Tiki's silence says it all

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

PHOENIX -- Tiki Barber has been noticeable by both his absence and his silence in his former team's somewhat unscheduled run to this Super Bowl.

The success certainly was unforeseen in the eyes of the Giants' former running back, who spent his first month as a broadcaster shouting out how great he was and how his former teammates, most notably quarterback Eli Manning, were not.

Turns out there was a little more to the running game than the guy who was as well known for fumbling and running his mouth as running with the ball.

How ironic then that the biggest reason the New York Giants are NFC champions is arguably due to the production of Barber's unheralded replacements.

How it must bruise his ego that one of them, burly Brandon Jacobs, was previously known as a short-yardage specialist and the other, rookie Ahmad Bradshaw, was a seventh-round pick this past spring.

A prevalent theory has it that if the Giants are to have a shred of a chance as 12-point underdogs to the Patriots on Sunday, they will need to dominate on the ground.

For one thing, it plays into the meaty hands of the Giants' powerful offensive line. For another, if successful it would keep Tom Brady and the Patriots offence glued to the bench thereby neutering the biggest weapons in the game.

"It would take a lot for a defence just to shut us down," Jacobs said when asked if the one-two punch he and Bradshaw offer can be stopped. "New England has the talent to do it, but I think it is going to be hard playing against two different backs with two different styles."

They call them thunder and lightning for the bruising mix of Jacobs (6-foot-4, 264 pounds) and Bradshaw (5-foot-9, 198) and both have an intriguing past.

Jacobs' story includes part of a college career at Auburn where he was behind future NFLers Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams on the depth chart. When coaches tried to convert him into a linebacker, he went to Southern Illinois and had enough success to get noticed by scouts.

Though he had to watch Brown and Williams get selected in the top five of the '05 draft while he went in the fourth round as the 10th back selected, Jacobs never lost focus.

"You don't have to be a first-round pick to get the job done," Jacobs said. "What I tell Ahmad all the time is that it's not where you start, it's where you finish."

In the pros though, Jacobs mostly was known as the guy who would come in to pound the ball on short yardage. Which is why he didn't shed any tears after Barber retired and the Giants opted not to chase a big-name free agent.

"Tiki was a great guy, but when he left, it was a great opportunity for me to show people what I could do," Jacobs said. "That I wasn't just a short-yardage guy and I can play the position the way it's supposed to be played."

Bradshaw, meanwhile, was a player most hadn't heard of until Christmas weekend. When he broke free for an 88-yard touchdown run against the Bills on Dec. 23, suddenly the Giants coaches saw a new weapon and increased his workload in the post-season.

"I think the coaches saw that run at such an important time that it gave them trust in me," Bradshaw said. "They felt they could put me in important situations."

Because of some brushes with the authority while at Marshall, Bradshaw was even less in demand than Jacobs on his draft day, falling almost off the board before being the 20th running back picked.

On Sunday, the entire football world will be watching them both. The game plan calls for Jacobs to wear down the defence enough to allow Bradshaw to utilize his speed and quickness to break free.

In the NFC championship win over the Green Bay Packers, the Giants had the ball for more than 40 minutes to 22 for Green Bay, a ball control style and plan that worked to near perfection.

If they do the same on Sunday, we might even have a football game.


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