|Bradshaw and Jacobs pummeled Atlanta all day Sunday. (Getty Images)|
By Ryan Wilson
When the Falcons declared cornerback Brent Grimes out for Sunday's wild-card matchup against the Giants, conventional wisdom suggested that New York and Eli Manning would do what they do best: throw the ball against a depleted Atlanta secondary. Further evidence that that would be the game plan, at least early: the Falcons lost safety William Moore to an injury in the first quarter.
Instead, the Giants' 20th-rated rushing attack controlled the line of scrimmage and the clock against the Falcons' No. 3 rush defense for the entire game, and most notably the first 30 minutes. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs combined for 17 carries and 116 yards (6.8 YPC)in the first half. For some perspective, during the regular season, the Falcons allowed, on average, 97 yards per game (4.2 YPC). Manning, meanwhile, was 12 of 20 for 101 yards and one touchdown.
New York led 7-2 at the break but it might as well have been a three-score lead. Because in the second half, the Giants defense continued to harass Matt Ryan and stifle Michael Turner, and the offense continued with what worked in the first half: pounding the ball, on early downs, taking shots downfield when the situation was in their favor, and milking the clock through it all.
Hakeem Nicks, who along with Victor Cruz gave the Giants their first 1,000-yard receiving duo in team history, hauled in a 72-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter that involved the ball traveling roughly 15 yards in the air and the remaining 57 on the ground came courtesy of Nicks. That made the score 17-2.
Another Manning touchdown pass, this time a 27-yarder to Mario Manningham in the fourth quarter, put the game away for good, but the rest of the half -- before Nicks' TD and after Manningham's -- consisted of Bradshaw and Jacobs running the ball down the Falcons' throat.
There's an old football saying about running games traveling well, especially this time of year, but there's a lot of truth to that. New York proved that Sunday. The Giants ended the day with 173 yards rushing (Jacobs had 14 carries for 92 yards and Bradshaw was good for 14/63), and held the ball for 34:34.
And next Sunday when they face the Packers in Lambeau Field (4:30 p.m. ET), their rushing attack could be the difference between keeping Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense off the field and getting blown out of the stadium.
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