Commentary

Giants hitting their strides, regardless who's carrying the ball

New York proved in a 30-10 rout of Baltimore that it can pound any defense into submission, including the NFL's best against the run, Jeffri Chadiha writes.

Originally Published: November 16, 2008
By Jeffri Chadiha | ESPN.com

Brandon JacobsRich Kane/US PresswireBrandon Jacobs rushed for two touchdowns (in the first quarter) against a Ravens defense that allowed only one rushing touchdown in the first nine games combined.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants knew they were heading toward a pleasant afternoon when running back Brandon Jacobs rambled for 36 yards on their first possession in Sunday's 30-10 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

It wasn't just that Jacobs had set up the Giants' first touchdown on that long run. It was that the yardage came against the league's top rushing defense.

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Watch highlights from the New York Giants 30-10 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

"That play showed us that we could run the ball against this team," Jacobs said. "We saw that it wasn't impossible."

The Giants can out-bang any team in the NFL. They gained 207 rushing yards against a defense that had been allowing just 65.4 rushing yards per game, best in the league. They made future Hall of Fame middle linebacker Ray Lewis seem old and an assortment of other tacklers look intimidated. The only reason the Giants didn't become the first team to have a 100-yard rusher against Baltimore in two seasons was that New York had too many backs sharing the workload.

Jacobs did most of his damage early, gaining 73 yards and scoring two touchdowns before halftime. After a knee injury sidelined him for the second half, Derrick Ward (41 yards) and then Ahmad Bradshaw (96 yards on nine carries) finished off the Ravens' defense.

"I definitely could've gone back in and played," Jacobs said. "But there wasn't a good reason to do that. We have two other backs who can get the job done, too."

That ultimately is the scariest aspect of an offense that helped New York to its ninth victory in 10 outings, the team's best start since 1990 -- the season the Giants won Super Bowl XXV.

The defending Super Bowl champions can hit opponents with wave after wave of pounding runners, and at some point most defenses are bound to crack. There's just too much consistency in the way Jacobs, Ward and Bradshaw attack and too much space for them to roam, thanks to the Giants' underrated offensive line. And even when the holes aren't wide enough, the Giants' backs still can find a way to make something happen.

That's exactly what Jacobs did on that first long run. He started the play going to his right until the Ravens' defenders stuffed all the available gaps to that side of the football. So instead of allowing the defense to swarm him, Jacobs quickly reversed field and raced toward the left sideline. If not for Ravens safety Jim Leonhard -- who shoved Jacobs out of bounds at the Baltimore 32-yard line -- Jacobs would've scored easily.

Both Ward and Bradshaw, who had a 77-yard run of his own, showed a similar ability to improvise while helping the Giants to their third consecutive 200-yard rushing game and their fifth overall this season.

"The game is always easier when you have running backs who play with a lot of confidence," said Giants left tackle David Diehl, who helped push the Ravens all around Giants Stadium.

"That's what we have and it definitely makes you work harder on the offensive line. The other thing that's nice about these guys is that they all root for each other. They don't care who gets the touches and that's a nice thing to have."

The Giants literally beat Baltimore at its own game. When the Giants watched film of the Ravens' defense in the week leading up to this matchup, they saw how frustrated other opponents became when facing Baltimore. The Giants realized how quickly a negative play could turn into a negative series or, even worse, a half filled with miscues. And the New York offensive players vowed to avoid such a plight in this contest.

The Giants had one main goal: to keep pounding the football as long as possible. They'd been doing that so well all season that Jacobs, Ward and Bradshaw all entered Sunday's game averaging at least 5 yards a carry. It's also fair to think they could have accomplished even more against the Ravens if Jacobs hadn't been hampered in the second half.

The only person on the Baltimore side who wasn't willing to concede that was head coach John Harbaugh, who said, "The Giants had three big runs [Ward had a 22-yard run as well]. You can take away anybody's run and say it would've been a tight football game."

Let's be honest: We all know that sounds like pride talking. Anybody who watched this game realized that the Giants beat down the Ravens and that New York clearly has hit its stride. The Giants' running game is making life much easier on Eli Manning's play-action passing, and it's certainly helping an already aggressive defense to attack with more energy. The only question now is how long New York can keep grinding teams up in such a methodical fashion.

The smart bet is that it will be a while before we see New York's running game sputter. If the Giants can dominate the Ravens like that, they can do it to just about any other team they meet. Sure, the New York offensive players can play it as modestly as they did after this victory, when they talked about how they're never content with any one victory.

But they also have to be proud of what they proved against the Baltimore defense: When it comes to playing physical football, the Giants are as good as it gets in this league right now.

Senior writer Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.

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