By Steve Silverman
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Nobody was sicker about the Giants’ No. 32 ranking in the running game last year than Tom Coughlin.
When the 2011 regular season ended and the Giants had the worst statistical running game, Coughlin knew that it was not going to get the job done.
He demanded better play from his offense and he got it in the postseason.
The running game didn’t dominate in wins over Atlanta, Green Bay, San Francisco and New England, but it was good enough to give Eli Manning just enough room to make key throws.
The Giants, of course, won the Super Bowl.
Coughlin’s Giants were not content to have palatable rushing play this season. They have built one of the better ground games in the NFL, and they proved it against the 49ers in a dominating 26-3 win.
New York has the No. 3 offense in football and the ground game is up to ninth in the NFL rankings. After gashing the Cleveland Browns in Week 5 and then taking down the nasty 49ers defense yesterday, there’s no doubt Ahmad Bradshaw is going to become a significant part of the game plan from this point forward.
This is really the best way to play the game. A year ago, it seemed like the running game was no longer a part of winning strategy in the NFL.
The Green Bay Packers were reeling off win after win, and it was all just Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball to his cadre of receivers.
The New Orleans Saints were setting records with their passing game but could barely run it at all.
The New England Patriots had no problems playing winning football even though they couldn’t run the ball and they couldn’t play defense.
The NFL was on its way to becoming Arena Football, which is a lot like saying the game was on its way to becoming a tennis match.
All you had to do was score when you had the ball – presumably through the air – and you could not lose. It was akin to holding serve and then figuring out how to break your opponent at one point or another.
Coughlin knew that was not how to play winning football and he made sure the Giants didn’t follow that strategy in the postseason.
The rest of the NFL noticed, beginning with the team that the Giants beat in the Super Bowl. The Patriots have a ground game this year and also do a decent job of stopping the run. They can’t stop opponents from throwing the ball, but they are more complete than they were a year ago.
The 49ers know their offensive bread is buttered by the run. The Bears’ best offensive player is versatile running back Matt Forte. The Ravens are a strong team because Ray Rice is dominant in the ground game and the Texans have Arian Foster to do the same.
Why have the Vikings shocked the football world with a 4-2 record through their first six games? Because Adrian Peterson is a beast running the football and the Vikings play hard-hitting defense.
The running game is part of a trend that winning teams all over the NFL are following.
Coughlin is the one who set that trend last year and by the time the 2012 regular season is finished, the Giants just might have the most balanced and dangerous offensive team in the league.
The high-powered passing game may light up the scoreboard during the regular season, but it’s not the way to dominate in the postseason.
The Giants have known this for a while, and it seems that plenty of other teams have finally gotten the message.
Why is this season’s rushing attack so much better? Giants fans, be heard in the comments below!