Michael Turner tries to run past Chase Blackburn and Michael...

Michael Turner tries to run past Chase Blackburn and Michael Boley during the NFC Wild Card game at MetLife Stadium. (Jan. 8, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

There are plenty of things to be amazed at during this improbable Giants postseason run.

There's the continued elevation of Eli Manning's game in big spots (are there any remaining doubters that he's an elite quarterback?). There's Hakeem Nicks proving week after week that you can be a star wide receiver without having to be a diva, too. There's the sudden and stark improvement of the defense at the most critical time of the season.

But that last point has more to it than meets the eye.

Despite the Giants' four-game winning streak, their pass defense has shown only subtle improvement. After allowing 276.4 passing yards-per-game during the first 14 games, they've given up 251.25 the last four. But that figure would still place them near the bottom of the defensive pack.

The real transformation has taken place in the Giants' run defense.

First the big numbers: After allowing 127.57 rushing yards per game during their first 14 games, the Giants have limited the opposition to just 91.25 since. The Giants have allowed 15 rushing touchdowns so far this year, the last coming with 7:24 to go during Week 16 against the Jets. For those of you keeping count: that's 187 minutes and 24 seconds without letting a running back reach the end zone.

But if you dig a little deeper, the domination is even more pronounced:

Week 16 against the Jets
- 25 rushes
- 21 for less than 10 yards
- 16 for 5 or less yards

Week 17 against the Cowboys
- 16 rushes
- 14 for less than 10 yards
- 13 for 5 yards or less

Wild Card round against the Falcons
- 21 rushes
- 19 for less than 10 yards
- 17 for 5 yards or less

Divisional round against the Packers
- 23 rushes
- 16 for less than 10 yards
- 14 for 5 yards or less

In four weeks, the Giants have held opposing teams to less than 10 yards on a rush 83.3 percent of the time, and have held teams to five yards or less 71.4 percent of the time. Their average rush-per-game has dropped from 4.53 yards through Week 15 to 4.34 yards in the four games after. After having teams attempt 28.14 carries against them the first 14 games, the Giants have lowered that average to only 21 attempts the last four contests.

The stars the last four weeks (in total tackles on rushes): Jason Pierre-Paul (14), Michael Boley (12), Chase Blackburn (11), Linval Joseph (11) and Mathias Kiwanuka (10).

This Sunday they face the 49ers, a team ranked 8th in total rushing during the regular season and the best running team left in the playoffs.

Can the Giants keep this defensive trend going against a rushing opponent as dangerous as San Francisco? In a postseason filled with much to be amazed at, what's one more thing?


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