Ask any Giants fan what they want to see out of their offense and a majority will talk old football clichés about running the ball between the tackles. Giant’s fans firmly believe that in order to have an effective offense, their team needs to be able to run to the football. During the Tom Coughlin era, the Giants have been a dominant run team. Anchored by a great offensive line, they have sliced through opponent’s defenses with valuable ball carriers such as Tiki Barber, Derrick Ward, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. This year has been a different story. Through five games, the Giants rank 31st in the NFL in yards per rushing attempt, and 28th in yards per game. Ahmad Bradshaw’s frustration with the running game, which was detailed in Mike Garafolo’s column this week, seemed to boil over during last week’s home loss to Seattle:
“Late in the third quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Ahmad Bradshaw was tackled at the end of a 3-yard gain he clearly felt should have gone for more.
Fox cameras and microphones captured the Giants running back’s ire, which was directed at left tackle Will Beatty.
“What are you doing, Will?!” Bradshaw yells.
“Don’t yell at me!” Beatty replies. A few seconds later, as the Giants break the huddle, a frustrated Bradshaw grumbles, “Crazy! I’m tired of this (stuff)!”
Everyone involved with the Giants’ running game is tired of being stuck in the mud lately.”
Along with the Giants offensive line’s failure to keep Eli upright, they have also been unsuccessful in opening up holes for Bradshaw and Jacobs. With a little over a quarter of the season in the books, are the fans and media overreacting to the lack of punch in the run game? Is it necessary to have a powerful run game in order to win the National Football League?
To answer this question, we will examine the records of every team that finished in the top half of the NFL in yards per rushing attempt in the 2010 season. If running the ball effectively is crucial to success in the NFL, teams that ranked in the top half of the league should have records to support that claim. Looking at the numbers, the data suggests otherwise. The top sixteen teams in yards per rush finished with a collective record of 122-134 during the 2010 season. One stat that could be a key driver to a team’s success is yards per pass attempt. Last year, teams that finished in top half of the league in yards per attempt finished the season 153-119. Old school fans and long-time members of the NFL media like to hang on to the cliché that teams need to run the football to win games, but lately, with new rules shifting the NFL from a running league to a passing league, the ability to run the football is no longer a prerequisite to winning in the NFL.
The biggest concern for the Giants offense should be focused on their pass protection. The Giants rank 24th in the NFL in offensive sack percentage, which could be one of the main reasons they are 29th in the NFL in 3rd down conversion rate. Luckily for the Giants, they face a Bills team that is last in the NFL in defensive sack percentage. This Sunday in East Rutherford, the Giants offensive line may face its easiest opponent all season.
NFL offenses are built on the big play. Teams that have the arsenal to attack defenses through the air are going to succeed in the NFL. Thanks to the acrobatics of Victor Cruz, the Giants have been able to convert some big plays in their passing game. They are currently 3rd in the NFL in yards per pass attempt with an average of 9.1. To win games in the NFL, a powerful running game should be viewed as a luxury, not a necessity.