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New York Giants running backs support each other in bit of history

A substantial argument can be made that more rich NFL history has been made by running backs than at any other position with the possible exception of quarterback.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has inducted more running backs, 25, than any other skill position in the modern era (the Hall defines it as post-1946).

Given the many great backs who have played, it makes what a pair of New York Giants have done this season even more astonishing. Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward became only the fourth backfield tandem to each rush for 1,000 yards when Ward's 77 yards in the regular-season finale gave him 1,025. Jacobs, despite missing three games, finished with 1,089.

Suffice it to say, this puts the duo in elite company.

The Dolphins' Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris were the first to accomplish the feat in 1972, putting something of an exclamation point on the team's perfect season. Four years later, it was Pittsburgh's Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. And in 1985, it was Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack for the Browns.

It's certainly not a coincidence that two of the three duos led their teams to championships. The road to a title most often is paved by backs who provide a running game that can carry the load and keep defenses in check.

That's the Giants' preferred method of operation, and they will proceed accordingly Sunday when they host the Eagles in an NFC division playoff game.

"We will pound it at first and just set that physical standard that we have as an offense," quarterback Eli Manning said. "So, (Jacobs) does a good job of doing that, and then we mix it up with Derrick Ward and Ahmad (Bradshaw, 355 yards this season)."

The irony is that one back's success comes at the expense of the other's opportunities. So, when Jacobs rumbled for 136 yards on 15 carries Oct. 5 against Seattle, it should come as no surprise that there were just seven carries left for Ward, his second lowest of the season.

But what they lack in opportunity they make up for in efficiency. Jacobs had 5 yards per carry, and Ward averaged 5.6. Then again, neither seems to spend much time crunching numbers.

"Derrick and I both want to go out and get it done," Jacobs said. "I know that Derrick can go out and play, and he knows the same here. Believe it or not, I love watching Derrick run. He's been phenomenal for our team, and our offensive line has been blocking great. We just have to keep it up through this playoff run."

The duo is often a trio when Bradshaw is thrown into the mix, as he often was this season. Ward coined the appropriate nickname Earth, Wind and Fire.

The 6-4, 264-pound Jacobs is, for obvious reasons, Earth. The lightning-fast Ward, 5-11, 228, would be Wind. And Bradshaw, who at 5-9 and 198 pounds can burn defenses with his elusiveness, is Fire.

But Jacobs, 26, and Ward, 28, will bear the majority of the workload. Jacobs, for one, is better prepared. His sore left knee, injured Oct. 5, has had two weeks to heal as he sat out Week 17 and rested during the bye.

He can hardly remember the last time he felt this healthy.

"It's been a while," Jacobs said. "It's been since Week 3 actually."

And Ward is just plain ecstatic. He never has participated in the playoffs, having missed the Giants' past three postseasons because of injury.

"This is my first year in the playoffs, so it's going to be exciting for me," Ward said. "I don't know about anybody else."

Jacobs and Ward make a good combo on the field and, it appears, off it.

"We treat each other like brothers," Jacobs said.

That brotherly bond enabled Jacobs and Ward to go down in history.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com.

New York Giants running backs support each other in bit of history 01/08/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 8, 2009 11:09pm]

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