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Emergence of kiwanuka

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Emergence of kiwanuka

Post  Big_Pete on Thu Oct 30, 2008 7:40 pm


Giants' Kiwanuka making his presence felt along defensive line

Keith Srakocic / Associated Press

Midway through the Giants' 21-14 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka noticed an interesting trend by the Steelers' offensive line. Intent on stopping Justin Tuck, they were leaving Kiwanuka all alone.

"(When) they were passing there were a couple times when I went through unblocked," Kiwanuka told the Giants' official website. "I am in a stance five yards away from the quarterback and they decided to leave me untouched."

Kiwanuka's team-high three sacks against the Steelers was the type of performance that lets opposing coordinators know "I'm there." It's doubtful that anyone will be ignoring Kiwanuka much longer.

Joining elite company

Giants DE Mathias Kiwanuka tied a career high with three sacks vs. the Steelers Sunday. Kiwanuka finished with five tackles, two quarterback hits and one forced fumble.

NFC sack leaders
Player Sacks
1. DeMarcus Ware, LB, Cowboys 9.0
2. John Abraham, DE, Falcons 7.0
3. Aaron Kampman, DE, Packers 6.0
3. Justin Tuck, DE, Giants 6.0
3. Kevin Williams, DT, Vikings 6.0
T-8th. Mahias Kiwanuka, DE, Giants 5.0

A broken left leg suffered in Week 11 robbed Kiwanuka of the opportunity to be a part of New York's run to the Vince Lombardi Trophy last season. This year, the former first-round draft pick out of Boston College is relishing the opportunity to be a part of a team that goes after the quarterback with a ferocity matched by no other team in the league.

"I've been hungry for this since I got back on the field," Kiwanuka said. "You live for this."

Following Michael Strahan's retirement and a knee injury that ended Osi Umenyiora's season before it ever got underway, many wondered how the team would make up for the loss of both defensive ends' 22 combined sacks from last year. The team was set to enter the season with Tuck -- coming off a 10-sack season of his own -- at Strahan's old position on the left side.

On the other side of the line stood the greater unknown in Kiwanuka, who was moving back to defensive end after having been asked to play linebacker in 2007. Through seven games, Kiwanuka appears to have answered any doubts. On Sunday he moved into second on the team with five sacks. Kiwanuka, along with Tuck (6), DT Fred Robbins (6) and DE Dave Tollefson (4) are carrying a Giants' pass rush that leads the league with 26 sacks.

The days of Strahan and Umenyiora playing together may be a thing of the past, but Kiwanuka thinks he is receiving much of the same treatment Umenyiora did when Strahan was commanding constant double teams.

"You see on film a lot of teams are paying a lot of attention to (Tuck) and that is when I have to get the sack," Kiwanuka told "When the game is put in my hands, when the coordinator says, 'Okay, we are going to let this guy essentially beat us,' that is when, as a guy playing across from a great defensive player, you have to be able to step up and make that play."

On Sunday, with Pittsburgh trailing 9-7 at the end of the first half, that is exactly what happened. On third-and-2 Kiwanuka was essentially given a free pass at Roethlisberger, coming in untouched for a 9-yard sack.

Later, with 14:10 left in the fourth quarter, Kiwanuka again came across unblocked, getting a hand on Roethlisberger and forcing him into a pass that was intercepted by Corey Webster.

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"As a defensive end that is one of the biggest insults you can have," said Kiwanuka. "But I will take the sack and the quarterback hit."

Even when the Steelers decided to block Kiwanuka, the Giants' pass rush was too much for Pittsburgh's offensive line. With the Giants trailing 14-12, the Steelers took possession at their 30-yard line, looking to increase what was a precarious fourth-quarter lead.

The Giants defense forced the Steelers into a three-and-out in which Kiwanuka forced Roethlisberger into an incompletion on first down and sacked the Steelers quarterback for an 8-yard loss two plays later.

The Giants then tied the game on a safety -- the result of an errant snap by backup long snapper James Harrison on the next play. Seven plays later, the Giants took the lead on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to TE Kevin Boss.

The Steelers then had two opportunities to tie the game. On Pittsburgh's next possession Roethlisberger, under heavy pressure, threw incompletions on three of Pittsburgh's next four plays, turning the ball over on downs.

With 1:48 remaining, Pittsburgh had one more chance for a touchdown, but on third down, Kiwanuka managed to completely shed his blocker and force Roethlisberger into a fumble. The Steelers recovered, but were faced with fourth-and-15 on the next play, in which they finally decided to double-team Kiwanuka. It was to no avail as the Giants' pressure was still enough that Roethlisberger threw his fourth interception of the game.

"As a defense that is something that you have to do in order to help your team win," Kiwanuka said. "We have guys who play big-time ball in the secondary and this week we definitely contributed once again as a group up front on the d-line and that is the kind of thing that we need to do week in and week out."
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Re: Emergence of kiwanuka

Post  NYG Hampton 27 on Fri Oct 31, 2008 4:19 pm

The d-line has been great. Kiwi has really come into his own, switching back and forth slowed him down a bit but he seems very comfortable now. Tuck is an absolute beast, Robbins should be a perennial pro bowler. The other DTs have been solid, and Tollefson is turning a lot of heads. Bravo gentleman, bravo.

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Re: Emergence of kiwanuka

Post  Big_Pete on Sat Nov 01, 2008 8:02 pm

I have to agree.

Moving Kiwanuka to DE has been very good for him, and the Giants defense; certainly alot better than playing him out of position at SLB.

All of our Defensive line have stepped up; as has Danny Clark and Brian Kehl at LB and James Butler at SS.

I have been a litte underwhelmed by Gerris Wilkinson and surprisingly Antonio Pierce.
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