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Inside the Numbers: Run defense leads league

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.** – The Giants' defense had a split personality in the first quarter of the 2015 season.


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Through four games, the unit is first in the NFL defending the run, allowing an average of only 69.8 yards a game. But the defense is also 32nd and last in the league in pass defense, surrendering an average of 316.3 yards through the air.

Both of those figures would be franchise records, even if they change somewhat between now and the end of the season.

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In each of the last two weeks, the Giants faced an opponent that entered the game with the NFL's top-ranked rushing attack. Washington was averaging 171.5 yards a game on the ground. But after the Giants held the Redskins to 88 yards on Sept. 24, Buffalo assumed the top spot in the league rankings with an average of 152.7. The Giants limited the Bills to only 55 yards and 2.3 yards per carry. This week, the Giants host San Francisco, which is ranked fifth in rushing yardage with an average of 130.3 yards a game.

The fewest rushing yards per game the Giants have allowed in a season is 72.3 in 2000. The lowest figure since Tom Coughlin became coach was 95.8 yards in 2008, when current defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was in the final season of his first stint in that position.

The Giants have allowed at least 101.3 rushing yards a game in each of the last six seasons, including 135.1 last year.

None of the Giants' first four opponents rushed for more than 100 yards. It's the longest such streak by the team's defense since a five-game stretch from Oct. 3-Nov. 7, 2003. The Giants last opened a season by holding four consecutive opponents to less than 100 rushing yards in 1994.

Opposing teams have averaged just 3.1 yards per carry. The franchise record of 2.3 yards per opposing rush was set in 1951.

Only one of the Giants opponents' 89 rushing attempts has gained at least 20 yards.

While the rushing numbers are impressive, the opponents' passing production has been unusually high. The most passing yards per game the Giants allowed over a full season was 255.1 in 2011, when the Giants ranked 29th in pass defense – and won the Super Bowl.

If the Giants maintain their current positions, they will achieve a rare double. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, since the NFL expanded to 32 teams in 2002, three teams have finished first in run defense and last in pass defense in the same season: the 2006 and 2007 Minnesota Vikings, and the 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

  • The Giants haven't run the ball as productively as they'd like. They are 24th in the league, averaging 93.0 yards a game. Neither the Giants nor their opponents have rushed for at least 100 yards in four consecutive games, the first time that's ever happened.
  • The Giants' 24-10 victory in Buffalo on Sunday improved their October record in 12 seasons under Coughlin to 34-10 (.773). That is the NFL's second-best record in the month over that span, trailing only New England's 37-9 (.804).

Coughlin has coached 308 regular-season games and 327 total games, including playoffs. The 28 accepted penalties in the Giants-Bills game Sunday were the most ever in a Coughlin-coached game. The previous high was 25, by the Giants and Chicago Bears on Nov. 7, 2004. Buffalo's 17 penalties were the highest total ever by an opponent of a Coughlin-coached team.

  • The Giants led at halftime in each of their four games this season, their longest such streak since they owned the lead after two quarters in five consecutive games from Oct. 3-Nov. 7, 2010.
  • The Giants are tied for second in the NFL with a plus-six turnover differential. That is their best differential since the end of the 2012 season, when they were plus-14. In 2013-14, the Giants were a combined minus-17.

The Giants have only two giveaways, their lowest total through the first four games of a season since 2008 (one), and their fewest number of turnovers in any single-season four-game span Since Dec. 7-28, 2008 (two).

The Giants were 3-for-15 and the Bills 3-for-16 on third-down conversion attempts Sunday. The 25 combined unsuccessful tries were the most in a Giants game since Dec. 29, 2013, when the Giants were 3-for-14, and the Redskins were 5-for-20.

  • San Francisco's Jim Tomsula will be the second rookie head coach the Giants will face this season (after Atlanta's Dan Quinn). Since joining the Giants, Coughlin is 15-10 against first-year head coaches.
  • Dwayne Harris, Rueben Randle and Larry Donnell each had a team-high five receptions in Buffalo. Harris became the 65th different receiver to catch at least one regular-season pass from Eli Manning.
  • Harris and Rashad Jennings were the 39th and 40th different players to catch a Manning touchdown pass.
  • Ralph Wilson Stadium is the 29th different NFL venue in which Manning has thrown a regular-season touchdown pass.
  • The Giants are 20-6 when Manning throws exactly three touchdown passes.
  • Manning played in his 173rd regular-season game, which tied Pro Football Hall of Famer Harry Carson and Keith Hamilton for eighth on the franchise's career list.

The Giants did not allow a first-half touchdown to either of their last two opponents (Washington and Buffalo), the first time they did that in back-to-back games since last Nov. 30 and Dec. 7 vs. Jacksonville and Tennessee.

  • Josh Brown remains second in the NFL in scoring with 38 points, one behind Baltimore's Justin Tucker (last week's leader, New England's Stephen Gostkowski, had a bye). Brown's 10 field goals tie Seattle's Steven Hauschka, Kanas City's Cairo Santos and Tuck for the league lead. Brown and Hauschka are the only kickers with at least 10 field goal attempts without a miss.
  • The Bills passed for 258 net yards on Sunday. In his NFL head coaching career, Tom Coughlin is 83-100 when the opposition throws for at least 200 yards, and 83-42 when it doesn't.
  • Dan Campbell, who played tight end for the Giants from 1999-2002, this week replaced Joe Philbin as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Several former Giants players – including Tom Landry, Dick Nolan, Ray Rhodes, Alex Webster, Joe Walton and Frankie Filchock – went on to become NFL head coaches. The only other former Giant who is currently a head coach is Dallas' Jason Garrett. Campbell and Garrett were Giants teammates from 2000-03. Their teams will meet in Miami on Nov. 22.

Gameday photo timeline from Giants Week 4 matchup vs. Bills

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