NY Giants vs. Atanta Falcons: Five Keys Moves to Beating Atlanta
1. Run the Ball
Last week, the Carolina Panthers rushed for 185 yards on 34 carries, a 5.4 average. Their top two running backs combined for 30 carries, 174 yards, and two touchdowns.
Needless to say, the Atlanta Falcons can be run on, and that was the key to the Panthers' 28-19 victory.
Likewise, the Giants must get back to what they used to do best and pound the ball. For various reasons, Kevin Gilbride has not called Brandon Jacobs' number all that much recently–by the way, it's 27.
Over the last four games, he has amassed 20 carries only once. But over those four games, he has averaged 5.1 yards per carry, a dramatic difference from his struggles early in the season (he has his average up from 3.4 to 4.1 yards per carry).
With Jacobs looking healthier and stronger than earlier in the season, he should easily be able to handle 17 to 20 carries.
Ahmad Bradshaw, on the other hand, has struggled recently.
Over the last four games, Bradshaw is averaging only 3.1 yards per carry. He is suffering from a foot injury, but this is the same injury he has been dealing with all season, and it should not keep him from contributing. Bradshaw is still explosive, and he's going to have to be a part of our run game if it's going to be as successful as it was last season.
Gilbride must not give up on the run game if it does not work early, and he cannot abandon it again when it is successful. Balancing run and pass, as well as balancing Jacobs and Bradshaw, is key this week.
2. Focus on Matt Ryan
I am not suggesting that the Giants should not pay any attention to the Falcons' running game. Obviously that would not be smart.
But the Falcons' No. 1 weapon, running back Michael Turner, suffered an ankle injury and is likely to miss this weekend's game. His replacement, Jason Snelling, is a solid runner who is capable of carrying the load. But he is not nearly as dangerous as Turner.
The Giants should aim to stop Matt Ryan and the passing game, forcing the Falcons to beat the Giants with their wounded running game.
Ryan, talented as he is, is going through a bit of a sophomore slump. He has a QB rating of 78.8, and over his last five games, he has seven touchdowns to 10 interceptions.
One of the possible reasons for his slump could be the increased pressure he's seen. In the first five games, he was sacked only twice (4-1 team record). But in the last four contests, he has been sacked 10 times (1-3 team record).
The Giants must pressure the young quarterback and force him to make mistakes, as he has been prone to do this year.
3. Cover Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez
The Giants have had some problems covering top-tier receivers this season, and Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez certainly fit that profile.
During their four-game losing streak, the Giants have allowed teams' No. 1 receivers (Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Marques Colston) to average 5.5 receptions, 96, yards and one touchdown.
White may not be as big a name as these guys, but his talent puts him in the same tier (except for maybe Fitzgerald...he's a freak).
Gonzalez may be a tight end, but he is as dangerous a receiver as most teams' No. 1 wide receivers. Together with White, Gonzalez creates a dynamic one-two punch.
The Giants will have their hands full covering these two, but the return of Aaron Ross should help give the secondary the boost it needs. For all of the problems with this secondary, very few teams can match the Giants for cornerback talent and depth with Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas, and Ross all healthy.
4. Don't Throw an Interception, Don't Lose a Fumble, Don't Allow a Sack
These are all bad things, and allowing them to happen will be detrimental to the Giants' chances of winning.
This is not revolutionary, but let's face it, it's great advice. Don't make mistakes, and your chances of winning are much better.
The Panthers followed this blueprint, as they did not allow a turnover or a sack, and they handled the very same Falcons team that will be facing the Giants this Sunday.
It was just the second time this season that Jake Delhomme did not have a turnover–they won both games–and the first time he was not sacked.
The last time Eli Manning had a game like that, the Giants beat the Raiders 44-7. Since then, Manning has been sacked 11 times, been intercepted six times, and lost one fumble in four games.
So quick recap: Don't make mistakes and do everything perfectly, and you'll probably win.
5. Coach Like Your Job Depends on It
...because for some of you, it does.
Well, this game against the Falcons almost is a one-game playoff. The loser will drop to 5-5 and will be behind a handful of teams for a wild card spot. The winner will take a huge step forward towards the playoffs.
It's not an elimination game per–se, but the loser will have almost no room for error.
So, if the Giants have a chance to put the Falcons away this Sunday, the coaches must not go into their shell and call conservative plays at the detriment of the team.
"Playing it safe" always seems like a smart decision in the short term, but if it means leaving the door open for the opponent to come back, it may prove riskier in the long run.
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