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Ground game struggles, O-Line injuries mar Giants


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants have injuries on their offensive line and are struggling to run the ball, interlocking issues that have become a drag on the team's offense.

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In their 20-14 loss yesterday in Washington, the Giants ran for just 33 yards on 13 attempts, their lowest total since Jan. 3, 2010, when they ran 12 times at Minnesota. Shane Vereen was their top ground gainer, and he had only two carries, for 15 yards.

"We had a little bit of success early on and despite the fact that there were runs following that that weren't very successful," said coach Tom Coughlin, "you always look back at that and say, 'Yeah, we should have run. We should have kept running. We should have done something to, if nothing else, affect the ability to set up play action pass.'

"In the game the way it was going, we were down quite significantly, not having a lot of success, and that always leads you the other way. But when you look at the end result and you look at the statistics from the game, you certainly would have liked to have rushed the ball a considerable amount of times more than we did."

The Giants entered the game without their starting center, Weston Richburg (ankle), and left guard, Justin Pugh (concussion). Early in the game, they lost Geoff Schwartz, who was playing his first snaps of the season at left guard after moving over from the right side.

"It's not good," coach Tom Coughlin said of Schwartz's injury. "He has a fracture above the plate on his leg (which was inserted after he fractured his ankle in Jacksonville a year ago today). So I'm sure that he'll have to be put in I.R."

The Giants would get a boost up front if Richburg and/or Pugh return to the lineup for the game Sunday vs. the Jets.

"I'm hoping that's going to be the case, at least with one of them, but I don't have any evidence of that just yet," Coughlin said. "And I'm going to have to wait, obviously, for the (concussion) protocol to be completed, and for some successful rendering of the various examinations. With Richburg, it's going to be, how much improvement is there? He tried it once, it wasn't very good and so we did the best we could to keep him off his feet and continue to treat, etcetera, etcetera. So I'm hoping there's an advantage to that, and I really won't know anything until I hear probably tomorrow to what extent he's able to do anything. So we'll see."

The substitute starters yesterday were Dallas Reynolds at center and John Jerry at right guard. After Schwartz left the game, Jerry moved to left guard and rookie Bobby Hart received his most extensive playing time of the season at right guard.

"You keep working, you keep fighting, you keep scrambling, you keep battling," Coughlin said. "Maybe you get a couple of guys back, or at least one back. The other guys are going to have to keep playing and do a good job for us, that's all there is to it. This is our team, these are our guys. We had, unfortunately, at a key time of the year, some of these people were not able to play up front and I'm sure they felt very badly about that, but we have to go on. We did go on and the result wasn't very good, but nevertheless you have to keep fighting."

In the second half, when the Giants trailed by three scores until late in the game, they ran the ball just three times – for one yard.

"I thought we were fine running the ball early in the game," quarterback Eli Manning said. "We were getting four yards a pop, and had some nice runs, and put in some good down and distance. We just kind of got into the second half, and got down, started hitting some big plays in the pass game, finally connected on some, and once you get to midway toward the end of the third quarter and you're down 17, it's a little bit tougher to stay with the run. We had to score, and score quickly, and kind of got into a passing deal. We didn't want it to be a game where we had to throw it 50 times. We would have liked to run it more, but I think it's also a combination. We took some shots trying to throw the ball on second down and we didn't complete a lot of them, and got into a lot of third and long situations. The second half we also just had some runs where we were just losing yards. We lost yardage a few times, we weren't getting a whole lot of it, and it just became one of those games. It wasn't the game plan, but just the way it became."

Of course, the new pieces on the line also affect Manning and the passing attack. Manning was sacked three times and, according to the official statistics, was hit eight times, whole throwing 51 passes. He completed 26 of them, including fourth-quarter touchdowns to Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr.

"Do I see a difference in his play? No," Coughlin said. "I think sometimes it's perhaps speeded up, like it was yesterday on a couple of occasions. I'm not sure that sometimes the play is allowed to develop to the full extent that it does, or a quick decision is made on where the ball is going to go, or we go back to featuring the balls that are coming out of his hand quicker. He was, I think, going into the game last week, fifth in the league in the time of release and he's done very well with that.

"You'd like your quarterback to have outstanding protection and not be hit; he got hit sometimes yesterday, there's no doubt about it. But the way he came roaring back in the fourth quarter was a very good indication of Eli hanging in there, even stepping up into the pocket on numerous occasions and delivering the ball. Everybody is aware of who's on the field, but has it affected his play? Maybe to speed up and not have an opportunity to go ahead and see the entire pattern the way that you would normally do it. But I did like the way he came back battling in the fourth quarter."

The Giants will keep fighting. They just have to find a way to be more productive while they're doing it.

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