The Giants’ season has new life, despite their disastrous 0-6 start, as they’ve now won three straight games and are inexplicably back in the NFC East race.
And almost as big a story as their resurgence is the revival of their once-dormant rushing attack. Andre Brown, who missed the first eight games due to a fractured leg suffered in the preseason finale, made his season debut with a bang. The oft-injured running back led the Giants (3-6) with a game-high 115 yards on 30 carries and a touchdown.
“I carried it 30 times? It felt like 50,” Brown joked. “I had to tap my head a couple of times [for substitution], because I didn’t expect that many. But when you’re running the ball that well, I guess you stay on track and keep it rolling.”
Head coach Tom Coughlin gave kudos to Brown for not only his big game, but for the tailback’s resiliency to continue to bounce back from injuries and adversity.
“Andre Brown, 40 carries, which was big. I didn’t mean to mislead you when I [jokingly] said 40 carries but he only had 30. He gave us what we needed. He sparked us a bit and had some power runs,” Coughlin said, noting how tough his running back has been mentally and physically during his rehab stints. “Today is very rewarding and satisfying, because perseverance pays off. He tears his Achilles one year, hurts his leg another and everything, but he continues on. You can’t say enough about him.”
Brown proved his readiness during the past month in practice and Coughlin’s faith was rewarded with a stellar performance.
“He ran hard today,” Coughlin said. “There were times he had four or five guys on his back. That three-week build up is a good thing for guys coming off those [injury] lists. I was worried about his stamina going in, because for one game coming back, he hasn’t been hit at all during his build up, so I was worried about ball security and stamina. But his stamina increased during that time — his strength did, too. ... We now have more balance. And not only balance, but production. He did well.”
Brown attributed Sunday’s effort to a mindset that is as durable as his 245-pound frame. He noted he’s been cut by four different teams, twice by the Giants, has experienced season-ending injuries and has lost opportunities in the running back rotation in the past for a myriad of reasons. But after suffering his latest setback, he found new inner peace, which he feels carried him a long way during his arduous comeback from the leg fracture.
“I’ve just been staying positive,” Brown said, when asked how he keeps battling back from injuries. “Shout out to the trainers and the guys on staff who put me back together a couple times. Coming off the injuries, you gotta stay positive and you try to stay around the guys and help out in any way to make it feel like you’re still a part of the team.”
Brown no longer has to worry about feeling whether he’s part of the team or not, because if Sunday’s performance is any indication, he’ll likely be one of the more integral parts of the offense as the Giants continue their improbable late-season push.
Big Blue notes ...
»Coughlin enjoyed watching Brown bully his way to 115 rushing yards, but said he was equally impressed with a defense that has suddenly found its rhythm.
“Our defense rose up and was big with that goal-line stand,” Coughlin said. “We forced field goals instead of giving up touchdowns. ... Our defense stepped up when we needed.”
»Big Blue registered four sacks on the elusive Terrelle Pryor, including the game-icing strip sack by Mathias Kiwanuka. Jason Pierre-Paul also got one, which was followed up by one apiece from safety Antrel Rolle and linebacker Keith Rivers.
»Cornerback Terrell Thomas wasn’t to be outdone, as he recorded the Giants’ lone interception. Thomas picked off a Pryor pass and returned 65 yards to the Raiders’ 3-yard line to set up a Brown 1-yard touchdown run. The resulting score proved to be the winning margin.
»The special teams also had its moments, particularly on the Raiders’ second possession, as rookie defensive end Damontre Moore came through untouched up the middle and blocked Marquette King’s punt. The loose ball was picked by rookie safety Cooper Taylor who raced 21 yards for the touchdown.
»Raiders cornerback Tracy Porter picked off Manning and returned it 43 yards for the touchdown at the 1:18 mark of the second quarter. He can now brag that he’s enjoyed a pick six off both of the Manning brothers, although the first occurrence was slightly more important as it happened in the Super Bowl against Peyton Manning when Porter was a Saint and Manning a Colt.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.