The New York Giants were beat up coming into their game against the San Francisco 49ers, missing key defenders Robert Ayers and Devon Kennard.They got more beat up as the game went on, losing Jon Beason (concussion), Odell Beckham (hamstring), and Rueben Randle (hamstring) along the way.
The combination of injuries and the flow of the game lead to some interesting snap counts and grades from Pro Football Focus.
The Aww Shucks Assassin Is Back
Once upon a time when the Giants got the ball final possession of the game and they needed a touchdown to win, there was the general feeling of "We've got them right where we want them".
That was because Eli Manning has a positively Jeterian ability to raise his game, and that of the players around him, when the rubber meets the road. Despite having thrown the ball a career-high 54 times (and running 11 yards for a first down), Eli Manning did it again Sunday night. According to Pro Football Focus, Eli had an astounding 137.5 passer rating, and completed 16-of-20 passes (80 percent) when he was under pressure. That is up from a rating of 92.9 and completing 73 percent of his passes when not under pressure.
Overall, PFF panned Eli's performance with a -2.1 grade, but he tore up the middle of the field. He had a 151.0 passer rating when targeting Shane Vereen (thanks, New England!) and a +2.2 grade -- and the game-winning TD -- when throwing intermediate passes between the numbers.
Strong Up The Middle
Aaron Lynch was a headache all night long for the Giants offensive tackles. Rookie Ereck Flowers (-4.2) and journeyman Marshall Newhouse (-4.9) had rough nights. However, the interior of the offensive line showed why they insisted on keeping Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, and Geoff Schwartz together unless absolutely necessary. Richburg has been stellar since taking over his natural position at center, and led the entire offense with a +2.7 grade, grading positively in pass blocking, run blocking, and in the screen game. Pugh and Schwartz were close behind with 1.4 and +1.8 grades respectively.
Last year Eli was the worst QB in the league when under pressure, but not all pressure is equal. In 2011 he was the best and in this game he was phenomenal once again. The difference? The interior of the offensive line created a stout pocket for Eli to step up into and avoid the outside rush.
The Giants Know Defensive Tackles
When the Giants selected Jay Bromley in the third round, the fan reaction was almost universally "rage". Few people knew his name, and when it came out that he didn't even expect to be drafted before the third day, that rage only intensified. He was famously on his way to rent a movie (it was "Gravity", by the way) when the Giants called.
But as it turns out, the Giants scouting department might know a thing or two about drafting defensive tackles.
Bromley's snap count has steadily risen throughout the season. He hit his season-high against San Francisco with 34 snaps, or 50 percent of the defensive snaps. Steve Spagnuolo had mentioned before the game that Bromley had been working extremely hard all offseason, and his has showed. When he has been on the field he has consistently been stout at the point of attack and frequently disruptive behind the line of scrimmage. In his first start, Bromley's +3.1 made him the highest-rated Giant on Sunday night.
He has been stringing together strong performances on limited snaps. It's time for him to get a bigger role in the defense.
On the season the Giants have three defensive tackles rated in the top 20 by Pro Football Focus.
Nikita Whitlock is 14th with a +4.8, Jay Bromley is 16th with a +4.5, and John Hankins is 19th with a +4.1.
As of now, Damontre Moore is a niche player. The Giants see him as a pass rush specialist, and will continue to do so until his discipline in the run game improves -- if it ever does. And they have been waiting for him to show the pass rush prowess they know he has. Sunday night, Damonster woke up. Much like the rest of the teams the Giants have faced this year, the 9ers are a running team. Because of that the 23-year-old defensive end was only on the field for 17 snaps. But he made the most of his very limited opportunity, racking up two sacks and a hurry on just 14 pass rush snaps. Moore led all 4-3 defensive ends over the weekend with a +19.6 pass rush productivity score.
Almost as impressive was Nikita Whitlock, who only got four defensive snaps, but was disruptive on each one of them, and once again drew a holding penalty that was almost as good as a sack.
On the other hand, rookie Owa Odighizuwa floundered as a pass rusher, only notching a single QB hurry in 23 pass rush snaps (37 total snaps). His -2.4 was the worst of any Giants defender, but as a rookie coming off an injury and converting from a 3-4 to 4-3 defense. The Giants, and their fans, will need some patience while he learns to turn his considerable upside into production. But as Bromley has shown, patience with a hard-working and athletically gifted young player is really more of an investment that can be richly rewarding.
Kerry Wynn Continues To Impress
Who would have guessed a year ago that the undrafted rookie from Richmond would become a key piece of the Giants' defense? Wynn isn't especially quick or fast, but he is strong and his motor runs white-hot. With the injuries riddling the Giants' defense, Wynn played more than any other Giants' defender on the field for 66 of 68 possible defensive snaps.
His dominance in the run game has largely been countered by his limitations as a pass rusher, however he was actually his strength against the 9ers. Of his +0.5 total grade, +0.4 was from his pass rush. He notched four total tackles, a quarterback hit, and four hurries.