EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Brian Daboll insists he's not conservative, but pragmatic.
The Giants' coach is interested only in his team having the higher point total in any game, and not the style of play they use to score them.
"Each week, we just do what we think we need to do for that particular game," Daboll said after the Giants defeated the Houston Texans yesterday, 24-16. "If it's 60 passes, it's 60 passes. That's what we do as a coaching staff. That's what we'll always do."
That's what he's charged to do. But the 7-2 Giants have found a formula for success, one that makes it very doubtful Daniel Jones will throw 60 passes in any game. Indeed, if the Giants maintain the pace they established vs. Houston, it will take them 3½ games to reach that total.
Jones threw only 17 passes yesterday, completing 13. The Giants still held the ball for 33:20 and never trailed for the first time this season because their rushing attack once again carried the day. They had 47 rushing attempts, their highest total in 12 years. Saquon Barkley had a career-high 35 for 152 yards and one touchdown.
The Giants are third in the NFL with 164.8 rushing yards a game. Daboll and his staff believe a stout ground game creates their best path to victory. How did they arrive at that conclusion?
"I think it starts after you go through (the process)," Daboll said. "The coaches and the players right now are meeting, going through our game. You make the corrections that you need to make on our game, and then you sit down with the advance scout. You go through the scouting report of the team you're about to play (the Giants host the Detroit Lions on Sunday). You want to try to use your players' strengths the best you can.
"It's Week 11; I think we have a fair idea of what some of those are. But then the coaches sit down. They watch the opponent. They have a lot of discussions. When I'm looking at it, I'm looking at it holistically in terms of the kicking game, defense and offense and just how I think we need to play the game to win. … I'll give them my thoughts on what I think we need to do collectively to win. And then they do a good job of communicating with each other and coming up with whatever that may be. It could be a certain type of run or a certain type of pass (that) we want to use. And then everything is talked about (and) put in. And we go through situations of what we like. And then I think ultimately at the end of the day, when you're calling a game, you get a feel for how the game's going – let's just call it – after the first quarter. There's a lot of things that happen in the first quarter where they're kind of schemed up; maybe they're game plan things. And usually the game settles in, and you've got to do a good job of kind of figuring that out of how you want to play and the things you want to use."
"Conservative" is often the categorization attached to a team that prefers to move the ball on the ground instead of through the air. Daboll rejects that identity.
"I wouldn't use that word," he said. "I would just use we try to do what we think we can do, which was run the ball (47) times. … I wouldn't give it a label. I would just say we try to do the best job we can to formulate a plan and make sure the players execute it."
That plan has been overwhelmingly run-heavy, a sound strategy when Barkley is your primary ballcarrier. He leads the NFL with 931 rushing yards, eight more than Tennessee's Derrick Henry.
The Giants have had more rushing attempts than passes in six of their nine games. In a victory against Carolina, they threw 34 passes against 33 runs. The Giants also threw the ball more often than they ran it against Dallas and Seattle and perhaps not coincidentally, those are the only teams they lost to.
With one game remaining in Week 10, the Giants are one of only five teams that have more carries than pass attempts. Their plus-70 ratio is third in the league behind Chicago (plus-152) and Atlanta (plus-97).
Conversely, Jones' 237 passes place him 22nd in the league.
If the Giants must throw the ball 40 times to win one or more of their remaining seven games,is the offense equipped to do that?
"I don't know," Daboll said. "You practice that each week. You're ready, and you try to be as ready as you can in every situation. I think you just take each game as they come, and coach and play the way you need to play for that week."
The players believe the passing game can be a key component in a Giants victory.
"I'd definitely say there's more meat on the bone," wide receiver Darius Slayton said. "Obviously, we had some pass plays in the game that we could've been a little better on in a couple of spots or got some more completions here or a big play there. At the end of the day, the objective is to win the game. Whether we have to throw it 50 times or run it 50 times, I think we're all on the same page. We're all just trying to win the football game.
View photos from the Giants' Week 10 win over the Houston Texans.
*Because of the team's emphasis on the run, the Giants' wide receivers have relatively few opportunities to showcase their skills.
Slayton was targeted a team-high four times yesterday. He made the most of his opportunities, finishing with a team-high 95 yards on three catches, including a 54-yard catch-and-run touchdown up the sideline in the third quarter.
"The reality of a receiver is, that's kind of what it is," said Slayton, who leads the team with 327 yards and is third on 19 receptions. "You're always running to not get the ball more than you are to get it. Even the top receivers in the league, even if they catch eight to 10 balls in a game, there are 60 plus plays in a game. If they're not blocking, they're running – and they're not running and getting the ball. So, it's just kind of the reality of the position and kind of a mindset you always have to have. Whether you throw it 40 times or you run it 40 times, it's not coming to you 40 times. You've got to always be patient and just capitalize on opportunities when they come."
*The Giants' defensive backs both missed safety Xavier McKinney and fed off his presence yesterday. McKinney, who is sidelined on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list
with fractured fingers suffered during the bye week, was a vocal presence on the sideline during the game.
What was it like not having him on the field?
"Kind of like he was still there in a sense," cornerback Adoree' Jackson said. "Having him come to the sideline, being able to chop it up with him, seeing him with is little headset in pumped up. It's kind of like he was still out there with us at the end of the day. At the same time, we're still trying to – we have this thing where we try to hold each other accountable and play for one another and not disappoint our brothers. Even though he wasn't out there, I was trying to not disappoint him on the sideline."
"It was a challenge, honestly," said safety Julian Love, who called the defensive signals in McKinney's absence. "Guys are put into different roles, different positions. But thankfully, we were coming off of a bye week, and we had an extra day to really get communication and all those things sorted out. So, it was a grind of a week. We really wanted to get on top of things. It wasn't perfect, but as we got closer to today – Sunday – we got closer to being what we wanted to be on gameday. So, guys stepped up. It was a challenge for us all."