A couple of weeks ago, there were a lot of questions about whether Antonio Pierce would be distracted by his role in the Plaxico Burress shooting. Then he turned in a stinker of a performance against the Eagles and the questioners filled in their own answers, answers which they turned into facts when Tashard Choice of the Cowboys ran for more than 70 yards in the fourth quarter of a loss to the Cowboys.
The evidence of distraction is less convincing than the evidence of the speed of Choice and Brian Westbrook. They are shifty, agile backs who would make Pierce's life miserable even if he hadn't been part of a gun-hiding conspiracy earlier this year. Problem is, the Panthers are bringing two strong running backs to Giants Stadium this weekend. Pierce has to spearhead the effort to keep DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart from piling up yards and points.
The return of Fred Robbins to the lineup should help, but the problem the last two weeks hasn't been offensive linemen taking Pierce out of plays. It's been poor tackling, poor positioning and simply getting out played that has turned Pierce into a turnstile. Williams and Stewart don't futz around behind the line, they come in straight lines and they come hard. If Pierce is arm tackling or jumping the wrong gap, the fate of NFC home field advantage will rest on the tackling abilities of the Giant secondary. That's not a risk worth taking.
As mentioned before, Pierce hasn't seemed distracted. He's human, though, and may not have been as focused on football as at other times this season. Only he can say for sure, but the Giants need the full Pierce to take down the Panthers.