The perception of Antrel Rolle for the better part of last season was that his mouth — as much as his actions on the field — kept putting the Giants in difficult spots.
Remember Rolle’s proclamation about Big Blue beating the Redskins "99 out of 100 times" in the days leading up to their 23-10 defeat, sealing a regular-season series sweep for then-struggling Washington and putting the Giants’ playoff hopes in jeopardy.
That was nothing compared to what Rolle said afterward, when he tapped his chest and challenged the heart of a team that heeded his message all the way to Super Bowl XLVI.
Fast forward to today and the questioning of just how essential Rolle is to the Giants’ success no longer exists. In reality, outside of Eli Manning and perhaps Jason Pierre-Paul, there is no one more valuable than the seventh-year safety whose words and actions have become lock step with what Tom Coughlin demands from the leaders in his locker room.
On the heels of his best individual performance as a Giant and the franchise’s best regular-season effort in quite some time, it’s only fitting Rolle hit the airwaves Tuesday afternoon and set the tone for what must come next when Robert Griffin III and the Redskins visit MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
"We need this win," Rolle said in his weekly spot on WFAN-AM 660. "We need this win extremely bad."
The Giants would not have gotten their impressive win in San Francisco without him.
Rolle was outstanding in anchoring the secondary during Sunday’s triumph at Candlestick Park with two interceptions and six tackles, tied for the team lead.
Rolle picked off 49ers quarterback Alex Smith on consecutive possessions in the third quarter. On the first one, Smith was forced to throw high to former Giant Mario Manningham with Corey Webster in tight coverage.
Rolle made an acrobatic, one-handed pick, but he deflected the credit.
"What made that interception happen was definitely Corey Webster," Rolle said.
"I think he did a phenomenal job of staying patient and squaring up the receiver. And once the receiver broke on the slant route, he undercut the route so well that Alex Smith had to put air on the ball. I was fortunate enough to get a good break out of my Cover 3 zone and was able to hold onto the ball."
Once the 49ers got the ball back, Rolle was at it again; stepping in front of Michael Crabtree with his second INT of Smith in a span of three passes.
After the game, Rolle complimented the coaching staff and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. He also threw verbal bouquets at teammate Prince Amukamara for his interception of Smith after dogging the second-year cornerback all week for his inexperience in playing zone defense.
Rolle badly was beaten by 49ers tight end Vernon Davis last season, especially on a long touchdown reception — a replay of which he watched "maybe 20 times" before the game for motivation.
Davis was shut down by the Giants this time as part of a dominant defensive performance that reinforced Rolle’s opinion about how good the reigning Super Bowl champions can be.
"People are going to say whatever they want, but the game still has to be played on Sunday," Rolle said. "No one is gonna ever tell us what we can and can not do as the Giants organization."
With great perspective, Rolle has emerged as an even larger-than-expected part of that.