Before the NFC Championship game, we noted in our final thoughts about how to attack San Francisco in the run game:
"The strength of the 49ers is their inside game. Willis. Justin Smith. Bowman. Don't bother trying to go crazy running in between the tackles."
The Giants handed off the ball 25 times. Here is the breakdown:
INSIDE RUN- 22 times
OUTSIDE RUN- 3 times
There were 4 inside runs where there was absolutely nothing, and the runner (pretty sure it was Bradshaw all four times) had no choice but to kick it outside where there was more opportunity. Those four runs netted 2 yds, 7 yds, 9 yds, and 8 yds. The Giants netted 6.5 yds per carry on these runs. If you subtract these 4 runs, that leaves 21 runs for 61 total yards, or 2.9 yards per carry. Most of these runs were right into the teeth of the defense. In fact, if the balls run inside weren't run outside, the numbers running inside would have been worse.
Here is the problem- when 88% of the time you are running inside, there is a lack of balance. Predictability becomes the norm. That gives the defense an easier time in playing for tendency. Running the ball outside a little more would have spread the defense out and made the inside run more effective as well.
Let's ask the converse question- how would you have felt if the Giants attempted to run the ball outside 22 out of 25 times? The answer is that it would have been just as poor and predictable, even if it was indeed to the preferred area of the field. You must spread the field and keep defenses guessing.
The Giants passed the ball 58 times, well more than the 25 times they ran the ball. While the Giants amount of pass was lopsided, the Niners did have to honor the run. But they certainly didn't have to honor the outside run.
The message is that an offense cannot do ANYTHING 88% of the time, or else the defense will be given an advantage. This isn't Einstein. This is just the common sense of not doing the same thing over and over again 22 times during the game and expecting a different result. We all know that you can "soften up" a defense by running it and wearing them down. But don't do it to the total exclusion of surprise.
I agree that they should've mixed it up and ran outside a bit more. However, with the speed of san frans linebackers and there ability to move laterally some of the outside runs could've been stopped further into the backfield resulting in a loss. Whereas I believe some of the runs up the middle were just to hope to get some positive yardage. Just to keep possession eating up clock, as a change of pace to not throw every time, allowed them to set up play action, and make 3rd down more manageable instead of them pinning their ears back like they did at the end. Although, I do agree in that they should've used more counters and tosses mixed in to be even less predictable than passing every down or running up the middle.
The success the Giants have had this year will keep Gilbride around another year. But I still think that the Giants offense is successful in large part in spite of Gilbride. I guess we will never know, but I wonder how many of the plays we see are the result of Gilbride's call and how many are Eli changing the play by what he sees. Like Andy indicates, I think it is the predictability that drives us all a little batty. We see other teams smoothly move down the field and the Giants seem live by the big play. I guess it got them this far, I shouldn't complain, right? I just think the Giants could be that much better with a different OC.
Thank you for breaking down the numbers - up till now whenever I heard 22 for 25 I always thought of Phil Simms in the Super Bowl against the Broncos - but now I will also think of Kevin Gilbride's intransigence and dinosaur thinking. I have written it far too often on this blog - that even with Eli throwing for 5k yards; even with the complete and utter lack of success with running inside as indicated by the YPC when doing so - that Gilbride will always fall back on old-school and old-style football and the notion that the running game, specifically running between the tackles, represents the classic "we will impose our will"-thinking. Has he not witnessed the evolution of the game over the past 30+ years? How so many successful teams have used the pass to set up the run? And how that run does not have to be the same-old, same-old run we've seen before? The Patriots ran a TE from their backfield, for god's sakes. But we get Jacobs up the middle, into the backs of our offensive linemen, time after time. We get no subtlety, no nuance, no thinking differently. Yes, we have continuity between Eli and Gilbride. But we win in spite of Gilbride and his lack of non-predicatble thinking; not because of same. That's a testament to Eli more than anything.