Eli Manning is the best player on the New York Giants, and one of the best in the league, but his role on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys isn’t as important as that of Ahmad Bradshaw.
In the Giants’ two losses this year, which came at the hands of the Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, Tom Coughlin’s offense ran the ball for less than 100 yards. The power and importance of the rushing attack cannot be underestimated, as the Giants haven’t lost a game in which they have racked up over 100 yards on the ground.
Running the ball, something that Coughlin often neglected to do last week against the Redskins, is the unequivocal key to this road game.
Dallas head coach Jason Garrett will be without (per ESPN) star linebacker Sean Lee and starting running back DeMarco Murray. The former, the team’s leading tackler, has been placed on season-ending injured reserved. Murray is dealing with a foot injury and hasn’t played since Week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens (via ESPN).
Lee and Murray were a huge part of their team’s 24-17 opening-game win over the Giants at the Meadowlands. Lee led the team with 12 tackles and Murray ran all over the Giants for 131 yards on just 20 carries.
The Giants need to capitalize on Lee’s absence Sunday in the form of consistently running the ball between the tackles. Lee is one of the best in the NFL when it comes to filling inside gaps, and his replacement, Dan Connor, can’t come close to matching his presence in the middle of the field.
With Murray out, the Cowboys will have a hard time controlling the field and time of possession with Felix Jones, typically a change-of-pace back, will be receiving the majority of carries.
If all goes well for the Giants, they will be able to run the ball and keep the Dallas defense on the field for longer stretches of time. Without Murray, Dallas won’t have the luxury of keeping the Giants defense in the game.
Clock management and time of possession are two of the most important aspects of a football game—especially in division games which are always some of the fiercest and physically demanding games on the schedule.
Coughlin didn’t rely on Bradshaw against the Redskins nearly as much as he should have, and it almost showed in the box score.
After rushing for 316 yards in Week 5 and Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers, Bradshaw totaled just 43 on Sunday. He was visibly upset on the sidelines and could be seen barking in his coach’s direction, calling for the ball.
While sideline antics of that nature would be a locker room crisis for most teams, the Giants know how Bradshaw can get during times of desperation. Coughlin presumably assessed the situation and handled in accordingly and it shouldn’t be a problem heading into this matchup.
If anything, it gives Bradshaw another incentive to run hard and angry in a game that the Giants would love to have.