The New York Giants once again rode their defense to a win as they secured their fifth straight win. Pro Football Focus gave Landon Collins, who has emerged as the MVP of a much improved Giants defense, the “Game Ball” in the victory over the Chicago Bears.
We pretty much know that Collins, who has played more snaps than any other Giants defender, played all of the defensive snaps. But what can we learn from the other snap counts?
The Giants’ offense was nothing to write home about on Sunday afternoon. Their opening drive of the first half and the first two drives of the second half were well called and executed, but that was tempered by too many possessions that fizzled out.
Manning Does Enough - The conditions at MetLife stadium Sunday afternoon were not ideal for airing it out. With the winds whipping and swirling, adding to the chill of winter in the air, it wasn’t the kind of day you want to be throwing the ball around the yard. However, Eli Manning did enough through the air for the Giants to win. Once again plagued by drops — and credit to the Bears for some aggressive coverage — Eli only completed 58 percent of his passes, but he made the plays he needed to when they needed to be made. Pro Football Focus wasn’t thrilled with Manning’s performance, grading him a 47.0, but noted that he was 10-for-15 for 131 yards and a touchdown when pressured.
They didn’t mention if they added his scrambling to his grade, but every once in a while Eli surprises us with shades of his father.
Trends Reversed For Two Rookies - The last few weeks have seen increasing roles on the offense for running back Paul Perkins and tight end Jerell Adams. Perkins had been getting roughly 40 percent of the offensive snaps over the previous two games, but that shrunk to 30 percent against the Bears. Rashad Jennings got the other 70 percent of the snaps, with the Giants needing his pass protection against the Bears rushers, and he had a sneaky-productive game, quietly getting 129 total yards (85 rushing, 44 receiving) and a touchdown to earn PFF’s second-highest grade for the offense with a 72.0.
The highlight play on the ground belongs to Perkins, though.
With Larry Donnell a healthy scratch, it might have been expected for Adams have a roughly equal split of the snaps with Will Tye. That, however, didn’t happen. Adams only got 17 snaps (25 percent) while Tye got 52 snaps (78 percent). Adams’ athleticism and blocking ability could be important to the Giants down the stretch, so his snap count bears watching. Perhaps the Giants didn’t want to risk a rookie tight end against the Bears’ athletic linebackers.
The Giants’ defense was the real story of the game. Not only was their dominant play in the second half a refreshing sight for Giants fans, but their transformation at the half was terrific to see.
Defensive Line Dominates - It’s hard to under-state exactly how dominant the Giants’ defensive line was Sunday afternoon. They started out slowly, losing the battle at the line of scrimmage for most of the first half. But on the Bears’ last drive of the half the defense rose up, apparently catalyzed by Jason Pierre-Paul’s batted pass. Pierre-Paul and bookend Olivier Vernon each had themselves a game, with JPP grading 84.5 in 59 snaps (92 percent) and Vernon grading 84.2 in 62 snaps (97 percent). In addition to their devastating pass rush, the duo were also excellent in the run game. They were joined by Damon Harrison, who swallowed blockers to dominating in the run game, grading an 80.0 in 44 snaps (69 percent), and John Hankins (44 snaps) who contributed to both the pass rush with a half sack and pressure up the middle as well as in the run game.
Even reserve defensive linemen Romeo Okwara (15 snaps), Owamagbe Odighizuwa (12 snaps), and Jay Bromley (13 snaps) got into the act, showing up as Steve Spagnuolo dialed up the pressure to close out the game. It seems likely that their snap shares would increase if the Giants’ offense could force more defenses into throwing to play catch-up.
Busy Game For Kennard - While Jay Cutler was surgical to start the game, it was obvious that the Bears offense was going to depend on their running game. To counter that the Giants gave Devon Kennard a greater share of the defensive snaps than he has grown used to seeing. Lining up as a defensive lineman and as a linebacker, Kennard saw 41 snaps (64 percent), a jump from previous weeks. He had four total tackles, but always seemed to be around the ball and helped apply pressure to Cutler in the second half.
Eli Apple Is The Starter - The Giants first-round pick got his first start in week 10 against the Cincinnati Bengals when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was largely sidelined by a stiff back. He responded with a terrific game. He got his second start this week and played nearly ever snap (62), missing just two. DRC still had 34 snaps (53 percent) as the Giants “nickel” back. We’ll see if his snap count goes back up another week removed from his back issue and a full week between games.
Janoris Jenkins, of course, played all of the Giants’ defensive snaps and was once again good in coverage. Trevin Wade played just 15 snaps but still garnered PFF’s fifth highest grade on the defense with a 78.4.
Landon Collins Is Improving By Leaps And Bounds - Playing every single snap (64), Collins wasn’t just the Giants’ most highly graded player, but according to PFF, the second most highly graded player in the entire NFL on Sunday. His game-sealing interception was the highlight, but he was also great in coverage, being targeted 5 times, giving up just one catch for 23 yards with a pair of pass defensed in addition to his usual terrific play coming down hill. PFF notes that Cutler’s quarterback rating was in the “single digits” when targeting Collins.
Andrew Adams and Nat Berhe split snaps behind and beside Collins. The Giants were clearly concerned with defending the run, and Berhe saw 24 snaps at safety (38 percent), his largest total since his concussion in Week 3. Adams still had the bulk of the snaps opposite Collins with 37 snaps (58 percent).