When I posted a look at the decline of the New York Giants' pass rush on Tuesday, I used some radio remarks by former great Giants' linebacker Carl Banks as the starting point for the discussion. Carl has been good to Big Blue View over the past couple of seasons, so I reached out to him just to make sure he knew what had been written.
Carl responded with some further insight I thought I would share. Basically, without sharing the complete contents of our discussion, Banks said that the Giants' poor run defense this season is also a contributing factor in the inconsistent pass rush.
Why? Because to release the pass rush -- release the Kracken as we like to say around here -- opposing offenses need to be in long-yardage situations. The Giants' defense has, too often, been unable to win first and second down.
If you look at the numbers the Giants are surrendering 4.6 yards per carry, 26th in the league. That, really, is identical to the 4.5 yards per carry they allowed last season. So, while the run defense is an issue maybe it isn't the only one.
Let's take a closer look, though, at the final six games of last season -- the glorious run to a Super Bowl title.
Week 16 vs. the New York Jets -- Jets average 4.2 yards per carry, Mark Sanchez throws 59 times and is sacked five times. The Giants offense put the Jets in a 20-7 hole and forced them to pass. Giants win, 29-14.
Wild-card playoffs vs. Atlanta Falcons -- The Falcons average only 3.0 yards per carry on 21 rushes. Matt Ryan is sacked twice and hit seven times. Giants win, 24-2.
Divisional playoffs vs. Green Bay Packers -- Green Bay averages 6.4 yards rushing the ball, but the Giants' offense is dominant. New York puts Green Bay in a 30-13 hole. Aaron Rodgers passes 46 times, is sacked four times and intercepted once. Giants win, 37-20.
NFC Championship Game vs. San Francisco 49ers -- The 49ers averaged 5.4 yards per carry in this game, but San Francisco special teams turnovers and just enough offense from the Giants overcome that. Alex Smith is sacked three times in 29 drop backs. Giants win, 20-17.
Super Bowl vs. New England Patriots -- The Patriots average 4.4 yards per carry on 19 rushing attempts. The Giants' offense, though, sack Tom Brady twice in 43 drop backs and manage to hit him eight other times. Giants win, as we know, 21-17, and become Super Bowl champs.
All of this is instructive, and makes it apparent that it isn't enough to just say 'the pass rush hasn't been good enough.' At times it hasn't. At other times, though, the run defense has not been good enough to force the long-yardage situations pass-rushers live for. At times, the inconsistent offense has missed opportunities to produce points that would have given the Giants leads, sometimes big leads, thus producing pass-rushing chances. At times it's been special teams losing the field position battle or failing to convert makeable field goals.
So, what we are reminded is that it isn't as simple as saying 'release the Kracken.' You have to put the Kracken in position where it can go to work. The Giants simply have not done that well enough so far this season.