Forget that Fewell was the Bills’ interim coach for the final seven games of the 2009 season, or that they passed him over and chose Chan Gailey to become the coach the following season.
The only thing of importance for him is that the Bills (4-1) and their high-powered offense are coming to MetLife Stadium on Sunday to play the Giants (3-2) and Fewell needs to get his inconsistent defense to start communicating better in order to shut them down.
“It’s just a game that we have to win,” Fewell said Thursday after practice. “I just happen to know those guys on the other side though.”
While Fewell didn’t admit it outright, he left the impression that he didn’t get a fair shot at keeping the head coaching job after posting a 3-4 record in Buffalo.
“It’s been two years and whether I did or didn’t, I think that’s irrelevant,” Fewell said. “I’m happy to be where I am now.”
Fewell took over as the Giants defensive coordinator last season and the unit rebounded after a dreadful 2009 season, finishing ranked in the top 10 in many categories.
This year has been more of a struggle and injuries have played a big part.
Terrell Thomas, who was the Giants’ top cover cornerback, and middle linebacker Jonathan Goff were both lost before the start of the season with knee injuries. Defensive captain Justin Tuck has only played two games because of neck and groin injuries and fellow Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora missed the first three games after having arthroscopic in the preseason.
The results aren’t surprising. The defense is ranked 20th overall. The run defense has been horrible the past three games, yielding an average of 160 yards and the pass defense has blown coverage after coverage, including a total bust on Charlie Whitehurst’s go-ahead touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 36-25 loss.
On the play, cornerback Aaron Ross and safety Antrel Rolle thought the other was going to take the receiver and no one did.
“It’s about communication,” Fewell said. “I think we weren’t communicating. When you use that form of communication verbally everybody doesn’t always get it at the same time. I think I need to do a better job and maybe (put) wristbands on the guys so that everybody knows what the call is. If one person doesn’t know then he has to say it to everybody else. I think I can do a better job and help our players if I do that for them.”
The Giants had better improve because the Bills have been machinelike on offense. The team is averaging just under 33 points and it has scored at least 20 points in five straight games.
“We’re trying to learn how to play together. That’s the biggest problem that I think we have right now, learning how to play together,” Fewell said. “So yes, my focus is more on us than it is the Buffalo Bills because we have to learn how to complement each other and we don’t know how to complement each other at this point in time.”
Buffalo has used a balanced offense. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown for 1,233 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions and running back Fred Jackson is third in the NFL with 712 yards from scrimmage.
Fewell has a special feeling for Fitzpatrick. After he took over as coach, he made the Harvard player his starter.
“He looks very comfortable in this offense,” Fewell said, noting it’s a totally different scheme than he had. “He’s making quick decisions. He’s getting the ball out extremely fast. His receivers and he are on the same page. He just looks like he’s in total control and he knows exactly what they want to do with this offense.”
Tuck, who has missed the last two games with neck and groin injuries, was just one of many players who said Fewell has kept an even keel in meetings this week, occasionally offering a little insight into certain Bills players.
“I think it means more to us than it does to him,” veteran safety Deon Grant said of Fewell. “He is just going to go out and call his game, but a little better now because we have to get back to playing New York Giants defense.
“We as a defense, we want to get him this victory more than anything.”