Ahmad Bradshaw established new benchmarks in his six-year career last week when he carried the football 30 times and ran for 200 yards. As the Giants prepare to travel to San Francisco for their marquee matchup with the 49ers, Bradshaw would welcome the same workload, because he believes it will produce the same – or better – results.
Asked today if he would like to have as many carries in Candlestick Park, Bradshaw said, "Every game. I feel like as many times as I can touch the ball is as many times I can make a lot of different plays and get a lot of yards. So I don't mind touching the ball at all that many times."
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride knows how Bradshaw would react if he called the back's number 30 times on Sunday.
"I'm sure he'd be the happiest guy on the football field," Gilbride said.
Well, every running back wants his hands on the ball as much as possible. If Eli Manning does hand it to him 30 times in San Francisco, can we expect another 200-yard game?
"Expect the unexpected," Bradshaw said. "With this line, there's no telling what we can accomplish. We're just going to go out there and give it our all."
Bradshaw's heavy workload was due in part to the absence of backfield mate Andre Brown, who suffered a concussion early in the game. Brown has not practiced this week. If the Giants need a second back this week, it could be first-round draft choice David Wilson, who scored his first pro touchdown on a 40-yard run last week.
"We're trying to expand his role as fast as we can," Gilbride said. "But it's a process, so we take it one day at a time."
The most important consequence of Bradshaw's impressive production in the team's 41-27 victory over the Cleveland Browns was that it revived a Giants ground game that had been largely dormant for more than a year. The team rushed for 243 yards, its highest total in almost four years.
Bradshaw said there was no magic formula to generate so many yards.
"We just played hard," he said. "We handled every responsibility we could on every play, especially the runs. We finished. A lot of guys (were) down the field with me after runs and that's just what you want to see as a runner and also as a coach."
Although the output was impressive, Bradshaw thought the team could have gained more.
"I'm never satisfied," he said. "I always feel like we could have done better. We left a lot of plays on the field that we could have ended up with 250, maybe 300. I'm never satisfied and I just work for (getting) better."
That will be difficult this weekend. The 49ers have one of the NFL's most formidable defenses. They are ranked second in the league, allowing only 262.2 yards a game. Their run defense is seventh (81.4). Only one player has rushed for more than 53 yards against them this season; Minnesota's Adrian Peterson ran for 86 yards in the Niners' lone loss. When they played in San Francisco last season, the Giants rushed for 93 yards in their regular-season loss and 85 in their victory in the NFC Championship Game.
"I thought their defense was one of the best, if not the best, defenses we faced last year," quarterback Eli Manning said. "I feel they're at the same spot this year. So, it'll be a great test for us.
"Their front seven is talented, they've got good corners, their safeties come up and tackle and hit. So, they're good all over the field, and each player is going to have to win their individual battles, and do a good job of blocking and receivers getting open, and running backs making guys miss."
The Niners' front features three-time Pro Bowler Justin Smith and two terrific inside linebackers in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.
"They have great players," Gilbride said. "They're tremendous, they're tough. They have great speed on the outside, Smith is a beast on the inside. He's strong, he does as good a job of grabbing a hold of offensive linemen and allowing those twists to take place. He never gets called for it, so he gets away with murder. That, in conjunction with the ability level they have, makes them as formidable as anybody we go against, and we go against some pretty good ones in Dallas' and Philadelphia's. They're as good as anybody up front."
"They're just physical," Bradshaw said. "They're strong. They set blocks better than anybody in the league. They hit people up front and they come back to the ball. If the ball gets past them, they make plays downfield; even the big guys. So they never quit, they never stop."
But as they showed last week, the Giants can be pretty formidable themselves.
"We're up for the task," Bradshaw said. "I think we'll be fine."