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Film breakdown: The Giants’ rushing attack and Mike Kafka’s impact

Let’s look at some of the reasons — beyond Saquon Barkley’s brilliance — that the running game worked against Tennessee

New York Giants v Tennessee Titans Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

The New York Giants rushed for 238 yards (7.4 yards per carry) on the road Week 1 against a team that allowed the fewest rushing yards per game in 2021. The 2021 Tennessee Titans allowed only 83 rushing yards per game (78 at home), just in front of Wink Martindale’s Ravens.

Big Blue hasn’t rushed for over 230 yards in a game since 2017 (vs. Washington) when Orleans Darkwa went for 154 yards with Wayne Gallman rushing for 89 yards. The Giants haven’t gone north of 200 yards rushing since their second matchup against Washington in 2019.

It’s safe to say, the Giants were eager for rushing success like they received against Tennessee.

A healthy Saquon Barkley certainly helped the Giants pile up 238 rushing yards, but it was more than that.

First-time play caller and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka’s ability to disguise and sequence plays proved to be difficult for defenders to manage. The Giants ranked second in rushing EPA on Sunday. It is easy to be efficient when the running back has three rushes for more than 15 yards with a breakaway percentage of 70.7 percent (only behind Jerick McKinnon in week one).

According to Pro Football Focus, New York ran 18 power/gap plays and nine zone runs, mostly zone read with a few outside zone plays. The Giants revamped offensive line wasn’t always perfect, but tit worked as a unit, did well climbing to the second level on the power/gap and counter runs, and worked their combo blocks well.

There were some efforts where the Giants owned the point of attack - a rare sight in recent memory, like a centaur or Bigfoot.

It’s excellent to see the big guys come through in a big way, but it was great to see their play caller put them in advantageous positions to maximize their strength and attack the critical vulnerabilities of the Titans’ defensive personnel, front, and play style.

The success on the ground is especially impressive when we consider two rookies played significant snaps (Joshua Ezeudu split snaps with Ben Bredeson). There were bumps and bruises in pass protection, but the Giants answered the proverbial call in the second half.

Here’s a breakdown of the Giants' impressive runs — how they happened, why it worked, and what to expect moving forward.