'Pathetic' run game grounding Giants

Posted Nov. 21, 2011 @ 2:14 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was livid after his team's 17-10 loss to the Eagles Sunday night, calling the team's 29-yard rushing effort "pathetic." It came against an Eagles team best known this season for missing tackles and taking bad angles to the ball and one that still ranks 24th in yards per carry allowed.

"We had 29 yards rushing, which is about as pathetic as you can get," Coughlin said afterward. "Our offensive line was completely outplayed by the front eight of Philadelphia."

The PFW Spin

It might have surprised Giants observers early in the game to see QB Eli Manning under heavy duress and struggling to find open receivers. But the reason was easy to determine: The Eagles had figured out that no Giants running back was going to beat them, and they concerted all their effort to stopping the pass. It worked: No Giants running back had a run longer than nine yards and they gained fewer than two yards per carry in a futile effort.

This goes beyond the team needing Ahmad Bradshaw back from injury. The offensive line is not mauling people the way the Giants are used to seeing. Also, there were a number of dropped passes in the game, which made running the ball far tougher in longer-yardage-to-go situations. But it simply isn't acceptable to allow a flawed Eagles defense to dictate what the Giants are doing offensively and play into their hands.

If the Giants want to win the division, they need to find a semblance of balance and make life easier on Manning. Simply chucking it up to Hakeem Nicks and the pass catchers 45 times per game won't work against skilled pass-rush teams because the O-line has struggled to pass block as well. OLT William Beatty quietly has had a nice season, but everyone else is subject to interrogation. Even bedrock ORG Chris Snee has had a subpar season, although he clearly was affected by a mid-week flu that left him vomiting between plays against the Eagles.

Brandon Jacobs simply can't run right now because the holes are too small. He's at his worst when he is forced to be creative; he's a punishing, one-gap, straight-ahead runner who thrives on power and tackle breaking. Right now, he's bashing his head into three defenders on most plays, as Sunday's 11-21-0 rushing line demonstrates. Perhaps getting speedball RB Da'Rel Scott a few additional touches per game could help. He might jumpstart the run game the way Bradshaw, another fellow seventh-rounder, did back in 2007 down the home stretch. Bradshaw ended up leading the team in postseason rushing yards.

Fixing the problem will have to come from incremental improvements: more explosion and speed from the backs; better health from Bradshaw; better hat-on-hat blocking from four-fifths of the offensive line, as well as the tight ends and fullbacks, who are not above reproach here, either. If the Giants want Manning to pull out his trademark heroics late, they have to do a better job in the first three quarters of finding a run game that can gain somewhere close to four yards per pop.