Cincinnati Bengals receiver A.J. Green was on the New York Giants' radar long before opening his mouth.
The NFL's co-leader in touchdown receptions, Green created some controversy for Sunday's game in Cincinnati on Thursday in a radio interview with WFAN in New York City, saying there are areas to exploit in the Giants' defense.
"I feel like they've got a lot of holes in their defense," Green said.
There is some truth to Green's comment.
New York has given up 15 pass plays of 30 yards or more and 38 passes of 20 or more. Nine of the 38 plays have been for touchdowns, including a game-changing 51-yarder by Mike Wallace in the fourth quarter that sparked the Pittsburgh Steelers' 24-20 comeback win over the Giants (6-3) last weekend.
Green had praised the play of the Giants' defensive line before making his comment about holes in the defense, which obviously was a reference to the secondary.
Safety Antrel Rolle and his fellow defensive backs were reluctant to verbally strike back at Green, who is sixth in the NFL with 735 yards receiving and is tied for seventh in receptions (51). His eight TD catches share the league lead with James Jones of the Packers.
"You don't worry about it," Rolle said of Green's comments. "I'm a deep safety. I'm going to play my responsibility and if I get a chance, I'm coming across. He's a great receiver, though. You can't take anything from A.J. Green. He's a great receiver and I think definitely the best player on the offensive side of the ball. He makes a number of plays for them and I think his relationship with (quarterback Andy) Dalton is something special. The game has to be played on Sunday and we'll play it."
As much as he was pressed, Rolle would not say anything derogatory about Green or the Bengals' offense.
"I'll let my pads do the talking on Sunday. That's how I approach the game," Rolle said. "That's how we approach the game, and if he sees me, he better duck."
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell wasn't shocked that Green would think there are holes in the defense. He said every defense has holes in it, and so does every offense.
"You know I really don't listen to the comments that guys like that make," Fewell said. "You know, talk is cheap, you play the game."
Fewell admitted there have been lapses in the secondary. Two weeks ago against Dallas, a miscommunication between cornerback Corey Webster and a safety led to a long play and last week Wallace turned a short slant into a touchdown by literally outrunning four defenders.
Second-year cornerback Prince Amukamara said he hasn't kept a count on how many big plays the Giants have given up, but he feels offenses aren't beating the secondary over the top. It's more that they have turned short passes into big gains.
Green is that type of receiver: he's explosive, has great speed, good hands and is aggressive in going up and getting the ball.
"I mean he's a very confident receiver and I expect him to say that," Amukamara said. "I expect him to have confidence that he's going to make plays, just as our defense does. We have confidence we're going to make plays against their offense."
The Giants are coming off a game in which they blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead then failed to prevent Pittsburgh from running out the clock.
"We weren't tied together. In a situation like that while you're playing football ... it's not basketball. It's not a one-man game," Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "If one person does something wrong, it messes up the whole defense.
"So basically we've just got to get everybody on the right track and play football. You can't be selfish at all. People on this team were being kind of selfish and did their individual things, but this is football. This is not a one-man game, not a one-man show. So we've just got to go out there and play together."
The Giants' defense has scored a touchdown in each of the past two games, Pierre-Paul returning an interception against Dallas two weeks ago and linebacker Michael Boley bringing back a fumble for a score. Overall, it has forced eight turnovers in the two games.
Had the offense done anything against Pittsburgh, New York would have won both games.
That might be the reason why the defenders are ignoring Green, whose comments might be a bit out of character for him.
"Everybody has their own opinions about our defense and it is what it is," Pierre-Paul said. "Come Sunday, all we're going to do is play football before our bye week. So we're going to give them the best shot we got and hopefully it falls through."
NOTES: G Chris Snee missed his second straight practice. ... MLB Chase Blackburn, who missed last week's game with a hamstring injury, practiced on a limited basis, as did WR Hakeem Nicks, who saw the swelling in his left knee subside. Nicks created a little controversy after practicing when he was asked about his statistics (27 catches for 390 yards) being down this year. "Stats is for girls. It's football, man," Nicks said. "The season is going to be up and down. It's about how you ride the wave and if you let it affect you. I know I'm a great football player, and we're ready to make this run after the bye week." A team spokesman later clarified the comment, saying Nicks had a high school coach who told him that players interested in their stats were only trying to pick up girls.
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