What should the New York Giants make of the excellent -- and surprising -- work by running back Andre Brown in Sunday's 41-34 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
Pressed into duty when Bradshaw suffered a sprained neck, Brown had the game of his career -- 13 carries, 71 yards, a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
"He did well," said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. "He ran hard, he ran fast, he really had a chance to break a couple. I thought maybe he was coming out there with one of them and he caught the ball out of the backfield well and knew to get north and south and took care of the ball and I think for the first time he's had that kind of exposure and play time, I thought he came through it well." [Full transcript]
Question is, was this a cameo for Brown? Was it a one-time, feel-good performance for a guy who has had a vagabond career since the Giants drafted him in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft and had amassed one career carry prior to Sunday? Will he just recede into the background again once Bradshaw is healthy and as first-round draft pick David Wilson develops? Or, was it a sign of things to come? Was it an indication that the 6-foot, 240-pound 25-year-old is finally ready to really help the Giants? Could he really play a key role?
"I don't know. Depending on how Ahmad comes out and I will hope so, but everybody has their role and I'm just going to continue to play my role in special teams or if they need me in there to run the ball, I'm going to be able to do it," Brown said. "Hopefully I did show that, but it's a long season and we'll just let it play out." [Full transcript]
Brown, who is considerably larger now than the 227 pounds he weighed as a rookie, showed power, decisveness and a north/south style that seemed to help a Giants' running game that has struggled the past couple of seasons.
"The holes were just open. The Bucs defense really... They slant and they were really a schemed team for where they were heading in one direction, which would make it liable for a cutback," Brown said. "All I just had to was just sit there and be patient and then some of the things just opened up and I just hit the hole."
If you aren't familiar with Brown's vagabond NFL journey, here it is in a nutshell:
Drafted by the Giants 2009, missed the entire season with an Achilles tendon injury. Cut in 2010. Then, picked up and cuts by the Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins before being re-signed by the Giants during training camp in 2011. He spent last season on the Giants' practice squad. In all that time he amassed carries (with Denver) for -1 yards.
Thus, Sunday's big day was a long time coming for the 25-year-old.
"Being injured, being bounced around... I'm not going to lie to you. It's been times when I was like, ‘Dang, is this for me? How is this going to play out?' I just remained faithful and kept my confidence up and people telling me that I can do this and my family being a big crutch for me just saying, ‘You were meant to do this.' So you just go out there and continue working hard and your hard work will pay off. I'm going to continue to work hard and continue to go out here and just keep shocking the world," Brown said.
Brown was asked if Sunday's game made him feel like he belonged in the league.
"Yes. I felt like that even when I was going around the league. I just needed a shot and took advantage of my shot yesterday and I don't think it's closure, though. I think it's a beginning," Brown said. "I played in a NFL game and I really contributed to the win that we had yesterday. I just think that it's just the beginning and I'm going to continue to work hard and continue to go out here and do whatever coach wants me to do and be ready whenever my number is called."
The question now is can Brown repeat Sunday's performance? Can he earn regular carries as part of the Giants' backfield rotation? Sunday certainly was a good start.