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Giants 32, Buccaneers 18: What do snap counts and PFF grades have to tell us?

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Who played, how much, and how well in the Giants' crucial week 9 win in Tampa?

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The New York Giants win!

I just wanted to say that again ... Because, well, I just love saying it. They even got that double-digit win the Big Blue View staff unanimously predicted. But they definitely didn't do it the way any of us thought they would. And I, for one, will no longer be surprised by how the Giants win, or lose, any game for the remainder of the year. If there's one thing this team has proven, it's that they are clearly able to invent new and exciting ways to do both.

But enough of that, let's get to seeing who played, who didn't, and maybe what Pro Football Focus thinks of them.

Offense

The Giants dominated the time of possession with a pair of turnovers and sustained drives featuring multiple converted third downs. They held the ball for 34:55 to the Bucs' 25:05, and took 75 offensive snaps to Tampa's 63.

Over the past few weeks the Giants have settled into a defined "Running Back By Committee" system that gives each RB his own series -- Although Shane Vereen is the dedicated third down and two-minute drill back. The snap counts bear that out. Rashad Jennings finished with 27 snaps, Vereen with 23, Andre Williams with 13 snaps and Orleans Darkwa with 9.

Of the three, current fan punching bag Andre Williams was the most effective runner, with 30 yards on seven carries (4.3 yards per carry). In a change from previous weeks, the Giants went to Williams between the 20s, almost exclusively, from the "I" formation, and ran between the tackles. Despite Williams having the the yards per carry, Pro Football Focus credits Darkwa and Jennings with more missed tackles, with three on six runs for Darkwa and two on 13 carries for Jennings.

Not coincidentally, the GIants' offensive line was excellent on Sunday. Justin Pugh (+2.9), Weston Richburg (+2.1) and Marshall Newhouse (+2.1!) were all among the Giants' top performers according to PFF. The line was a force in the run game, and kept Eli clean all game long, giving up just seven pressures on 40 pass attempts.

Defense

After a miserable and embarrassing performance against Drew Brees and the Saints, the Giants needed to bounce back in a big way. And they did that, getting contributions from some unlikely sources.

Who cringed when they realized that the move to place Jon Beason on the IR meant that Jasper Brinkley would be the Giants new starting middle linebacker? Yeah, that was pretty much everyone. Well he was a beast out there. Despite only playing 34 defensive snaps (54 percent), Brinkley came up with six tackles, three stops, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Pretty good for your third string MIKE in his second game.

While Brinkley played 34 snaps, the player who was on the field the most for the Giants? That would be none other than Jayron Hosley. He played 61 of 63 defensive snaps on Sunday, and despite landing on Ed's list of Wet Willie recipients for not picking off Jameis Winston, he played well. Hosley was only targeted twice, and defended both of those passes, allowing a passer rating of just 38.4 when Winston targeted him.

And finally, it came out Monday afternoon that Devon Kennard, who played 56 defensive snaps (84 percent), actually had the radio headset in his helmet. Before the season, Beason praised Kennard's intelligence and preparation.

"First off, I can't praise Kennard enough,'' Beason said. "He prepares better than any rookie I've ever seen, and that's including myself.

"The thing I've noticed the most this offseason is I think he's a step or two faster, he's quicker. And he's not afraid any more. He's making calls, he's a guy you can say, ‘What do we got on this again?' And he knows it. I can trust in him. He has the potential to be as good as he wants to be, as good as anybody who's played there.''

And what did the Giants get for their faith in the sophomore linebacker? A +2.9 grade, second on the entire defense.

Jason Pierre-Paul

Yeah, JPP's getting his own section. I thought about doing him first, but you never lead off with your greatest hit. Also, I feel the need to stump a bit on the subject.

First off, the info from Sunday for Pierre-Paul. He played 45 of 63 defensive snaps (71 percent), or approximately triple the number of snap most predicted he would play. But what's more, he played well. JPP finished with a measley +0.5 grade from PFF, but anyone who actually watched the game in context couldn't help but be impressed. Despite not playing since the end 2014, and suffering a horrific injury in the middle of the summer, JPP was one of the Giants' most active defenders. While he only had a pair of tackles, he was largely stout in the run game, generally setting the edge so other players could make their plays. But it was his work in the passing game that was special.

On 32 pass rushing snaps, in the first game of what is the new reality of his career, JPP is credited with six total pressures. To contrast the entire Bucs defense generated seven pressures on Eli on 40 drop backs. He showed his explosiveness off the edge and the new weapons he was forced to add to his arsenal were effective. In total, Winston was pressured on 19 of his 36 passing attempts or 52 percent. That is a far cry from the 20 percent the Giants managed against Drew Brees. Its a different team and a different offense, but the effect of JPP on the field was immediate and spectacular. Pierre-Paul was even credited by PFF as the third-highest pass rushing 4-3 defensive end in the NFL on Sunday.

Simply incredible.

Now: I have been one of JPP's most stalwart supporters around here. This is after publicly admitting that I was way wrong for demanding that JR be fired for drafting him in 2010. After a stellar 2011 campaign that probably should have ended in being named "Defensive Player of The Year", there were a lot of Giants fans on that bandwagon.

But after a 2012 season that saw his stats fall, and then a 2013 season fraught with injury that saw them fall further, not even a very good 2014 season could raise the opinions of many fans. It got to the point where many simply wanted the Giants to let him walk in free agency. The common refrain was that he "Only had one and a half good years!" But did he?

That narrative ignores how incredibly good JPP was on special teams as a rookie. Outside of DeOssie and Tynes, he was their only dependable player. And then in 2012, I'd like to share this quote from our own Ed, as he examined the Giants' pass rushing woes:

Player 2011 Sacks 2011 Pressure Percentage 2012 Sacks Pressure Percentage
Jason Pierre-Paul 16.5 10.18 6.5 11.95

Pierre-Paul's pressure percentage has actually gone up, despite his number of sacks going down. My apologies, JPP, for anything disparaging I may have said about your play recently. As you see from the other numbers, it's not Pierre-Paul's fault that he isn't getting much help.

That was the theme again in the first half of 2014, when the Giants never gave JPP much help, until injuries to the left side of their defensive line forced players like Jay Bromley, Damontre Moore, and Kerry Wynn onto the field. Then JPP's stats exploded. The pressure he had gotten in the first half of the season all of a sudden turned into sacks.

In one week we've seen the effect that JPP has on the Giants' defense. Last week they pressured Brees on just 10 of 50 attempts. Even without JPP's six total pressures, they still more than doubled the percentage of snaps that they pressured the quarterback.

Simply put: Jason Pierre-Paul is a difference maker. He always has been, even if the box score doesn't show it.