The Giants scored one touchdown Sunday night thanks to a 61-yard play that accounted for nearly one-quarter of their 260 yards of total offense. They turned the ball over three times. They converted only two of 14 third downs (although they were 2-for-2 on fourth downs), three of their eight three-and-outs lasted less than a minute, and they recorded just 12 first downs.
Statistically, it was a flop.
But when Ben McAdoo was asked in his postgame news conference if the offense took a step forward in the 10-7 win over the Cowboys, he gave a quick answer.
Delirious from the win, perhaps? Glossing over the lackluster numbers?
Nope. McAdoo confirmed his initial assessment in Monday’s conference call. The reason, he said, was the “Rule of 53.”
That’s the metric McAdoo uses to measure offensive efficiency. He wants the total of rushes plus completions to be at 53 or above. Against the Cowboys, the Giants had 31 runs by running backs and 17 completions.
“When the elements change, when you’re playing in element games in December football, you have to be able to run the ball and get to that Rule of 53, which we didn’t hit, but we got enough rush attempts to get there,” McAdoo said Monday. “We didn’t want the time of possession or the number of plays to get tilted to one side, so our defense could play physical and play aggressive for 60 minutes. We thought that was key in the ballgame and I thought we did a nice job there.”
The Giants have reached 53 combined carries and completions only twice this season — wins over the Saints and Bengals — but they have been over 45 in five other games. In their nine wins, they averaged 49.2. In their four losses they averaged 39.5.
It was especially important to control the ball — not necessarily by moving it — against a Dallas team that often plays the entire game as if it’s in four-minute mode. The Cowboys plod along and gobble up time, leading the NFL in both rush attempts and time of possession.
The Giants bested them in both categories Sunday night.
“We thought we needed to limit the number of opportunities they had, with their offensive weapons, increase the number of touches you have, try to run the clock a little bit,” McAdoo said. “We need to complete the ball a little better, but the number of rush attempts was a key number for us.”
It also put pressure on the Cowboys’ pedestrian defense.
“We made Dallas play a full game on defense, something they haven’t had to do a lot of this year,” McAdoo said. “That was a big part of things.”
The Giants ran for only 95 yards on 31 attempts by their running backs (Eli Manning had two kneel-downs to end the game, which count as rushes). McAdoo would like to see more gains in that area, saying, “We need to keep the run game progressing.”
He’s also aware that the passing game needs to improve. “I thought that we left some offense out there, obviously,” he said.
But with three games remaining, all of them outdoors in the Northeast, the Giants just might be able to use Sunday night’s game as a blueprint for the rest of the regular season. They have a receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. who can “change the game in the blink of an eye,” and punter Brad Wing has been invaluable in pinning opponents deep.
Of course, none of that matters if the Giants score only 10 points, as they did Sunday, and lose.
“You play defensive football the way we played defensive football (Sunday) night,” McAdoo said, “you’re always in the ballgame and have a chance to win.”
Ben McAdoo’s “Rule of 53” sets the goal for the number of rushing attempts plus completions by the offense in each game. Here is how the Giants have fared in their pursuit of 53 this season (although some games include quarterback kneel-downs in rushing attempts):
Week Opp. Result Total
1 At Dallas W, 20-19 43
2 NO W, 16-13 64
3 Wash. L, 29-27 46
4 At Minn. L, 24-10 43
5 At GB L, 23-16 33
6 Balt. W, 27-23 49
7 At LA W, 17-10 44
9 Phila. W, 28-23 46
10 Cin. W, 21-20 55
11 Chi. W, 22-16 50
12 At Cleve. W, 27-13 42
13 At Pitt. L, 24-14 36
14 Dall. W, 10-7 50