Raymond James Stadium - and on several more occasions escaped more potential pummeling only by throwing desperately on the run.

Garcia will probably see images of a bull-rushing Strahan in his sleep. Strahan, meanwhile, will remember it all fondly. "He took a lot of shots out there today," New York's defensive end said of Garcia. "A lot, regardless of whether we got just one sack or not. That's really the goal as a defense and a defensive line. Sacks are great. Leading the league in sacks is great. We're very happy to do that. But we want people to turn on the film and say, 'Our quarterback is not safe.'"

Garcia wasn't. There was nowhere to hide from a ferocious pass rush that proved as good as advertised against Tampa Bay's youthful offensive line. The pivotal matchup was expected to be the offensive tackles against the Giants' defensive ends, Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. While left tackle Donald Penn limited Umenyiora to three tackles and no sacks, Trueblood seemed to have his hands full with the trash-talking Strahan. "I hate seeing Jeff get hit," Trueblood said. "They're a hell of a defensive team. They put you on your heels."

On the other side of the ball, the Bucs were stymied in their efforts to put heat on quarterback Eli Manning, who completed 20 of 27 passes and was sacked once by Gaines Adams while avoiding any turnovers. The Giants frustrated the Bucs defense with a series of quick throws off short drops, exploiting the weakness of the Cover2 defense by taking advantage of underneath routes.

So, while Garcia was taking 11 hits from a relentless Giants front seven, Manning was left relatively unscathed, sustaining just two recorded hits. "We know as a defense that you're not going to get a five-step, seven-step drop every time," Adams said. "But there are ways (to get pressure anyway). You can still get a sack with a three-step drop. Obviously, we just didn't get it done."

Said Ronde Barber, who was trying to defend the quick throws: "The entire second quarter was quick throws, three-step drops. Easy completions keep the chains moving."

In the end, the Giants pass rush forced several uncharacteristic Garcia throws, two of which resulted in interceptions, while Manning played error-free football. "You can put someone in position to make mistakes in a number of ways," Tampa Bay defensive end Kevin Carter said. "You can score so many points that they have to play catchup, or you can play such great defense that you cut off all the options he has, and he has to (force) a play."

The Giants did a little of both. The Bucs, it appears, did neither.

Stephen F Holder, The St.Petersburg Times 7 January 2008