Giants, Saints, both looking to improve run game
Drew Brees and Eli Manning have racked up elite passing numbers
this season by picking up the slack when their clubs’ running games
That could be the case again when New Orleans (7-3) hosts the
New York Giants (6-4) on Monday night, yet both teams have
emphasized the importance of running the ball more this week in
hopes of improving balance and becoming less predictable.
”Being able to run the ball and being able to stop the run is
vital to winning,” Brees said. ”We want to be able to run the
Although the Saints are in the top half of the NFL – 13th with
117.5 yards per game – consistency has been a problem. New Orleans
gained 41 yards on the ground in their game at Atlanta, but got
away with it in that case by pulling out a 26-23 win in
The Giants were even worse in a home loss to Philadelphia last
weekend, managing 29 yards on the ground while falling to 31st in
the NFL in rushing with an average of 83.2 yards, the club’s lowest
figure since the 1940s.
While the urgency to address the running game may be greater for
the Giants, the solutions are less apparent with leading rusher
Ahmad Bradshaw sidelined by a right foot injury. D.J. Ware,
meanwhile, is trying to recover from a concussion, although it
appears he’ll be available to back up Brandon Jacobs after
practicing fully during the latter part of the past week.
New York also will be shuffling its offensive line because left
tackle Will Beatty needed surgery to repair a detached retina.
Complicating matters even more is fact that the Giants will be
playing in the Superdome, where noise has been known to hinder
communication for opposing offenses at the line of scrimmage.
That could be a factor, given that Manning, when asked about
ways to improve the running game, stressed the need for
communication in the time between a run is called in the huddle and
the snap of the ball.
”The offensive line and the backs and I have to get us out of
some bad runs,” Manning said. ”We just have to try to get into
some things where we get 3 and 4 yards a carry. There is just too
many times where we are losing 2 yards. When you are playing in
second-and-12, it makes for a long day.”
Despite the lack of a credible running threat to this point,
Manning is averaging 295.2 yards per game.
”Two big allies to the quarterback are good defense and the
ability to run the football,” Saints coach Sean Payton said.
”What has been impressive about (Manning’s) season to date is
despite them not having the same numbers that they would like
(running the ball), he has been very consistent and very productive
and a big reason why they are having success this year. He is
having a fantastic season.”
Still, Payton said he does not expect the Giants to abandon the
running game, which would be out of character for coach Tom
”They’re run numbers aren’t really what you might be accustomed
to,” Payton said. ”Clearly that’s something they’ll look to
correct as they come into our game just like we had done the same
”The approach we have to take is understanding what we’re
seeing from a scheme standpoint in the running game and understand
that this is a team for good reason who believes strongly in that
element to winning football games,” Payton continued. ”It’s
always been a big ingredient to their success. I would expect that
to be the case coming up in this game Monday night.”
The Saints, meanwhile, are hoping their running game can
neutralize the Giants’ pass rush. New York is tied for ninth in the
NFL with 41 sacks.
”They get that pressure from their front four. They’re very
good against the run as well as the pass,” Brees said. ”As we
look at it, you have to find a way to keep those guys off balance.
You want to be good rushing the football and mix in the
The good news for the Saints is they are coming out of their bye
week with the top four running backs on their depth chart – Darren
Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory – all
Ivory has played only in Weeks 8 and 9 because of a combination
of injuries dating to last season. The Saints still might activate
only three, but now can base that decision on how best to match up
personnel with the game plan, rather than having their hand forced
by health concerns.
”I don’t think we’ve ever had this stable of running backs,”
Brees said. ”Sproles can do so many things and Pierre Thomas is in
the prime of his career as well. Mark Ingram is a young and
exciting talent. Chris Ivory is just getting back into the mix,