The New York Giants have lacked big, game-changing—or even drive-changing—plays from the running game recently. But everything changed in that regard Thursday night in Carolina, with Andre Brown exploding in his first career start.
He rushed for 113 yards in total, but 80 of those came on half a dozen carries. Those are the impact runs the Giants missed in 2011.
Here's a closer look at the six runs Brown had Thursday night that went for seven yards or more:
Seven-Yard First-Down Run on New York's First Series
On Brown's first run of the game, he picks up seven yards and a first down, but it was really a play in which you or I could have picked up a first down. That's because Martellus Bennett and Will Beatty (circled in red) do a fantastic job dealing with Carolina's right end, as well as circled linebackers Jon Beason and Like Kuechly.
31-yard Run Later on the Same Drive
His second run, which comes two players later, is the longest of the day. And to gain 31 yards, he has to do a lot more work. As soon as he takes the delayed handoff he knows he has to cut right (whether that's by design or not).
The pressure comes to the left and the safeties (in red) are deep, which means that Brown probably only has to make one quick move in order to bust it to the outside for a big gain. This is what separates a good back from an average one.
But Brown breaks Beason's tackle and has good blocks from Bennett (red) and Victor Cruz (blue). Momentum would spring him off of Beason to the right, which gives him a chance to find the corner and bust loose for 31 yards.
16-Yard Run to Kick off New York's Second Possession
This is the kind of play the Giants haven't gotten enough of from their backs the last couple of years. It's almost all on Brown and maybe the Panthers defense a little bit, too.
It's not as though the run-blocking was bad. David Baas (red), Chris Snee (blue), Sean Locklear (orange) and Henry Hynoski (purple) did a perfect job sealing off their men and opening that lane.
19-yard Run on Second-and-Long Late in the First Quarter
This is my favorite run from Brown Thursday night because he displays such maturity for a back making his first start. In this case, nothing's really there out of the gate, but no defender is penetrating either. So essentially, the line has failed to open up a hole, but they've also stood their ground.
Sean Locklear (red) is getting beat by Charles Johnson, forcing Brown to cut quick and get behind the wall that's been (unintentionally) created by David Baas and Chris Snee. Snee blocked hard left, indicating the gap was supposed to be right where Johnson was sweeping in.
Seven-Yard Run in the Red Zone Early in the Second Quarter
This is another example of a play that was made possible by great run-blocking but Brown was the cherry on top. Here's the hole he had off a draw...
He has seemingly lost momentum and is no longer running north-south as Josh Norman comes up to make the tackle at around the eight-yard line.
Seven-Yard Pickup in Garbage Time
Great team effort again on this one, as Beatty locks up his man while Boothe pulls over and takes care of Antwan Applewhite. Brown follows Hynoski between those two and has daylight.
He's met initially by a defender at the 47-yard line, one yard ahead of the line of scrimmage.
There were times when some pulls weren't effective and the line failed to open up big holes, but it was an above-average performance from a group of blockers which has been highly criticized of late. And there were some times when Brown wasn't perfect—a missed assignment on a sack, for example—but for the most part he seemed to breathe new life into an offense that was in flux due to injury.
Every time Brown was given even a small window, he took full advantage. That's something that the Giants haven't seen enough of from Bradshaw and definitely didn't see enough of from Jacobs.
Plays like the six shown above haven't come often lately in the land of Big Blue. It's not only great for Giants fans to see more balance from their team, but it's simply a lot of fun as a viewer. Running backs get called a dime a dozen all the time, but there's no denying that watching a back in a groove is one of the most entertaining things in sports.
I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of that this year from the Giants.