The return of Andre Brown was crucial for the Giants on so many levels, providing the team a jolt on the field and a source of motivation off. Brown's hard-fought journey to return and his first game back were certainly a highlight in a season where they have few and far between.
On the field, just as he had been any time he played in 2012, Brown was outstanding. 115 yards on 30 carries is an impressive line on its own merits. Coming from a back who is returning off of a 2nd broken fibula in 11 months? Even better.
Fatigue, rust and the mental aspect of Brown's return weren't enough obstacles for the back to deal with as his greatest challenge was another sub par run blocking effort from the Giants offensive line (a cumulative run block grade of -2.7). For comparison, the group combined for a combined run block grade of 3.8 in Brandon Jacobs' 100-yard effort in the week 6 loss to the Bears. Brown was able to use his best skills, his patience, vision and cutback ability, to overcome the sorry effort up front.
Seriously, outside of Kevin Boothe (2.2 run block grade) this was awful production by the Giants front five and they all owe Brown a big thanks. Not only did the group fail to get any push for the most part, they were flat out beat on many occasions. The Raiders totaled 7 tackles for losses and as you will see in some of the shots below, Brown's hard running prevented a handful more.
The screen shots (and there were many more, but I only selected the WORST of the game) below give you a much better idea of just how well Brown ran in this one.
(Note: all of the below screen shots are taken while Brown is still behind the line of scrimmage)
The eye in the sky doesn't lie and in this one highlights Brown's excellent effort. An effort, considering the situation, so impressive that it should serve as a rallying point for this Giants team. This guy worked his ass off to return midseason for a 2-6 team and ran like there was no tomorrow. A refreshing thing to see in what has been a season full of injuries, excuses and indirect finger pointing amongst players.
Hands down this was the best individual performance of the season for a Giants player. Without Brown, the Giants most likely lose this game and in turn any hopes of making the playoffs. A -1 turnover ratio (despite the blocked punt and Terrell Thomas INT) and another disappointing performance by Manning make me feel comfortable saying that.
In order for this team to achieve the near-impossible (although with each week it appears more and more within reach) goal of earning a birth in the tournament, they will need Brown to remain healthy and continue to run this way as the team continues to wait for any signs of life from a once feared passing attack. If that happens at some point over the next few weeks (I continue to have strong doubts) then the Giants, at the very least, will be a team that no one wants to face in weeks 11-17 and perhaps beyond.