The New York Giants have been synonymous with two things since their inception. In fact, they seemed to have been joined at the hip, so to speak. I am speaking, of course, about their running game and defense. As any Giants fan knows, these two areas are what has historically defined the term, "Giants football."
The team name itself is evocative of Lawrence Taylor, who changed they way the game is played today. That is not to say that LT is the only defensive name that comes to mind. For some, Michael Strahan, Sam Huff or even Rosey Grier are names that rise to the surface. It depends on the individual. Simply put, there is an overabundance of defensive players to dial in to from our rich, pervasive past.
The same holds true for the running game. Tiki Barber, Joe Morris, Rodney Hampton, Tuffy Leemans, these are but a few names that have helped symbolize the Giants as a rushing team. This season, however, has not been indicative of either facets. With the postseason on the horizon, can the G-Men win out the division and make a run for the playoffs with these two areas abandoned? Are the Giants fundamentally sound without them?
Perhaps, abandoned is too strong a word. It's not for lack of trying. But, try as they might, the Giants have not been able to establish the run on a consistent basis nor have they been able to limit the opposition on defense.
New York has had some seasons where the defense was lacking, no question. They have also suffered from a lackluster running game from time to time. It is a rare occurrence when both the running game and defense are simultaneously sombre.
Currently, the Giants have rushed for 1,115 yards. They are rushing for an average of 85.8 yards per game. With three games left, that puts them on track to earn a regular season total of 1,372.4 yards. Providing that this average holds true, and there is no reason to believe otherwise, this will be the worst rushing season since 1953. It took ten Giants to rush for 1,049 yards that year. Frank Gifford was among those ten individuals. That gives you an idea of how focused New York has been on their running game and how poorly it has been this season.
On the other side of the ball, things have not exactly gone swimmingly. Yes, the 2011 Big Blue defense has its strong points. Most defenses in the league do. But they still find themselves in the bottom three (30th). This is uncharacteristically bad for the G-Men.
The Big Blue Wrecking Crew defense has not been in the bottom three since 1974. In that year, they gave up 318.4 yards per game. In the 2011 NFL season, thus far, the Giants are giving up 391.6 yards per game. These are serious numbers.
Over the last two weeks, we saw somewhat of a rejuvenation in the running game. Brandon Jacobs rushed for over 100 yards last week for the first time since December 13, 2010. We have also seen some stand up play from the defense. Granted, it has been mainly from the front four. To have the aerial attack that the Giants currently have is atypical. The NFL, in general, has become more of a passing league over the last number of years. It would appear that the Giants, intentionally or not, have slowly but surely become a passing team. To quote Seinfeld, "Not that there's anything wrong with that."
It also seems that those with a high flying offense have been able to accommodate their shallow defenses simply by putting more points on the board than the other guys. The New England Patriots are giving up 416 yards per game this season. But they have struggled and lost against teams with a more well rounded defense. The ultimate question is, can a team who excel in their passing game, while lacking in most all other areas, really win it all? If you are a Green Bay Packers, we know the answer.
Personally, I don't think being stellar in one area and not so much in all else is going to get the job done. Which is why if the Giants can continue to establish their run and get their defense playing on all four cylinders, they will be in extremely good shape for a shot at the postseason. As the old saying goes, slow and steady wins the race.