Ahmad Bradshaw is coming off a career game in which he ran for 200 yards. But that was against the Browns. Surely he has no expectations of putting up those kinds of numbers against the 49ers, a team with one of the stingiest rush defenses and by all accounts one of the most physical teams in the NFL.
Actually . . .
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"Expect the unexpected," Bradshaw warned to those who may be writing off the Giants' newfound running game as a fluke. "With this line, there's no telling what we can accomplish."
A physical game is the kind that Bradshaw relishes. And it's one that he'll undoubtedly get on Sunday. Nearly everyone who played in last year's NFC title game called it the most brutal game of their career. The players were sore for days afterward, feeling lucky to have the extra week to prepare for the Super Bowl. And already some have been preparing for the aftermath of this Sunday's rumble.
"I already know that I'm not going to feel as good as I do this Wednesday next Wednesday," guard Chris Snee said. "I'm going to be very sore. It's going to be one of those things where the next couple of days will be tough to move around."
Sunday, too, figures to be tough for the Giants to move around. At least on the ground and moving forward. The 49ers have allowed only 81.4 rushing yards per game, seventh best in the NFL. They've allowed just two runs of over 20 yards this season, but none to a running back. One was a touchdown scramble by Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder and the other a Wildcat run by Buffalo's Brad Smith.
What makes them so unyielding?
"It's hard because you've got great players and they're not gambling, taking a lot of risks," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "The two linebackers [Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman] are as good as you face in the game. You add two safeties who are as physical as anybody in the game [Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner] and you have a great nine out of 11 in terms of their strength of what they do, which is their strength, defending the run."
Bradshaw, though, thinks the Giants can counter that by running at the 49ers cornerbacks.
"They rely on the safeties to come down and fill the gaps that the linebackers and the linemen don't fill and they do a good job at it," Bradshaw said. "We just have to use our receivers the best we can to come down and block the safeties and put us one-on-one with the corners and just be as physical as they are."
That's easier said than done. Then again, so is running for 200 yards.
Bradshaw carried it 30 times against the Browns, something he may have to do again with Andre Brown likely out with a concussion and rookie David Wilson still limited in what he can contribute offensively. Bradshaw said he'd welcome that kind of workload and noted that he felt "surprisingly" healthy after such heavy lifting.
"I feel great," he said. "I'm excited. I can't wait. Ready to do it again."