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Bradshaw Wrote a check


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He didn't put his foot in his mouth

No, Bradshaw used legs for better things: Backing up words

 

Bob Glauber

December 24, 2007

Eli Manning called out the play in the huddle - 38 power right - and Ahmad Bradshaw knew something good was about to happen.

 

The Giants were clinging to a 24-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter, with their playoff hopes and their coach's future hanging in the balance. Another loss, another late-season meltdown and the future of this franchise might be far different.

 

But as soon as he heard the play call, the rookie running back smiled and delivered a memorable one-liner.

 

 

"I'm going to take it to the house and end this game," Bradshaw told his teammates.

 

"Good. Let's see you do it," Manning told him.

 

He did it.

 

The play was designed to have Bradshaw take a handoff and run to the outside of right tackle Kareem McKenzie. On first down from the Giants' 12, Bradshaw took the ball and ran right. Shortly after getting around McKenzie, he noticed a seam in the Bills' defense and cut back toward the middle, where there was nothing but open space. He briefly lost his balance just past the Giants' 20 after an attempt at a shoestring tackle but fully regained it by the 30 and then accelerated. Three Bills defenders gave chase, but to no avail as Bradshaw scored easily.

 

Bradshaw did as he promised: He took it to the house and, for all practical purposes, ended the game at wet, windy Ralph Wilson Stadium.

 

The Giants are in the playoffs for the third straight year, Tom Coughlin's tenure as coach is virtually assured and another late-season collapse has been averted. The Giants can thank their 5-9, 198-pound rookie running back for ensuring a spot in the six-team NFC playoffs.

 

"That's one of my favorite plays, and I knew I could make something happen with it," said Bradshaw, one of the Giants' two seventh-round picks last April. "I knew if we blocked it up, I'd make a big play out of it."

 

There was none bigger yesterday, and just when the Giants needed it most. Having rallied from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit but wobbling badly in the fourth quarter - and with starting running back Brandon Jacobs having suffered an ankle injury - the Giants took a 10-point lead with 6:12 to play on Bradshaw's electrifying run, the longest in the NFL this season. It was the third-longest run in Giants history and the longest by a rookie.

 

As Bradshaw was outrunning the Bills' defense and heading for the end zone, Michael Strahan looked on and wondered if he'd make it. After all, the defensive end recently saw a video clip of Bradshaw being caught from behind during one of his high school games at Graham High in Bluefield, Va. The play was the subject of plenty of locker-room yucks at Bradshaw's expense.

 

"I thought he might get caught from behind again," Strahan joked.

 

He didn't. In fact, he was pulling away at the end.

 

"They were getting on my case about that play from high school," Bradshaw said. "I'm just glad it didn't happen this time."

 

Had Bradshaw's life taken a different path, a run like that might not have been all that surprising. But he ran afoul of the law twice, the first time in 2004 after joining the Virginia football team as a cornerback. Before his freshman year, he was arrested for underage possession of alcohol and resisting arrest and was kicked off the team.

 

Bradshaw then made the Marshall team as a walk-on running back and put up some staggering numbers, including 1,523 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns last year.

 

But before his junior season, he was arrested in January 2006 for stealing a PlayStation 2 video game system from a student's unlocked dormitory room, and he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor petty larceny charges.

 

"In terms of talent, he was a first-day pick," general manager Jerry Reese said. "It's only because of the off-field stuff that he dropped."

 

Not long after drafting Bradshaw, Reese had a private meeting with him.

 

"I asked him if he knew why he was drafted so late, and he said he did. He promised he'd make sure to behave himself, and he's done that."

 

"I've learned from my mistakes, and it's not going to happen again," Bradshaw said. "I said I'm going to put everything behind me and move on."

 

It's all about football now. And all about convincing the coaching staff that he needs to get his hands on the ball more than just returning kickoffs - even if Jacobs is healthy heading into the playoffs. Bradshaw is simply too good not to make him a more prominent part of the game plan.

 

With 151 yards on only 17 carries - all in the second half - and with the Giants grinding out 291 rushing yards in abysmal conditions, it's pretty obvious Bradshaw needs to get more carries moving forward. Yesterday's performance is all the proof the Giants need.

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