Andre Brown realizes what he's in for this week after committing the worst sin possible in the Church of Coughlin.
"I know I can be in the doghouse when you fumble the ball, especially with coach [Tom] Coughlin. I know he's going to be on me this week about holding on to the ball and my protection," Brown said. "I mean, you know, I'm going to look at it, learn from it, stay positive and make sure I go out here and be effective this week."
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Brown's fumble -- on a toss to the right from David Carr in the second quarter of the Giants' 18-13 victory -- set up the Steelers at the Giants' 44 and allowed them to kick a field goal that cut the Giants' lead to 10-6.
After initially dropping the pitch, Brown had a chance to recover the ball but was unable to secure it before a group of Steelers fell on him and stole it.
"Look the ball in," Coughlin said yesterday of the play. "If it's going to be a toss or pitch or pass, first you have to catch the darn thing and put it away and cover it up before you go on to the next objective."
Brown remained in the game, and on the next series, he caught a pass from Carr to open the drive.
"It got me right back in the flow," Brown said. "You know you're going to have a fumble, but you know, what do you do the next play? How do you respond? I felt like I responded well."
That's nice. But the ideal is not to fumble in the first place.
"It concerns me, it naturally concerns me, and it concerns Andre, too," Coughlin said. "It really was careless. I don't care how much and how well he played the game, there are certain things that have to happen before you run the ball."
Brown had 23 rushing yards on four carries, a team-high 5.8 yards per carry. He also caught that one pass for 7 yards.
One person who knows what it's like to fumble and not get the opportunity to make amends is fellow Giants running back David Wilson. In last season's opener, he coughed up his second NFL carry -- and it was months before he was trusted to be in the backfield again. So it's notable that one of the first players to approach Brown with words of encouragement after Saturday night's fumble was Wilson.
"Dave came over there and gave me a 'forget about it, put it behind you, make sure you go out there and run the rock,' " Brown said. "And I did it. If there's one play I could have back, it was that play."
Wilson has his own issues to resolve. The Giants are concerned about his pass protection, and in two direct opportunities, he wound up hitting .500. On the first play of the second drive, he went low and took out a blitzing Lawrence Timmons. He later went low on Vince Williams, too, but was hurdled.
Coughlin said that can't be Wilson's default blocking style. "If you step up and pick up the slack and you're far enough away from the quarterback, you can use it as a changeup," he said of the cut blocks, "but you're going to have to stand in there. So he'll learn that."
Perhaps Brown can work with him on it, just as Wilson advised Brown after his fumble. Meanwhile, the two young running backs who will be called on to carry the load for the Giants this season continue to climb their learning curve.
"We're going to need each other," Brown said. "We're going to feed off each other this whole entire season. We've got to have each other's back and it's going to be a long season. At the end of the day, I know I've got a good teammate and a good running back mate, and I know what we're capable of doing and I know we're going to be able to produce."