CHARLOTTE – Want to know how single-minded the New York Giants were entering Thursday’s 36-7 victory at the Carolina Panthers?
Cramerton’s Perry Fewell, a former South Point football standout, said he was unable to visit with his family during his team’s 30-hour trip to Charlotte that began with Wednesday afternoon’s charter flight to the city.
“This was a business trip,” said Fewell, in his third season as New York Giants defensive coordinator. “I didn’t want to do it, but I asked my family to stay away. With the short week, we prepared until 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock last night (Wednesday). So we really needed to concentrate and I didn’t need any distractions.”
Clearly, Fewell and the Giants were successful in pursuing a winning game plan as New York scored on its first four possessions and was ahead 23-0 before the Panthers snapped the Giants’ shutout bid in the third quarter.
Since Carolina was coming off a 35-27 victory over perennial NFC South power New Orleans last Sunday with Cam Newton directed an effective and efficient rushing and passing attack, what did Fewell and his defensive unit do to disrupt the Panthers?
“I just think our guys’ engines were running hot,” Fewell said. “We knew he (Newton) was a big part of their offense. We tried to do a couple of things to take some things away, but I just think our guys played really well. We played team football tonight. And we haven’t been playing good team football.”
There’s little doubt Fewell and Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin do a fantastic job of preaching “team football.”
After all, when injuries and some poor play played a role in a 7-7 start that reportedly had Coughlin’s job in jeopardy, New York won its final six games to win the NFC East title, make the playoffs and eventually end last season with a Super Bowl XLVI victory in Indianapolis.
And yet, while the Giants entered this season as one of the NFL’s favorites, the team’s attitude entering the current season had little to do with their status as defending champion.
“You know what, when we came into (training) camp, nobody wore their (championship) rings,” said Fewell, a 1980 South Point High graduate who was fullback-linebacker on the Red Raiders’ 1979 N.C. 3A state champion football team. “We said, ‘That was fun, but this is a new year and we have something to prove.’ And you feel good as defending Super Bowl champ, but mentally we put away our rings and said, ‘That’s done with, this is 2012.’”
After losing 24-17 to Dallas in their 2012 opener and falling behind 27-16 after three quarters against Tampa Bay last Sunday, the Giants have roared to back-to-back victories in convincing fashion. That’s even as injuries have again created havoc on the New York roster – costing the Giants the services of wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, offensive tackle David Diehl and running back Ahmad Bradshaw among others on Thursday.
“I think that’s a tribute to the players,” Fewell said of his team’s attitude to battle through lineup changes caused by the injuries. “It was a lot of mental preparation for these guys and the coaches. We talked about what we wanted to do, how we wanted to do and we did some mental reps. With the short week like it was, the guys just stayed really focused.”
Fewell and the Giants return to action next Sunday night in Philadelphia.
With his success with the Giants and a 15-year coaching career that includes a stint as interim head coach in Buffalo, many see Fewell as a potential head coaching candidate at season’s end.
“I’m taking it one day at a time,” said Fewell, who has coached for Jacksonville (1998-2002), St. Louis (2003-04) and Chicago (2005) in addition to Buffalo (2006-09) and with the Giants. “If it happens, I’m blessed. But if it doesn’t happen, I’m still blessed. I’m working with a great organization. I’ve got great players to work with and I’m having a lot of fun. It’s fun to do what I do, so anything like that (a head coaching job) would make me even more blessed.”