When can a fumble be a good thing? When you’re Ahmad Bradshaw, and you’re playing with something to prove.
Related: A Giant Decision: Bradshaw vs. Brown
Last week, I suggested that the Giants might be better off starting Andre Brown. With Bradshaw struggling, I thought it was time to give the new guy a shot, and I wasn’t alone in my thinking. Bradshaw may not have been aware of the criticism, but he certainly knew how he was playing.
The Giants running back entered Sunday’s game against the Browns averaging just 3.8 yards per carry. He hadn’t had a 100-yard game in almost a year. He had also missed one game this season due to injury, and in that game Andre Brown had a breakout performance. Bradshaw needed to get off to a good start, but he fumbled on his first carry. He ran right into his own teammate and coughed up the ball, but that fumble proved to be the best thing that could have happened to Bradshaw. It was the last straw.
On the Giants next possession, Bradshaw was a different player. He was angry and he ran angry. He pounded the ground and Cleveland’s defensive line en route to 200 rushing yards. What a response! It was the most productive game of Bradshaw’s career, and it was a performance that should help to silence some of his critics.
Yet, it was only one game. Bradshaw will need to continue to play at a high level if he wants to end all conversations about who should be the Giants starting back.
He will also need to have another great game if the Giants are going to beat the San Francisco 49ers. Of course, no one expects him to rush for 200 yards against one of the league’s best run defenses. On average, the 49ers have only surrendered 81 yards per game on the ground. A successful outing for Bradshaw would be anything north of 80, although 100-plus would be nice.
It’s in the Giants best interest to establish the run early in order to protect Eli Manning. In their last meeting, San Fran sacked Manning six times. Who can forget the image of Eli picking himself up off the rain-soaked turf with grass stuck in his helmet and his shoulder pads askew? We can’t forget it because it happened almost every time Eli went back to pass.
The goal has to be to keep Eli Manning upright, and to do that the Giants need to play a more balanced game. Bradshaw will shoulder the majority of the burden on the ground with Brown (concussion) likely out. Andre did not practice on Wednesday and won’t until he is cleared by doctors.
This Sunday will be another opportunity for Bradshaw to prove that he can be productive when he gets the bulk of the carries. Against Cleveland, Manning handed Bradshaw the ball 30 times, which is nearly double the amount of carries he has had in any other game this season. In his previous starts, Bradshaw split time with Brown, and the most carries he saw were 17 against Dallas. Granted you are more likely to get the ball when you are twice as productive.
When Andre Brown returns, the Giants will hopefully be able to find a way to use both him and Bradshaw effectively in the same game. Until then, the Giants running game lives and dies in the capable hands of Ahmad Bradshaw.