EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The key for the New York Giants is running the ball.
Have any doubts? Look at the numbers heading into the Giants’ possible playoff clincher at Green Bay on Sunday.
New York (9-5) is 7-0 this season when it gains more than 120 yards rushing. Anything below 120 and it’s not good. The Giants are 2-5 when they gain under 120 yards and 0-4 with anything below 117 yards.
It’s an even bigger concern this weekend, with the Giants coming off their second worst rushing effort of the season. Philadelphia, which limited them to season-low 61 yards on Nov. 21, held the Giants to 100 yards on 31 carries in Sunday’s gut-wrenching 38-31 loss.
When the Giants needed to run out the clock with a 21-point fourth quarter lead, they couldn’t do it. Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson made them pay in a 28-point fourth quarter that Jackson capped with a 65-yard punt return on the final play of the game.
What made the running game so pathetic last week was the number of negative plays and short gains. Sixteen of the Giants’ 31 rushes were for 3 yards of less, including six that went for either zero or negative yards.
“We know that we’re the ones that were off flow last week,” said halfback Brandon Jacobs, who gained 34 yards on 12 carries after gaining more than 100 in his previous two games. “If you’re going to win, you have to get the running game going no matter what week it is and no matter what’s at stake.”
The Giants have everything at stake this weekend. If they win, they are back in the playoffs after missing out a year ago. If they lose, they fall into a tie with Green Bay and the Packers will have the tiebreaker based on head to head going into the final weekend.
Giants center Shaun O’Hara said looking at the videotapes of Sunday’s game was tough. Eli Manning put the Giants in position to win throwing four touchdown passes. The running game, however, could not finish off the Eagles (10-4).
O’Hara reluctantly gave the Eagles some credit. However, he also said it wasn’t just them.
“One of the frustrating things about watching tape is when you go back and look and see opportunities here and there, it’s one block separating a 20-yard gain from a 2-yard gain,” O’Hara said. “They did a good job, but we hope we see them again. I think we are pretty confident in our ability to run the football. That’s something we have done for a long time here and we know how to fix it.”
The Giants didn’t break any long runs against the Eagles. Of their 15 runs that were 4 yards or more, the longest was 11 yards. Ahmad Bradshaw had one and five others more than 5 yards.
“It’s a division opponent,” Jacobs said. “They know what we do and we know what they do. They dialed up the right things at the right time. It’s kind of like Techmo Bowl when you press the same button as your opponent and everything breaks down. They had the right blitzes dialed up against the right runs, and they got lucky.”
Guard Chris Snee said the Giants didn’t figure out what was happening right away.
“Every time we play them there seems to be a new blitz and a new wrinkle,” Snee said, adding the Eagles’ linemen did a lot of slanting last week. “We didn’t realize early that was going to be there flavor of the day. They were on the move all day. They weren’t going to sit back and wait for us.”
The run may be even more important this weekend in Green Bay. The last time the Giants played there was the NFC title game in early 2008 and the temperature was around minus 20, which is 40 degrees less than Sunday’s forecast.
“We have to be physical this week,” guard Rich Seubert said. “We have to have the run. We do better when we run the ball. The running sets up the pass and that sets up the run. Last week we scored points but we didn’t score enough. We needed one more first down and we didn’t get it.”
The Giants had one minor problem on Wednesday as left tackle David Diehl missed practice because he was not feeling well.
The Packers are allowing an average of 117 yards rushing on defense.
“It’s cold there and you know the ball is going to be hard,” Jacobs said. “It’s easier to hand it off than it is to throw it.”<
NOTES: Receiver Steve Smith had microfracture surgery on Tuesday to repair the articular cartilage injury in his left knee. He will be on crutches for six weeks and faces a lengthy rehabilitation. …DE Dave Tollefson will be sidelined a couple of weeks with a sprained right knee. …Receiver Mario Manningham (heel) and defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee) were limited in practice.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.