EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The New York Giants believed their secondary was a strength coming into the season.
Headed into Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0), they're not so sure anymore.
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo shredded the secondary for 307 yards and three touchdowns in a 24-17 win to open the season. He completed 22 of 29 passes, and finished with a quarterback rating of 129.5.
There's no doubt, the secondary was short-handed with cornerbacks Terrell Thomas (knee) out for the season and Prince Amukamara out with a high ankle sprain. It only became worse in the second half when Michael Coe tweaked a hamstring and had to sit, forcing Justin Tryon to play cornerback.
Still, some things were unacceptable.
Cornerback Corey Webster, the supposed star of the back four, was beaten for a 40-yard score on a double move by Kevin Ogletree, resulting in the Cowboys' second touchdown. Safety Antrel Rolle and Tryon seemed to bump into each other instead of hitting Miles Austin on a 34-yard lollipop scoring pass by Romo on a first-and-30, fourth-quarter play.
And if that wasn't bad enough, the secondary played the Cowboys' little slant patterns like they had never seen the play before.
Safety Kenny Phillips, though, didn't seem concerned on Friday about the secondary.
"Like I say, after our first game, you can say: 'Oh my God! The secondary looked so bad.' When you watch it on film you see why this happened and why that play was given up," he said. "It's no big deal. It's nothing to worry about."
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was the first to admit his defense played poorly, but he made sure that everyone knew the secondary had a lot of help in messing up.
The defensive line, which created havoc on opposing quarterbacks late last season in leading the Giants to their second Super Bowl in five seasons, let Romo off easy. The Dallas quarterback was sacked only twice and hit just four times. Ten is the target goal for the game.
All-Pro defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and two-time Pro Bowlers Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora not only failed to record a sack, they didn't even combine for a quarterback hit.
"I don't have to remind them," Fewell said. "That's the great thing about those guys. The pride they take in hits on the quarterback and sacks and doing what they do. When we put on the film, that's the reminder and, yes, I get after them from that standpoint, too."
The linebackers didn't help either, particularly with their drops on passing patterns. Frequently they were in the wrong spot on the slants, allowing Romo to play catch with his wideouts. The cornerbacks also had problems. One of their jobs on the slant is to force the receivers to the inside. They didn't accomplish that all the time.
Walking away from his locker on Friday after practice, Webster said he would be right back to talk to the media. He didn't return.
"It wasn't his best football game," Fewell said. "He's one of our more solid defenders who we count on to make plays for us. It was not his best ball game for us. We'll look for him to bounce back like he always has."
The Giants could get some help this week. Amukamara, who hasn't played since suffering the injury against the Bears in a preseason game Aug. 24, has practiced all week and is questionable for Sunday. Coe also practiced much of the week and is probable. He's also not worried about the secondary either, especially Webster.
"It happens to the best of us." Coe said. "It's not the first time and won't be the last time. It's the world you live in. You can't be too emotionally up and down. You can't be like that. You'll drive yourself nuts."
Amukamara thinks he will play.
"There's a sense of anticipation," he said. "And I've been studying and preparing like it."
Fewell also expects a better effort against the Buccaneers (1-0) and their offense which features the running of rookie Doug Martin.
"We know how to play the game," Fewell said. "We'll play the game this week, and we'll play it like it's supposed to be played this week."
NOTES: WR Victor Cruz was excused from practice Friday so he could attend his grandmother's funeral. ... C David Baas (hip) did not practice but insists he will play. WR Hakeem Nick (foot) didn't practice on Friday and is questionable, although coach Tom Coughlin believes he will play. ... Rookie DE Adewale Ojomo (hamstring) is the only Giant listed as out. ... LB Keith Rivers is questionable with a hamstring issue, so expect Michael Boley to start at weakside linebacker.
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