Despite what you saw in the postseason against Philadelphia, New York's offense was one of the game's best all season long. To be exact, Big Blue finished seventh in total offense, averaging 355.9 yards per game. That's up more than two first downs from last year's 331.4-yard per game average. Also, only two teams scored more than New York's 427 total points during 2008's regular season.
It's no surprise at all, thanks to Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and a superb offensive line that the Giants finished as the entire league's top rushing attack. Big Blue averaged 157.4 yards per game on the ground, up considerably from last year's 134.3 figure. The Giants rushers averaged a ridiculous 5.0 yards every time they carried the ball.
While the Giants passing yards per game average (198.6) was nearly identical to New York's 2007 figure (197.1), it was only good enough for Eli Manning and Co. to finish with the game's 18th-best passing offense. However, Manning was much more efficient this season, posting an 88.2 team QB rating after the Giants finished last year with a 73.0 mark.
The fact that New York finished 2008 as the NFL's fifth-best defense is just one of the reasons why Steve Spagnuolo was invited to interview for each and every head-coaching vacancy this offseason. The Giants allowed only 292.0 yards per game this season, which was better than last season's final mark of 305.0. New York also finished as the league's fifth-stingiest scoring defense, allowing only 18.4 points per game.
In a very strange statistical oddity, New York's fifth-best overall defense finished ‘only' ninth against the run and eighth against the pass. The run figure of 95.8 was skewed slightly because New York allowed 4.0 yards per rush, which was higher than all but one of the other top 10 run defenses. Last season, New York's run defense surrendered 97.7 yards per contest, but only 3.8 yards per carry.
The Giants pass defense finished eighth, allowing 196.2 aerial yards per game. That's an improvement from last year's 207.3 per-game average. The 2008 Giants allowed 17 passing touchdowns, but also picked off 17 passes, a much better ratio than Big Blue had last year. The 2007 pass defense unit surrendered 24 passing TDs and picked off 15 balls.
The Giants saw a much-needed spike in their overall special teams play in 2008. While the kickoff game finished a lowly 30th in the league, John Carney helped improve New York in the field goal department considerably. He finished the regular season making 36-of-39 field goals, and two of those attempts were blocked. In 2007, Lawrence Tynes wasn't awful (21-29), but he sure wasn't near perfect either.
Believe it or not, punter Jeff Feagles was even better in 2008 than in 2007. This season he earned a Pro Bowl invite due to his final 40.2-yard net average. Last season, the club's final net was a ‘mere' 36.0 yards per kick.
The Ahmad Bradshaw-led kickoff return team finished tied for 12th in the league with a respectable 23.3-yard per return average. Last year, with Bradshaw the primary return man, New York averaged 24.2 yards per pop.
Finally, in the punt return department, Domenik Hixon (10.0) and R.W. McQuarters (6.6) combined to give New York an average return of 8.6 yards. Last year, McQuarters handled the majority of the punt returns, and the Giants average return was only 7.4 yards.
Our final key category is something Tom Coughlin preaches about to no end, the turnover differential. To say the Giants made huge strides in this department during the regular season would be a major understatement. Big Blue finished with a plus-9 mark in 2008, which was tied for fourth in the league. Last season, the Giants finished with a minus-9 margin. That total difference of 18 turnovers in the Giants' favor from one year to the next is one of the major reasons why the Giants got off to an 11-1 start.
The Final Breakdown
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