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Focus is on stopping Seahawks' run game

Posted Dec 13, 2013

The Giants will almost certainly have to restrain a run game that is ranked third in the NFL

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – December in the NFL often delivers the cold and blustery weather expected Sunday in MetLife Stadium, where the remnants of an anticipated snowstorm tomorrow will help create a wintry landscape. In those conditions, throwing the football can be a dicey proposition and teams with the strongest running games have a decided advantage.


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One of those teams is the Seattle Seahawks, whom the Giants will host in their penultimate home game of the season.

In addition to an 11-2 record and clear path to the NFC West title and top seed in the conference playoffs, the Seahawks have a rushing attack that is among the most formidable in the league. Seattle is an anomaly in today’s pass-centric NFL, a team that happily and productively churns out yards on the ground.

“They’re unusual,” Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. “They’re different than most NFL teams because they do run the football 30 times a game.”

If the 5-8 Giants are going to defeat the Seahawks, they will almost certainly have to restrain a run game that is ranked third in the NFL, averaging 141.5 yards a game on the ground. The bulk of those yards are gained by one of the league’s best running back/quarterback tandems. Marshawn Lynch is fifth in the NFL with 1,042 yards and is tied for the league-lead with 10 touchdowns, and second-year quarterback Russell Wilson has 458 yards rushing and a 5.7-yard average.

“They run the football out of the one-back set and the gun as effectively as any team we’ve faced this year,” Fewell said. “Plus, the quarterback has the ability to keep the football. We have to stop the run and the play action pass.  A lot of times when Wilson boots out, he has that run-pass option. Is that a pass or is that a run? He picks up that easy six or eight yards and now it’s second and four. You definitely have to make sure you keep the ball inside, in front of your defense, and you have to focus and take out the primary guy, which is Lynch.”

The Giants played three games this season against the league’s top two rushing teams, Philadelphia and Washington, with mixed results. In a victory over the Eagles on Oct. 27, they held Philly to 48 rushing yards on 19 carries. LeSean McCoy, the NFL’s leading rusher, was held to 48 yards. Michael Vick started at quarterback and ran for just a yard before aggravating a hamstring injury that forced him to be replaced by less-mobile rookie Matt Barkley.

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In their first meeting with the Eagles on Oct. 6, McCoy was limited to 46 yards. But Vick ran for 79 in a 15-point Philadelphia victory. Two weeks ago in Washington, Alfred Morris, who sits just below Lynch on the list of the league’s top rushers, ran for only 26 yards. But quarterback Robert Griffin III rushed for 88 yards. The Giants overcame an early 14-0 deficit to win, 24-17.

Now the Giants face the same kind of challenge in stopping both Lynch and Wilson.

“You’ve got two runners,” cornerback Terrell Thomas said. “Wilson does a great job of not getting hit more than anything. He’s very creative with the ball in his hands, whether he’s pump faking or running the read option play. Marshawn is just a bully out there when he runs the ball; it takes multiple guys to bring him down. I think he’s one of the only running backs to have 1,000 yards the last three seasons, so he’s a solid back, he’s their workhorse and we have our hands full trying to tackle him.”

“It takes more than one person to bring him down,” defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. “I played against him before in the past and watched plenty of games. You have to get 11 guys to the ball. You can’t just leave one person hanging out to dry to try to bring him down by himself because he’s a tough back, strong back, fast, quick. He’ll make people miss.”

Giants opponents have 361 rushing attempts this season, an average of 27.8 a game. Seattle has a league-high 419 carries or 32.2 a game. Lynch is third among running backs with 244 carries and Wilson is third among quarterbacks with 81.

But Wilson is also an outstanding passer who has completed 64.5 percent of his throws and has 23 touchdown passes against only seven interceptions.

“And he does a good job of creating plays on the run, whether it’s a busted play or not, so you have to pick your poison,” Thomas said. “Each play, you have to play to the tendencies, you have to understand that they’re going to make plays but you want to limit the plays. More than anything, you want to stop Marshawn, I think. Russell Wilson is just the extra, the icing on the cake. But if you let him get going, Marshawn, then they have the play action and everything else is open.”

“(Wilson) he is a dual threat,” defensive end Justin Tuck said. “He’s going to be tough to corral. Obviously, we’ve got to play our best game against him because he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He’s playing like a wily vet. It’s hard to believe he’s only in his second year in the league and he’s doing pretty well.”

Wilson has started every game in his brief career and has a glittering 22-7 record in regular-season games. He’s led the Seahawks to consecutive postseason berths. Wilson has led Seattle to victory in nine games in which they trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter. This season, his 106.5 passer rating is the league’s fifth-best.

All of which means if the Giants do slow down Lynch as they have other top running backs this season, the quarterback is more than capable of taking the game into his own hands.

“I know it’s only his second year, but he has a lot of poise,” Fewell said. “He doesn’t seem to panic and has great vision down the field. He can get on the perimeter, he can see the entire field, he can start to escape and run the football and if somebody comes open, he can dump it off. It seems like his eyes are always down the field and he’s always looking to find the open person. If the person is not there, then he has a good enough burst that he can get a good five, six, seven, 10 yards or whatever to keep the chains moving. I’m just very impressed with his poise and his ability to see the field.”

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The Giants have seen their share of scrambling/running quarterbacks this season, including Cam Newton, Vick, Terrelle Pryor and RG3. 

“(Wilson) has a little different style because of his vision down the field,” Fewell said. “He can scramble, he can do the things that other guys that have played against us do, but it seems like the other guys that we play against, if they run, they look to run. Wilson can run right and throw right. He can run left to throw left. That’s unusual. He puts his body in some unusual positions and he’s able to make the throw. He’s very talented.”

To pull off the victory, the Giants must find a way to stifle some of those skills on Sunday.

QUICK HITS >>

  • Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder), cornerback Corey Webster (ankle) and safety Cooper Taylor (hamstring) have been declared out of the game vs. Seattle. Cornerback Terrell Thomas (knee) and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (shin/quad) are probable.

  • The Giants and Toyota, in partnership with the United States Marines, will hold their annual Touchdown for Tots toy drive at MetLife Stadium, when the Giants host the Seahawks this Sunday. Fans are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys to any of the collection vehicles and volunteers located at each entrance to the stadium prior to the game. Uniformed Marine Corps Reserves will be on hand to assist in collecting gifts.

    All gifts collected during the drive will be donated to Touchdown for Tots, the premier community action program of the United States Marines. Over the last 50 years, the Marines have distributed more than 272,000,000 toys to children across the country during the holiday season. Since the late 1970’s, the Giants have participated in this program and hosted an annual Touchdown for Tots drive, helping to bring the joy of Christmas to children across the tri-state area.