Giants defense wants to pitch shutout against Lions

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford could use a new middle finger, and in Sunday’s final regular-season home game at MetLife Stadium, the Giants defense plans to give him one.

Big Blue’s increasingly confident 11-man wall that smothered the Dallas Cowboys last week, believe it or not, was unsatisfied with surrendering even one score in that statement 10-7 win. So the Giants enter Week 15 against the NFC North-leading Lions and a banged-up Stafford aiming to complete a defense’s most difficult task: to post a shutout. Zero points. A donut for Detroit.

“We showed up in the Dallas game, but there’s still work to do,” linebacker Kelvin Sheppard told the Daily News Thursday. “We feel like we had an opportunity to shut them out when we watched the film, and because of guys’ bad eyes or bad technique we gave up seven points. We try to be a stingy defense, and that means going out and shutting teams out. So that’s our number one goal now.”

Stafford is an NFL MVP candidate but will be playing with a joint dislocation and torn ligaments in the middle finger of his right throwing hand, an injury he sustained in the first quarter of Detroit’s 20-17 win over the Chicago Bears last week. Stafford completed that game wearing a glove on his throwing hand and threw two fourth-quarter interceptions, one of them a pick-6, but then directed a seven-play, 76-yard game-winning drive and ran in the game-winning TD from 7 yards.

He is expected to wear the glove again Sunday, but his ailment and the East Rutherford elements will present a combination of unfamiliar challenges: Detroit incredibly has not played an outdoor game since Oct. 2, with six home games and visits to Houston, Minnesota and New Orleans in between.

It’s all lining up for Steve Spagnuolo’s defense to dictate a game, completely, from start to finish.

“Our goal now is to make sure that that (Dallas) game defensively is not our best game this year,” said Spagnuolo, the defensive coordinator, on Thursday. “That has kind of been our focus: ‘Let’s not let that be the best game.’ ”

Terrance Williams’ wide-open 31-yard yard touchdown reception from Dak Prescott last Sunday is the play sticking in Spagnuolo’s and the defense’s craw. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie let Williams slip up field uncovered. That was their one mistake, and they want it back.

They are motivating themselves by tuning out any noise that facing the Lions is somehow less sexy or significant as that Week 14 clash with the division-rival Cowboys. The Giants haven’t lost sight of their goal to be still playing when February rolls around.

“People don’t want to make this as big a game as last week’s, but this game is actually bigger, and every game is going to be bigger,” linebacker and defensive captain Jonathan Casillas said. “So we have to take that mindset that we’re preparing for a playoff run, every game is important to that, and if we don’t handle our business, it won’t happen for us.”

The Giants (9-4) have an outside chance to clinch their first postseason berth in five years this week. They need a win over the Lions (9-4), a Washington loss, and a loss or tie by both the Vikings and Green Bay Packers. They also can set a franchise record for most wins in a single season at MetLife Stadium. Their 6-1 home record is tied with the 2012 team (6-2) for the most in this stadium since it opened in 2010.

“We showed up in the Dallas game, but there’s still work to do,” linebacker Kelvin Sheppard told the Daily News.

“We showed up in the Dallas game, but there’s still work to do,” linebacker Kelvin Sheppard told the Daily News.

(Damian Strohmeyer/AP Images)

They don’t just want to win, though. They want to do so emphatically and continue to build momentum into next Thursday night’s visit to hostile Philadelphia before a Week 17 test in Washington.

The Giants rank seventh in the NFL in points allowed per game (18.8), not far behind league-leading Seattle (16.8).

They have clamped down this season on the Rams (10), Saints (13), Browns (13) and Bears (16). The Cowboys’ seven points was the lowest output of the season for a Giants opponent.

It’s time to take the next step. It’s time, the Giants defense says, to pitch a shutout.

TWO BOLD PREDICTIONS BY PAT LEONARD:

1. Landon Collins will score his second touchdown of the season: The Giants’ second-year safety can’t top his electric 44-yard interception return for a TD in London in Week 7 against the Rams, but he will score his second TD of the season on a miscue by Stafford this Sunday to bail out the Giants offense again.

2. Eli Manning’s offense won’t score 10 points: The Lions give up only 20.6 points per game, paced by leading tackler Tahir Whitehead, a Jersey City product, at linebacker. The Giants will win but will score even fewer than the 10 they managed against Dallas.

GIANTS HOT READ

Pugh, the Giants’ starting left guard, will finally make his return to game action Sunday after missing five straight weeks because of a sprained knee.

The injury kept Pugh out longer than expected after he suffered a setback in practice leading up to the Giants’ victory at the Browns.

Pugh was limited in practice in each session this week but wasn’t listed on Friday’s injury report.

That’s great news for Big Blue. Pugh was playing at a high level as arguably the team’s best run blocker before going down with the knee injury against the Eagles.

Matthew Stafford is an NFL MVP candidate but will be playing with a joint dislocation and torn ligaments in the middle finger of his right throwing hand.

Matthew Stafford is an NFL MVP candidate but will be playing with a joint dislocation and torn ligaments in the middle finger of his right throwing hand.

(Rick Osentoski/AP)

Ben McAdoo has been forced to plug a number of different players in the left guard spot during Pugh’s absence, including Marshall Newhouse, who started the season as the team’s starting right tackle. Newhouse hadn’t played guard since he was in high school.

Against the Browns, the Giants turned to fourth-stringer Adam Gettis.

Pugh’s return should provide a boost for a line that’s struggled immensely to get anything going in the running game.

— Daniel Popper

GIANTS TRAINING ROOM

DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) is out. S Nat Berhe (concussion), LB Keenan Robinson (shoulder) and RB Shane Vereen (concussion) are questionable.

LIONS HOT READ

The Lions’ rushing attack isn’t as bad as the Giants’ struggling ground game, but it’s close.

Their 1,088 rushing yards are better than just two teams in the NFL — Big Blue and the Vikings, who have spent virtually all of this season without star running back Adrian Peterson.

And things could get uglier Sunday at MetLife Stadium, as Detroit’s leading rusher, Theo Riddick, is doubtful with a wrist injury. Dwayne Washington is the backup. He’s totaled just 212 yards on the ground on 69 attempts for a pedestrian 3.1 yards-per-carry average.

The Giants boast one of the best run defenses in the NFL and should be able to turn the Lions into a one-dimensional offense this weekend. That means they can turn their focus to a talented group of receivers that includes Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin and rising tight end Eric Ebron.

Many teams have failed to slow down Matt Stafford and the Lions’ passing game this season, but shutting down Washington would be a good place to start. — Popper

LIONS TRAINING ROOM

C Travis Swanson (concussion) is OUT. RB Theo Riddick (wrist) is doubtful. DE Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder), TE Eric Ebron (knee), LB DeAndre Levy (knee), CB Darius Slay (hamstring) and RB Zach Zenner (concussion) are questionable.

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Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News

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