Injuries open door for Brown, Giants’ epic comeback

While the controversy surrounding Greg Schiano and Tom Coughlin stole the headlines in New York’s 41-34 win over Tampa Bay, it was a new approach from the Giants offense that sparked their epic comeback and enabled Eli Manning to throw for a career-high 510 yards.

Following Ahmad Bradshaw’s neck injury in the second quarter, the Giants turned to fourth-year journeyman running back Andre Brown and opened up their playbook to take advantage of his skills as a receiver. With receivers like Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, you might be wondering what does a running back who had two catches for 19 yards have to do with New York’s success through the air? Let the “Playbook” crew show you.

In the shotgun, the Giants often gave Brown free releases out of the backfield, sending him to the flat or on angle routes. This is something they did not do with Bradshaw or Brandon Jacobs last season, because they do not have the consistent catching or route-running ability to be threats in the passing game. As stated earlier, Brown did have two catches for 19 yards doing this, but it was his presence alone on those routes that influenced the Buccaneers defense. Thus making his free releases significant for this passing game.

In the third quarter, Brown caught the Bucs’ defense by surprise off his free release and gained 11 after coming out of the backfield totally uncovered. Later on that same drive, Brown free released once again. This time, Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David stepped out to the flat to carry him, which left Manning just enough of a window to hit Nicks on a slant route for a first down in the red zone.

As you can see, those few steps David took to honor Brown left Manning just enough space to fit the ball in front of him. That’s all an elite QB needs to make the defense pay.

In all, the Giants completed six passes either to Brown on free releases or to receivers playing off of this concept for 70 yards and picked up five first downs. A back that poses a threat as a receiver adds a potent element that this Manning-led passing attack has lacked. Even if Bradshaw returns healthy, look for Brown to remain a part of this Giants offense and continue to open up lanes for receivers in the intermediate passing game.

“Playbook” — the ultimate football Xs and Os show — airs Friday at 8 p.m. ET (NFC) and 9 p.m. ET (AFC) on NFL Network. Check the NFL Network broadcast schedule for further details. Follow “Playbook” on Twitter @NFLN_Playbook.

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