In a victory over the Buffalo Bills three weeks ago the New York Giants ran for a season-best 122 yards on 33 carries, and it looked they might be en route to solving their season-long issues with the running. Then, while beating Miami this past Sunday the Giants regressed, rushing for only 58 yards on 23 carries, 2.5 yards per rushing play.
"We didn't block anybody," said a very direct coach Tom Coughlin.
"Sometimes, we were in very good position and for whatever reason, we didn't maintain that position. We didn't keep the leverage. We had some opportunities that have to be shared by the runner who didn't get exactly where we wanted to but by in large, we didn't move them the way we planned on doing that," Coughlin said. "We have to get back to the drawing board and expect that the pride of that group is going to do something about it. They will get us on some kind of track so that we can have the balance I talk about and that we had a couple weeks ago but didn't have yesterday."
Coughlin spread the blame around, too, not just pinning it on the offensive line.
"It is a combination; it is not just the offensive line. The tight ends didn't do much yesterday and the fullback gets a holding penalty right away," Coughlin said. "We have shot ourselves in the foot and we have overcome some but the untimeliness of first and 20 or first and 15 when we have to make a touchdown and we can't do it and we give them back the ball. That is not what you are trying to do."
Monday afternoon's review of the Pro Football Focus grades for Sunday reflected what Coughlin was talking about -- poor run-blocking grades all around.
Carl Banks, the former Giants great and current radio analyst, pointed out that Miami packed the line of scrimmage with eight and often nine defenders on Sunday. Banks believes that Eli Manning's 349-yard passing performance on Sunday against the Dolphins will discourage that type of defensive commitment in future weeks.
"Giants made them pay with intermediate passes where the run blitzes vacated. Many balls caught in the middle of defense by TE WR," Banks wrote in in e-mail. "My guess is that the run game will get better because teams now know that [Kevin] Gilbride and Eli will settle for medium catch and run plays. That said they still have to execute individual assignments."
Despite passing 45 times and running just 23 Manning admitted there were "probably five or six runs that we did have on that I should have checked off and checked to a pass" because of the way Miami was crowding the line of scrimmage.
"It's my job to put us in better positions to get us out of runs. Sometimes you want to keep runs on so the defense can't pass rush every single time," Manning said. "Part of the reason that we weren't running, that we didn't have the success that we had, was we were running into some bad looks. That's on me."
So, we have blocking issues. We have defenses stacking the box. We have Manning falling on his sword and taking the blame for not checking out of runs that did not look promising.
Whatever the reason, the running game has got to get better. Soon.