Fast forward two weeks, and they were the most impressive components in a Thursday Night Football loss to the Chicago Bears. The offensive line began to regroup in Week 5 against the Philadelphia Eagles: David Diehl was in for his first start of the season to lend his experience to rookie Justin Pugh on the right side, which in turn allowed Kevin Boothe and Will Beatty to work on their chemistry on the left.
Diehl brings 10 years of experience playing multiple positions across the Giants’ O-line, and the improvement was especially evident after that horror show in Week 3, when the non-existent protection allowed seven sacks on quarterback Eli Manning.
Since then they have stood relatively firm, giving up a single sack per game in their last two outings and giving Manning every chance to make a play, although sadly they cannot do his thinking for him as well.
Manning tossed three interceptions on Thursday night: the second of which cost the Giants six points and the last of which cost them the game. Up to this point in the season, a large portion of the blame for Manning’s woes has been directed at his offensive line, yet realization is now kicking in that the problems may lie elsewhere as the O-line regularly created a perfect pocket only for Eli to fluff his lines.
The O-line improvement and the step up in production of the run game go hand-in-hand. I suggested earlier in the week that the Giants should totally abandon the run game after David Wilson‘s injury and to simplify the offense by banishing this near-obsolete component — how wrong I was.
As is recent tradition, you don’t run on the Bears, even they have gotten noticeably softer over the last few seasons and Kevin Gilbride was determined to stick to his principles despite the evident lack of personnel.
I guess sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can break out, and this was certainly the case for the Giants’ depleted backfield on Thursday night. Heading into the game at Soldier Field, the Giants ranked dead last when running the ball. Not only were they void of a 100-yard rusher this season, they hadn’t gone over 100 net rushing yards in a single game so far this season.
So welcome to the party, Brandon Jacobs. The veteran powerhouse was unshackled to surpass anything the Giants had mustered so far for the best ground performance of the season.
Jacobs’ excitement at being handed the starting role — something he never imagined would happen again — was there for all to see prior to the game, even it was by default. Yet the big man took that proverbial bull by the horns to amass 106 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries against Chicago.
It was a performance from yesteryear for the two-time Super Bowl winner with power and perseverance, fighting for extra yardage after contact as if he was dragging his other 10 offensive colleagues up the field with him.
Not only did Jacobs use his hefty frame to power up the gut, there was also plenty of success to be had to the both left and right behind the rejuvenated O-line. We should not discount the efforts of stand-in fullback John Conner, whose contribution was well received on the evening.
When you’re in the pits of despair as the Giants’ season most evidently is, sometimes things can happen more out of luck than judgment. Had it not been for layoffs to Wilson and Andre Brown, Jacobs would not have been on hand for this breakout game. In fact, had it not been for a mistake-laden season opener from Wilson, Jacobs wouldn’t have even been on the roster.
So Giants fans, take solace in the fact that things are starting to happen unexpectedly — that’s essentially the best you can hope for at this stage. Two underperforming areas of the team stepped up in Week 6, and the rest should be taking notes.