NFL Predictions for 2010 Season: Giants Running Game Needs To Step Up
Before I follow through with this article, I would like to encourage you to revisit the memories of Super Bowl XLII, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. There's Strahan flexing over Brady after a sack. There's Osi Umenyiora after pouncing on the ball, repeatedly yelling "I got it" as he lay at the bottom of a pile. And ultimately, there's confetti on the shoulders of Michael Strahan as he hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in his final game.
Those moments defined the game, in a game that may define the New York Giants' franchise. On that fateful February 3rd, the Giants defense put together a legendary performance.
So what does this have to do with the offense? Everything.
Aside from the epic final drive, the offensive performance of the Giants in that game has been largely ignored. After all, nearly one-third of Eli Manning's numbers came on the game-winning touchdown drive, and the team's leading rusher racked up just 45 yards.
With that said, it was the Giants' ability to hold on to the ball that catapulted them to an historic upset. After a 73-point shootout in week 17, the Giants set the tone by pounding the ball down the Patriots' throats and converting a myriad of third downs for 10 game minutes.
The result of the drive was a field goal, but the Giants were able to establish that the game wasn't going to be played on the high-scoring Patriots' terms.
Obviously, in order to do such, the defense would had to hold up its end of the bargain. And it went well beyond that. But in a game that revealed the essence of the term "team effort," the offense was able to keep the defense fresh by managing itself effectively, and only having two drives in which the Giants didn't acquire a first down.
By running the ball with consistency, the Giants frustrated the Patriots' offense by keeping it off the field and wore down the Patriots defense. That may or may not have played a role in the Giants being able to march 83 yards for the winning score.
In 2008, the Giants ran the ball with ease, leading to the smoothest year of Eli Manning's career. At least until Plaxico Burress shot himself.
Manning made more significant strides in 2009, but much of his improvement went to waste because there was little balance on the offensive side of the ball, and the defense was pitiful. Thus, the Giants missed the playoffs for the first time since Manning's rookie year.
As shocking as the defensive collapse was, the Giants' inability to establish any semblance of consistency in the running game was just as staggering. They didn't even finish in the top half of the league in team rushing yards one year removed from being only the fourth team in NFL history to boast two different 1,000-yard rushers.
If the Giants want to re-emerge as a running force, the offensive line will have to prove itself again. Brandon Jacobs doesn't exactly have the ability to make plays on his own at this point of his career, confirming the notion that the big back needs a powerful offensive line to produce.
Ahmad Bradshaw does possess the skill set to make something out of nothing, but he's proved to be injury prone in his young career. Couple his frailty with Jacobs, then factor in the fact that Andre Brown is coming off of a ruptured Achilles tendon and question marks are still prominent in this phase of the game.
In what has become progressively a pass-first league, the Giants could hold an advantage over their NFC counterparts by reasserting themselves as a physical team predicated off of the running game.
While I'm not contending that the Giants should stop exploiting defenses through the air, a punishing style of offense could help combat the elite offenses that they would inevitably face if they are to go on another legendary postseason run.
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