Small Ball is Big for Football Success

Even though this NY Giants blog has been more vocal about the adjustments that Perry Fewell needs to make, let’s not forget about our friend Kevin Gilbride.  For the last few seasons we have been pounding the table for Gilbride to give Eli more rhythm.  Rhythm is vital for an offense so that it can establish time of possession, give the defense some rest, move the sticks, and get the QB in the flow of the game.  The best way to give a QB rhythm is with small passes to RBs and TEs.  Now obviously there are going to be some long seam passes thrown in to Ballard, but for the most part, we are talking about flares to the RBs and possession routes to the TE.

Below is a table of TE + RB pass catches made in each game, ordered from games with most catches to games with the least.

Week Vs. Outcome TE+RB catches Attempts TE+RB % QB rating First Downs
12 NO L 13 16 81% 102 29
8 MIA W 12 17 71% 107 21
10 SF L 12 15 80% 85 21
17 DAL W 12 15 80% 137 20
14 DAL W 11 18 61% 91 28
4 AZ W 10 12 83% 108 24
6 BUF W 10 11 91% 95 24
9 NE W 9 15 60% 78 23
15 WAS L 9 13 69% 46 22
3 PHL W 9 11 82% 146 14
13 GB L 8 16 50% 101 24
2 STL W 8 10 80% 91 22
11 PHL L 7 15 47% 74 12
5 SEA L 7 12 58% 92 21
1 WAS L 5 8 63% 71 15
16 NYJ W 3 5 60% 62 11
Outcome TE+RB catches Attempts TE+RB % QB rating First Downs
7-3 11 14 76% 99 23
2-4 6 11 60% 82 18

There are going to be so many variables that factor in to any particular week’s breakdown of passing, running, to whom, etc..  So we are not going to make any all-encompassing conclusion and simply say that when you get 9 pass completions to the RBs + TEs that you are going to win the game or other such nonsense.  What we are going to say is that small ball will make your QB better and put him and the offense in a better position to win games.  

The stats in this table may support small ball more than you think… isn’t it interesting that the Giants offense was competitive in two of the three losses when they had many TE+RB completions?  isn’t it interesting that the Giants offense was slumbering through the first 26 minutes of the Jet game before Victor Cruz’s 99 yarder broke open the game on one play?!

One “small ball” play that we have been begging for more of that is simply not practiced enough is the screen.

Another “small ball” play that we love is the INTENTIONAL checkdown flare.  We will keep mentioning it all day… Tom Brady didn’t win Super Bowls with only deep passes.  He won it with his checkdowns (think Kevin Faulk) that moved the sticks.  Those plays give you first downs and more opportunities to make other things happen.  Jeff Garcia, a very average QB, made his living with the checkdown.  Drew Brees uses his RBs out of the backfield as well as anyone so that he can continue drives.  

Could these stats be coincident?  Of course.  But look at the attempts.  It looks pretty clear to us that throwing the ball more to your RB on that simple flare can loosen up the offense, give it some success, stretch the defense, and get Eli into the flow of the game.  In a week when the world is abuzz with the exploits of Victor Cruz, let’s remember that you can throw more balls to Victor Cruz and let him make more fireworks when your QB is moving the sticks with flares for 7 or 8 yards.  It is not sexy, but it is the 21st Century version of a running game.