Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule couldn’t have made New York Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s job any easier this week.
“You’ll see a vastly different look from us moving forward,” Rhule told reporters this week. “We’re not going to line up and drop back and throw it 40 times a game and think that’s going to win the game for us. It hasn’t. So there’s no [Christian] McCaffrey, Chuba [Hubbard is] showing us he can run the ball at a high level when given enough opportunities.”
Graham looked stunned when asked if he thought Rhule was attempting to toss a misdirection at him.
“Hell no, it’s not misdirection,” he said. “He’s letting everybody in that building know, ‘Giddy up, let’s go, we’re running the ball.’ I can’t blame him.
“He’s letting everybody know–everybody is on notice that we’ve got to run the ball. I take him for his word.”
The Panthers, who are trying to stop a three-game slide and take some of the onus off quarterback Sam Darnold, are coming into MetLife Stadium Sunday determined to run the ball down the Giants’ throats.
And why not? The Giants run defense this season has been abysmal. New York currently ranks 29th in rushing defense, allowing 137.2 yards per game on the ground to opponents.
The Giants have also allowed three straight games of 100+ yards to opposing rushing games, a streak that includes a season-high 201 yards surrendered to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5.
The Panthers, meanwhile, rank 16th in rushing with 109.5 yards per game. Rookie running back Chubba Hubbard will get the start in Carolina’s backfield with Christian McCaffery out.
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Although the Panthers put their intentions out there, Giants head coach Joe Judge said the Giants defense can't forget about Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold.
"He’s got a big arm, and he’s very aggressive with a lot of throws. You can’t forget about this guy’s legs," Judge said. "It’s the one thing you see a lot of teams right now. They’re dropping you in the zone or letting the man (coverage) kind of a carry them out of it. He does a good job keeping his eyes downfield.
"When he sees an opportunity, he pulls it and runs. He’s smart with running the ball, he’s productive, he gets down. He’s good in the low red area as far as getting that thing in the end zone as a runner with his legs."
The belief is that the Panthers want to take some of the onus off of Darnold, who has thrown six interceptions in his last three games and has one fumble. But if the Giants are to force Darnold and the Panthers to have to throw the ball, they're going to especially need to do a better job of stopping the run on first down.
Through six weeks, the Giants' run defense has allowed opponents to rush for an average of 5.49 yards-per-carry when they run the ball on first down.
With second- and third-and-short yardage estuations ensuing, that potentially opens things up for opposing offenses regarding what they run on the ensuing downs.
The Panthers have rushed for 100+ yards in five of their six games this season, last week reaching a season-high 118 yards on the ground for a 5.1 yards-per-carry average.
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