Giants, Rams try to avoid 0-2 start

In Monday night football

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Eli Manning wasn’t searching for answers earlier this week when he said the New York Giants were looking for an identity after a season-opening loss.

The 2008 Super Bowl MVP knows exactly who the Giants are when they have the ball. So do the St. Louis Rams, who will face them tonight at MefLife Stadium in the first coaching matchup of Tom Coughlin and former pupil Steve Spagnuolo.

The Giants are a run-first offense. The passing game is set up by the rushing of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs and the blocking of a hard-nosed offensive line.

Inexplicably, the Giants (0-1) lost that identity in their 28-14 loss to the Redskins. The running game produced 63 yards on 13 carries in the first half. New York rushed seven times for 12 yards in the second half and was shut out.

“They’re not going to try to trick you or anything like that,” Rams defensive end Chris Long said. “They’re going to run the ball at you and say stop it if you can. They’ve got a nice power running game and Eli can make plays when he has to. I’m pretty sure they’re going to try to run the ball on us, and with good reason. We didn’t stop the run real well last week.”

The Rams (0-1) didn’t stop the run, period, in a 31-13 loss to the Michael Vick and the Eagles. Philadelphia rushed for 236 yards with LeSean McCoy collecting 122 and Vick 97.

While many might expect the Giants to be salivating at the prospect of rebounding against the Rams, they aren’t for two reasons.

Despite his 2-yard touchdown run last week, the slow-footed Manning isn’t Vick. McCoy’s numbers also need to be looked at cautiously since he gained 95 yards in the fourth quarter.

“They are going to be coming in here fighting,” Giants center David Baas said. “They don’t want to be 0-2 and we don’t want to be 0-2. We’re not underestimating them at all. But definitely we are going to come out and be aggressive and do what we do.”

Bradshaw said the Redskins put eight men in the box in an effort to force Manning to throw the ball. It worked, partly because New York putting itself in too many third-and-long situations that took away the run option.

Left tackle Will Beatty expects the Giants to be themselves.

“We know the defense is going to put eight in the box,” Beatty said. “They want to force us to pass the ball. We know we can run against eight in the box because teams have been showing that against us week after week. We just have to do what we have to do and things will fall in place.”

The Giants have no doubt Spagnuolo will try to pressure Manning and the offense. After all, he was the Giants’ defensive coordinator in the Super Bowl championship season in 2007, and again the following year before taking the Rams’ job.

His game plan was always to bring the pressure.

Spagnuolo said many of the things the Rams use on defense are the same as what he did with the Giants. However, he added there are some things the Giants won’t recognize.

“I still live by the theory, if you could exchange each others playbooks during the week and go and play the game, it still comes back to the players,” Spagnuolo said. “You don’t know what they are going to call and on what down. I think there are some advantages on both sides maybe and being familiar with personnel and scheme but it really comes down to how the players execute tonight.”

Both teams will again have to deal with injuries.

The Giants expect two-time Pro Bowl Justin Tuck to play this week after sitting out the opener with a neck injury. Leading receiver Hakeem Nicks also expects to play with a bruised knee, although New York signed veteran Brandon Stokley as an insurance policy this week.

Fellow Pro Bowl DE Osi Umenyiora remains out with a knee injury for a defense that has lost two starters and its second-round draft pick for the season with injuries. Cornerback Prince Amukamara is out with a broken foot.

The Rams are not as sure about running back Steven Jackson (quad) while receiver Danny Amendola is doubtful with an elbow injury. Quarterback Sam Bradford is expected to play with a bruised index finger on his throwing hand.

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