Time for Manning, Giants to chuck it
The Giants have been running on empty for months now, too long to expect a sudden miracle in February in light of the harsh reality of September, January and everything between.
Nope, this is no time to hope for the best and risk the worst. It's time to go with the best, which in the Giants' case is No. 10 in your program and No. 1 in your offense.
Remember that piece of trivia everyone was quoting a few weeks back, when the Giants reached the playoffs despite ranking dead last in the NFL in rushing offense?
It was pointed out then that two of the previous three teams to finish 32nd qualified for the Super Bowl — the 2008 Cardinals and 2009 Colts. The Giants have made it three out of four. Congrats!
But it is time to recall that those Cardinals and Colts were unable to close the deal. Now it is the Giants' turn, and one of their most important decisions in Super Bowl XLVI will be how often to hand the ball to Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, and how quickly to give up on the idea if it fails, as it often does.
Here's an idea: Forget it. By all means, run it every once in a while to give Eli and his receivers a breather and keep the Patriots at least slightly off guard.
But for the most part, chuck it. Despite some late-season improvement, the rushing attack in general and Jacobs in particular haven't earned more than that.
After a stellar effort in the playoff opener against the Falcons, in which the Giants rushed 31 times for 172 yards — 92 for Jacobs — they have reverted to form, gaining 95 yards on the ground in Green Bay, then 85 in San Francisco.
That's not horrendous. But it's not good enough to justify taking the ball out of Manning's hands, particularly in short-yardage situations. Better to have Eli throw on third-and-1 than watch Jacobs come up short again.
Speaking of Jacobs, whom 49ers great Jerry Rice ripped last week for going down too easily, the coaches seemed to tire of him last weekend.
He ran five times for 13 yards, with only two carries after halftime, as Bradshaw got the bulk of the work, carrying 20 times for 74 yards.
But even Bradshaw was limited down the stretch. On a misty day and a muddy field, the Giants ran nine times in the second half and overtime until their last possession, when they set up Lawrence Tynes' winning field goal.
In the fourth quarter and OT, Manning went back to pass 25 times and handed off only five before that last drive.
Jacobs said Friday the Giants won't be able to play that way next time. "No question," he said, "I definitely think we're going to have to play a bigger role. As long as we stick with the run and be patient and hang with it, something is going to pop one time or another."
Guard Chris Snee agreed.
"We're stubborn," Snee said. "We feel like that's the way we have to play the game. There have been a lot of games where we've had to adjust throughout the course of the game, so if that's the case, so be it. But we are going to go into the game trying to run."
Good luck with that. Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting the backs be banned from the players' parade float if the Giants win. Both Bradshaw and Jacobs have made multiple big plays.
But the Giants need to play the odds here, and the odds are with Manning, always. The Pats' defense was middle of the pack against the run and 31st against the pass. So there's that, too.
The Giants have spoken all year about the need to be more consistent on the ground. Nothing wrong with that. They can work on it all they want in Albany next summer, just not in Indianapolis this winter.