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Game Rewind: Snarled running game

Against the Eagles, the Giants had difficulty running the ball.  What happened?

Head coach Tom Coughlin claimed, “I thought that our offense was very sporadic. We didn’t run the ball the way we thought we would be able to. We had a couple of drives that were worthwhile, but basically for the night we did not do the things that we intended to do.” 

The Giants gained a total of 61 net yards rushing.  Including Eli Manning’s attempts, the Giants averaged 3.2 yards per rush.  Subtract Manning from the equation and it gets worse.  Between Bradshaw and Jacobs, they gained a total of 39 yards.  And their average per rush was a paltry 2.3 yards per carry. 

Manning: Two rushes for 22 yards

Bradshaw: Twelve rushes for 29 yards

Jacobs: Five rushes for 10 yards 

With the exception of Manning, the Giants had 17 rushing plays versus 33 pass plays.  This is not the type of balance Coughlin wants from his offense. 

In the first half,  the Giants ran the ball 14 times.  In the second half, Gilbride abandoned the run.  Takeaway Eli’s two scrambles,  Gilbride called THREE rushing plays. 

What is going on?

Before we uncover some clues, generally, the Giants have two bread and butter running plays. 

1. The power BOB

2. The counter

A few weeks ago on the New York Times’ Fifth Down Blog, Andy Barall wrote an excellent article about the power BOB.  Additionally, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock dissected the Giants rushing attack against the Lions. 

Two things stand out for me.  First, from Mr. Barall’s piece, the Giants had their offensive line intact.  Secondly,  Mr. Mayock points out the effectiveness of having Shawn Andrews as a tackle eligible.  On Sunday night, the Giants did not have all of their starters and Andrews was not used as a tackle eligible.  Needless to say, this is the main reasons for the Giants measly rushing numbers.

Of the 17 rush attempts by Bradshaw and Jacobs,  the Giants ran the ball 13 times to the right side.  The right side of the line has healthy starters Chris Snee and Kareem McKenzie. 

Interestingly, the Giants did not run many counter plays.  Most likely, this is because of the offensive line issues.  When running the counter, Rich Seubert is the best pulling guard on the team. 

Because of the injuries to centers Shaun O’Hara and Adam Koets, Seubert was forced to shift from his natural left guard position to center.  And Seubert had his troubles against the Eagles.

The Giants first two possessions were three and outs.  The Giants elected to run the ball on first and second down consecutivley.  Of these four rushing attempts in which Bradshaw was the ball carrier, he netted a total of 2 yards.

On the first play from scrimmage, Bradshaw had no chance.  Both Rich Seubert and Kevin Boothe did not block Eagles’ DT Antonio Dixon.  At the point of attack, Dixon blew up the play and tackled Bradshaw for a two yard loss.  On the next play,  the Giants ran their power BOB.  And the Eagles knew it was coming.  All three Eagles linebackers and safety Mikell sprinted to the right side of the Giants line.  With Snee and McKenzie overwhelmed with the amount of defenders, Eagles DT Mike Patterson shedded his block and tackled Bradshaw.  On this play, Bradshaw gained two yards.

On the Giants second possession,  Gilbride decided to insert two tight ends.  Even with this formation, Bradshaw gained two yards.  Eagles linebackers Moise Fokou and Stewart Bradley disrupted this play.  Watching on  tape, they knew this play was coming.  And safety Quintin Mikell was helping in run support.  On second down,  initially, the Giants lined up in a shot gun formation.  After looking at the pre-snap defense,  Manning changed the play.  Even with Manning modifying the play, again, it seemed the Eagles knew this was coming.  Running behind Snee and McKenzie, Bradshaw gained zero yards.  Eagles linebackers Sims and Bradley were kept clean.  Consequently, they wreaked havoc on this play and safety Mikell made the tackle.

On the Giants third possession, a counter play was called.  Kevin Boothe was pulling on this play. But on the backside, Andrews did not seal Trent Cole.  Because Andrews did not block Cole,  Trent was able to make a play on Jacobs. As a result, Jacobs gained 2 yards.  On a second and one from the Eagles 46 yard line,  the Giants lined up in an eye formation with Boss in motion.  On a toss play to the right side, apparently Bradshaw did not see enough daylight.  He attempted to cut it back but Eagles DE Brandon Graham was left unblocked on the backside.  Thus, Graham was able to trip up Bradshaw behind the line of scrimmage.  Consequently, no gain for Bradshaw.  On the next play, the Giants finally had some success.  Once again running right,  McKenzie and Pascoe get excellent blocks.  This opened up a huge hole for Bradshaw for a 17 yard gain.  This was his longest run of the night.  It should be pointed out, Snee held Bradley on this play.  NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth pointed out because the hole was so big that the official decided not to throw a flag.  On first and 10 with Jacobs in the backfield, the Giants run right again.  Jacobs ran for 6 yards.  This happens to be his longest run of the night.  Pascoe, Boss, Snee, and McKenzie blocked well on this play.    On this same drive, the Giants had first and goal to goal at the 10 yard line.  The Giants run their power BOB and Jacobs gained 5 yards.  Again, good blocking by Snee, Pascoe, and McKenzie.  Subsequently, Gilbride went to the well too much.  On second and goal from the five, Gilbride called a counter run.  Eagles linebacker Stewart Bradley sniffed out this play.  Bradley saw Boothe pulling. He was patient and followed Jacobs.  Then, Bradley tackled Jacobs for a one yard loss. Although the Giants failed to score a touchdown and had to settle for a field goal, clearly, this was their best drive of the night.   It was a 14 play drive which consumed 8:06 minutes off the clock.  

The Giants ability to run the ball allowed them to achieve balance in their offensive attack.  With six passes and eight runs, this is Coughlin’s formula for success.  And head coach Tom Coughlin has preached time and again for a balanced offensive attack.  “I just want to see us run the ball and be productive with the run. Be able to stay with it and play good defense. Stop the run so we can stay with it and stay balanced. I don’t like the situation we were in last year on occasion where there was no way to stay balanced. We can’t win under those circumstances.”  

Going forward, with a depleted receiving corps, let us hope the Giants can find consistency with their running game.  Like Coughlin has stated, with the way their defense is playing, the Giants need to stay balanced on offense.  This will give them a better chance of winning their remaining six games.

A few notes:

Giants signed WR Michael Clayton.

Outstanding article written by New York Times’ John Branch on Eli’s fumble problems.