The fumbles finally caught up with Ahmad Bradshaw.
After losing his league-high fifth fumble of the season against Philadelphia last week, the Giants' running back had his starting job taken away from him and handed over to Brandon Jacobs.
"We're going to start Brandon this week," coach Tom Coughlin said Wednesday. "But there are plenty of carries to go around.
"The No. 1 consideration is to stop beating ourselves. It's very frustrating not to improve."
The debate now is not whether Jacobs should start, but whether this moves comes a couple of weeks too late. Also, there is some question as to whether this is going to be a permanent move, or just one that Coughlin's attempt to teach the otherwise gritty Bradshaw a lesson about ball security.
Coughlin is, after all, the kind of coach who will suffer persistent negative yardage runs a lot longer than he will turnovers. But Coughlin would not go beyond this game as far as his reinstated starter of the past three seasons goes.
But Jacobs had his own ideas about that.
"We haven't actually talked about it, but for me it's a temporary thing," Jacobs said. "It's temporary and I think that people are making a little bit too much out of it. We know what Ahmad brings to this football team: character, heart, hard work, and he knows that as well. You ask me, it's just temporary and I don't know what the reason for the whole thing is or what they're trying to prove. It's temporary, and I'm just going to do what they ask me to do. That's the main thing."
That's a departure from the angry Jacobs of training camp and the early season who bristled at having his starting job taken away from him following an ineffective 2009 season. But he and Bradshaw have always maintained that they are good friends, and Jacobs went out of his way to praise the cutback specialist who dresses in the next locker.
"Knowing the way things are in this business, it doesn't make things awkward because him and I both know what this business is like," Jacobs said. "I wish he didn't feel awkward when things happened with me and him in the beginning of the year. We just know how it is. I know he's going to still be there and I know he's going to be a big part of us winning."If we want to win, we're going to have to give him the ball. That's basically all I have to say. If we want to win, give it to him and he's going to get it done."
Fumbling has plagued Bradshaw this year, and has overshadowed an 867-yard rushing total that has him ranked fifth among league rushers.
Bradshaw said he wasn't disappointed in the move, though he face and tone of voice indicated otherwise. The fact remains that he has yet to find a remedy for the dropsies.
"My fumbles happen on the extra effort," Bradshaw said. "All I can do is play my game, and it all comes natural. All I can really do is get what I can get and go down."
Bradshaw has carried at more than a 2-1 ratio (185-78) over Jacobs. Now, that ratio could flip over to Jacobs, since it's not likely Jacobs will simply take the first carry and sit down. It's even possible that an effort to get DJ Ware more involved will further cut into Bradshaw's carries.
Whichever way it works out, it will be news to Bradshaw.
"I haven't been told anything. Like I said, I'm not the starter. I can just play my game off of that."
The object is to bump up the measly 61 rushing yards the Giants struggled to at Lincoln Financial Field, their first sub-100-yard rushing effort of the season.
"We have three running backs and we have to utilize them all," Coughlin said. "We do want to be balanced. We've had a one-game dip, but we are trying to get more production out of the run."
Bradshaw has fumbled twice in the last three games, though only his miscue against Philadelphia resulted in points, a field goal. When Brandon Graham yanked the ball from his arms at the Giants' 25 as Bradshaw fought for extra yardage, it simply marked another in a Tiki Barber-like issue.
"We'd like to have Ahmad evaluate the whole situation and improve in that area," Coughlin said. "We have a couple of things we can help him with in the small amount of time we have.
"The simple fact is, every team in the league goes for the ball. Everybody's going for the ball. They're not even worried about tackling, they're just going for the ball. So the absolute, most secure position (high and tight in Coughlin's book), whether you're going for extra yards or not, has to be the No. 1 priority. He didn't get it as secure as he needed to."Jacobs has lost one fumble this year while averaging five yards per carry and scoring five touchdowns. Running with authority has not been a big problem for him this year, but one wonders whether an increased role will cause him to revert to his tentative manner of last season.
Whatever the case, it was obvious Coughlin had been thinking about this move for a while. He'll give up yardage before the ball, anytime, for obvious reasons.
"He's not happy," said Coughlin of Bradshaw. "But he's going to fight his way through it.
Why it would be a total surprise to anybody is beyond me."The only surprise is that it didn't happen sooner. How long Bradshaw will remain in his secondary role despite a healthy 4.7-yard average and five touchdowns remains to be seen.
"It's temporary," Jacobs said. "Even though I'm going to rush for 200 yards each of these games I'm in, it's temporary. He's that much of an explosive runner and I want to see him in there myself other than anybody else. I want to see him in and I want to see him do well.
"We just want to win games."