A week ago we said the primary lesson the New York Giants could take from the participants in the AFC and NFC Championship games was that the Giants simply had to get better offensively if they are to become truly competitive with the league’s heavyweights.
That was reiterated Sunday. The Atlanta Falcons dropped 44 points on the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots scored 36 against the Pittsburgh Steelers as the two teams reached Super Bowl 51.
The further lesson if the Giants were paying attention — and every Giants fan has to hope they were — is how the Falcons and Patriots put up those gaudy offensive numbers.
It’s called multiplicity. Both teams can attack in a variety of ways. They have a multitude of weapons, formations and ways to beat defenses. They can do more than one thing — like use ‘11’ personnel over and over and over — and hope their personnel is better than your defense.
The Falcons possess the league’s highest-scoring offense. They have a quarterback in Matt Ryan who is playing as well or better than anyone in the league right now and might win MVP, as well as a superstar wide receiver in Julio Jones. Jones had nine receptions for 180 yards and two scores Sunday, while Ryan went 27-of-38 for 392 yards and four scores.
The Atlanta offense, though, is much more than two players. Here is BBV’s Dan Pizzuta summarizing the Falcons attack in a piece for numberFire:
Even as Jones had a monster day against the Packers, seven other Falcons also had a reception. There are so many weapons who can be utilized on this offense that the loss or limitation of one doesn’t derail the whole system. Because the offense can keep moving when even when one piece is taken away, as a part was on Sunday -- Atlanta’s third-ranked run game by Adjusted Rushing NEP per play contributed 71 yards on the ground from running backs against the Packers -- it’s almost impossible to stop when everything is clicking.
The Falcons' offense isn’t just good: it’s deep and creative. The mastery of everything involved has fueled this team to a Super Bowl berth. If the run continues to go at its current pace, there might not be anything that can stop it.
The Atlanta offense was anything but predictable, and it will likely land offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan the head coaching job with the San Francisco 49ers next season.
ESPN Giants beat writer Jordan Ranaan was spot on in his comparison of the Atlanta offense to the predictable one the Giants ran in 2016. So, here is part of what Ranaan wrote:
Watching the Falcons on Sunday afternoon there were a lot of different looks. Atlanta had two tight ends who each played over 60 percent of the snaps and were often on the field together. Sometimes a third tight end snuck onto the field. They even used a fullback at times, as if that is some novel concept. Atlanta also showcased two feature backs who are used extensively and creatively in the running and passing games. The Falcons are multiple, a term used to describe teams that use a wide variety of formations, packages and unique looks.
The Giants need to look long and hard at this approach. They followed a completely contrasting blue print this season. They used “11 personnel” with a running back, three wide receivers and a tight end on 87 percent of their first-and-10 plays this season. Whatever the opposite of multiple is in NFL lingo (vanilla, boring, predictable) that is what the Giants were this season. It needs to be thoroughly examined and likely changed. One of the biggest under-the-surface complaints from players this season was that the offense was too predictable.
The Patriots, too, deserve credit for constantly varying their approach. No Rob Gronkowski? No big deal. New England just went farther down the roster, figured out what guys could do, and used those skills. They ended up getting nine catches for 180 yards from former Penn State lacrosse player Chris Hogan, who once had a cup of coffee on the Giants practice squad.
On a side note, let’s not get all uppity about the Giants screwing up with Hogan. The Giants were one of three teams (the 49ers and Miami Dolphins being the others) who signed and dropped Hogan from their practice squads in 2011 and 2012. He caught just 10 passes for the Buffalo Bills in 2013 before having a breakout 41-catch 2014. Credit Hogan’s perseverance for his becoming a useful NFL player.
Now, back to discussing offense.
New England varies their personnel, varies their approach from series to series. The Patriots constantly show opposing defenses something different, even scoring vs. the Steelers on a flea flicker.
Something else you may have noticed about all four teams playing Sunday. They all employ fullbacks. Some are used more than others, but the presence of one on the roster — something the Giants did not have in 2016 — offers another option.
Options, that is really the lesson to be learned from the Falcons and Patriots. You have to have them on offense. You have to employ more than one method of attack, which you constantly try to utilize no matter how teams are defending you.
What New England and Atlanta both do on offense is dictate to the defense. They force opposing defenses to react to them. That’s a far cry from what the Giants did in 2016. How often did we hear the Giants say something like “well, the defense didn’t let us do what we wanted?”
So, go to Plan B. Or, better yet, enter games with multiple options for how to attack. The teams still playing have those. The 2016 Giants did not.