EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — There is no secret to the New York Giants’ success this season.
When the Giants can run the ball effectively, the result has been positive. The team has topped 100 yards rushing nine times and is 6-2-1 in those games. When Saquon Barkley rushes for 100 yards individually, New York is 4-0.
During the recent 1-4-1 stretch that has dropped the Giants (7-5-1) into a tie with Washington for the last NFC wild-card playoff spot, New York has gained 100 yards on the ground three times.
Barkley ran for 152 yards coming out of the bye week in a 24-16 win over Houston. The Giants had 134 yards in their 20-all tie with Washington on Dec. 4 and 123 against Philadelphia — mostly in garbage time in last week’s blowout loss to the NFL-best Eagles.
In the other three games, the Giants rushed for fewer than 100 yards and lost.
“Any time you run the ball, it’s easier to win,” left guard Nick Gates said. “You look across the league when you’re running the ball — there’s a handful teams that don’t — but usually if you run the ball well, you win the ball game.”
The benefits of a strong running game are obvious. It allows a team to control the clock, it usually wears down defenders in the second half, and it gives them the choice of when to pass.
The Giants played that way while winning six of their first seven games. Seattle took away Barkley and the run the week before the bye and opponents picked up on it.
“A lot of teams have that in their game plan, you know, bringing eight and nine in the box and not letting us run the ball,” Gates said. “It’s: ‘Hey, you want to beat us? Throw the ball.’”
While quarterback Daniel Jones can throw the ball, the Giants are short on receivers. Since the season started, Sterling Shepard and rookie Wan’Dale Robinson were lost to knee injuries. After 1 1/2 seasons of injuries and lack of production, 2021 first-round pick Kadarius Toney was traded to Kansas City.
That’s left Darius Slayton, punt returner Richie James, waiver-wire acquisition Isaiah Hodgins and veteran Kenny Golladay, who has yet to score a touchdown in almost two seasons after signing a $72 million contract in free agency.
It’s not a scary group for opposing defensive backs.
What has helped the running game is Jones. The fourth-year quarterback has rushed for a 548 yards and five touchdowns, tying what he had combined in his first three seasons. The yardage is the most by a Giants quarterback in the Super Bowl era. He gained 71 yards on 12 carries in the tie with the Commanders.
“I think I’ll continue to look for opportunities to do that and won’t force it in any situations,” Jones said after practice Wednesday. “When the opportunity presents itself, certainly try to take advantage of it.”
Center Jon Feliciano said the linemen enjoy when coordinator Mike Kafka calls more running plays. However, he insisted it does not have to be that way.
“As a big guy I love that,” Feliciano said of the run. “But if we come out Sunday and throw the ball 40 times and D.J. has three touchdowns for however many yards and we win the game, that’s better.”
NOTES: With James in the concussion protocol, the Giants signed veteran free agent returner and wide receiver Jaydon Mickens to their practice squad. … James and LB Jihad Ward are in the concussion protocol after being hurt last week. DL Leonard Williams (neck) practiced on a limited basis after being inactive last weekend. … CB Adoree Jackson (knee), G Josh Ezeudu (neck) and G Shane Lemieux (toe) did not practice and their chances of returning this week seem iffy. DT Dexter Lawrence and S Julian Love were given rest days. … TE Daniel Bellinger (ribs), LB Elerson Smith (Achilles tendon) and CB Nick McCloud (illness) were limited.
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