Commentary

Giants should lean on running game

New York's rushing attack has improved late in the season; Pats can't stop the run

Originally Published: January 31, 2012
By KC Joyner | ESPN Insider
Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad BradshawNick Laham/Getty ImagesBrandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw have played better down the stretch.

There were many head-to-head battles that looked like they would be hotly contested in Super Bowl XVI, but the one matchup that had all the makings of a big advantage for the Cincinnati Bengals was their strong run defense (ranked ninth-best in rush yards allowed) versus a San Francisco 49ers rushing offense that ranked dead-last in the league in rush yards per attempt that season.

This combination would have made most coaches put together a game plan that rarely even attempted to run the ball, much less lean on the ground game, but then-San Francisco coach Bill Walsh wasn't built like other coaches.

He wasn't willing to simply concede that part of the contest without a fight. Walsh called for 12 rush plays on obvious passing downs (second or third down and 7 or more yards) and that helped the Niners pick up 63 yards on those plays. Add in the use of an unbalanced line -- and some scrambles and sneaks by Joe Montana -- and it was the core of a stat sheet that showed San Francisco running the ball 40 times on its way to a 26-21 victory.

The New York Giants look to be in a similar boat to the Niners, in that their 2011 rushing numbers (last in the league in rush yards and rush yards per attempt) would strongly suggest not running the ball very often in their Super Bowl XLVI matchup against the New England Patriots.

Add that to New York's passing strengths and the Patriots' weaknesses on pass defense (next-to-last in pass yards allowed, 29th in pass yards per attempt allowed) and it would seem that an aerial-heavy game plan would be the way to go for Big Blue to pull off a victory.

The truth of the matter is that a closer look at the metrics of both teams provides strong indications that to win, the Giants should call for as many rushing attempts as coach Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride desire.


To read the full story of why the New York Giants need to run the ball to win Super Bowl XLVI, plus our complete slate of NFL coverage, you must be an ESPN Insider.