Upon their arrival in Pittsburgh on Sunday, the Giants' running game had been gaining a head of steam. A small head, mind you, but they were on a streak where they had gained over 100 yards on the ground for three consecutive games.
That all ended in their 24-14 loss to the surging Steelers at Heinz Field, a game in which the Giants gained just 56 yards rushing and 234 total yards, their second-lowest output of the season. Granted, they only rushed the ball 14 times, but the narrative is that their running game was ineffective once again.
They did gain 4.0 yards per attempt on the plays they decided to dial up a run, with rookie Paul Perkins gaining 38 yards on seven carries with a long of 18. Their running game works if they choose to commit to it. The issue is, they haven't chosen to make it a focal point of the offensive attack on a consistent basis.
The Giants ran only 55 plays on Sunday, which is unusually low for an NFL offense. They threw 39 times, completing 24. None of those targets went to WR Victor Cruz, who for some reason was either left off the field in favor of rookie Roger Lewis, or just completely ignored by QB Eli Manning.
The coaches blew this one with the help of Eli. They needed to stick with the run and not cave in to the demands of their diva, WR Odell Beckham, Jr., who was the sole focus of their offensive effort in the second half. Beckham is explosive and by far the Giants' most talented player, but football is a team game. The stats are clear. When the Giants go "Odell-heavy," they usually lose. That's what happened yesterday, and Eli making several poor throws just added to the misery.
The Steelers were schooling them with screen passes and the Giants responded in kind. RB Rashad Jennings caught all six of his targets, one of which went for a TD. Instead of building off of that, the coaches decided to feed Odell's ego and forced 16 passes in his direction. That put the offense in an unbalanced state and it became very easy for the Steelers to predict, especially since the officials were allowing a lot of the contact on the receivers to go unchecked.
No one wins in this league without running the football. The Giants have been passing the ball 63.59% of the time this season, seventh highest in the league. They are averaging 20.4 points per game and just 77.5 yards per game on the ground. They have become too predictable and seem to be regressing as the season unfolds.
One of the problems could lie with rookie head coach Ben McAdoo, who insists on calling the offensive plays. In watching him on the sidelines, you will see that his head is usually buried in that laminated play chart most of the time.
That's not a good look for a head coach. He should have his head up with his eyes focused on the field every second of the game. Let someone else call the plays. You have a 13-year veteran at QB and an offensive coordinator who has a decade of service working with him. If the lot of you doesn't know what you're doing, or need to do by now, what does that say?
If the Giants are to make any noise the rest of the way, they have to dedicate more of that laminated play chart to the run game. It's no longer a matter of choice at this point.