The New York Giants offense is like any other in the NFL, featuring a strong running game that is led by the power run concept and pass concepts that are littered throughout every teams playbook. This may come as a surprise to some when considering the background of offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, a man known for his Run-N-Shoot offense with the Houston Oilers in the early nineties, but since running the high-flying, non-stop scoring offense, Gilbride has settled down into a fairly balanced offense with the Giants that relies heavily on a power running game.
The Concept of Power
Gilbride's running game is based off of a concept that is a staple in all NFL running games and it is simply called "Power".
Power is defined as the ability to drive or push with power, which sums up the Giants running game quite well. New York's offensive linemen have struggled some this year, but overall have done a decent job to move or "drive" defenders back to establish a new line of scrimmage, an integral part of a running game.
Along with a push in the trenches comes an over-sized, angry running back by the name of Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs has been very good in years past running the ball out of the Power concept, and while he hasn't been up to his usual standards this season, he's had a few explosive plays and continues to have respect from defenses when running the ball.
So, what is the Power concept you may ask?
It's a run concept based off of moving the ball with brute force to the play-side with a pulling guard, who is the lead blocker, from the backside and a powerful running back running behind him. This is the something the Giants do very well and have even had success using it against teams that defend the run very well, such as the San Francisco 49ers, who they clashed with in week 10 of the regular season and will meet again this weekend.
Breaking it Down
On what ultimately would a fifteen yard gain for the Giants, they initially came out with 12 or Ace personnel, which implies there is a personnel package made up of a single running back along with two tight ends.
To counter this, the 49ers came out in their base 3-4 personnel, a run defending formation that they've had a lot of success with. The 49ers base personnel is unlike any other in the NFL because it's one of the few, if not the only one, that can stay on the field for every down due to the athleticism of the linebackers.
However, as athletic the linebackers were, they ran into an issue of being on the wrong side of the play and consequently sealed away from it completely.
All but two of the Giants blockers would block down—away from the run—to seal the defenders off and keep their hands off of running back Brandon Jacobs. The two blockers who went in the direction of the play—the play-side—were the H-back, who executed a kick-out block on the strong side linebacker, and right guard, who came from the backside to lead the way clear for Jacobs.
The key to the success of this play would be the lead blocker, the pulling backside (right) guard. When executing a lead block, it is very important to make sure the angle that is taken is not too wide nor too tight. This is a problem for offensive linemen at times but it was not the case here, as lead blocker Chris Snee took the proper angle to spring Jacobs for a fifteen yard pick-up.
Opening It Up
Jacobs big runs and Snee's bone-crushing lead blocks help set up the passing game for quarterback Eli Manning. While Manning has been playing at a very high level regardless of the performance of the running game, he's often seen at his best when he can work play action and look for his deep threats.
The power running game of the Giants helps set this up by picking up yards to allow Manning to work manageable situations in down and distance. A run of five yards on first down, for instance, allows Manning and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride to open up the playbook because barring a turnover, it is a win-win situation for the offense.
A deep shot on second down gives the offense an opportunity to change the field position significantly and perhaps get momentum on their side with no concerns of a complete or incomplete pass. Aside from a turnover, at worst, they are stuck in a 3rd and 5 situation which allows them to once again open up the playbook and choose either run or pass.
But what if the running game does not gain the necessary yardage for a manageable down and distance, thus putting Manning in a pass-only situation?
This is where Manning has stepped his game up this season and became a problem for NFL defenses. If there's one aspect of evaluating a quarterback on game day, it is seeing how they handle 3rd down and 7+ to go.
Third and long is not the ideal down and distance for an offense, especially for a quarterback who knows he has to pass the ball to keep the chains moving and there's a strong possibility of the blitz coming. However, Manning has quelled these past issues with improved decision making, understanding of defenses, and an overall better execution of fundamentals.
Will the Giants beat the 49ers?
One thing's for sure, the 49ers will have their hands full with the tower of power known as Brandon Jacobs who will look to run hard in the Power concept called by offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, while the other elite Manning named Eli, looks to take his shots against the 49ers secondary in ideal down and distance situations.