The New York Giants stunned with their victory over the Denver Broncos in week six. Even when first looking at the Giants’ schedule in the offseason, when we still expected the offense to be dynamic — and have Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard — that game looked like a tough one that would come down to the wire.
Considering how the offense played through the first five weeks of the season, nobody expected the Giants to come out and control the game from beginning to end, never once trailing. But even more shocking was how the Giants won, pitting their longstanding weakness — the running game — against the strongest run defense in the league ... And breaking it for twice their usual allowed yards.
This week the Giants’ offense faces another difficult test when the Seattle Seahawks’ feared “Legion of Boom” comes to Giants Stadium. Can the Giants continue to build on their offensive momentum? Let’s take a look at what could (or should) happen when the Giants have the ball.
By the numbers
Rushing Yards - 89.5 yards per game (25th)
Passing Yards - 226.8 (19th)
Total Yards - 316.2 (23rd)
Points - 17.5 (29th)
Rushing Yards - 127.2 (26th)
Passing Yards - 202.8 (9th)
Total Yards - 330.0 (15th)
Points - 17.4 (6th)
Will the receivers get involved?
Eli Manning has always been — and will always be — a gunslinger at heart. He has always been one of the smartest and best prepared QBs to take the field on Sunday, but he has always been happiest to air the ball out and give his receivers the chance to make a play.
This past week, however, Manning only targeted a wide receiver six (6) times all game, with just two receptions. That was certainly influenced by Denver’s talented secondary, as well as the rapid shift in personnel over the past week. But while they will have another week of practice together, the level of difficulty will hardly decrease when they play Seattle this week.
Even so, Eli and the Giants can’t afford to make his receivers an afterthought in the offense. Just six targets for the position as a whole is unsustainable, and just a dangerous as forgetting about the run game was in previous games.
It won’t be easy, playing against a corner like Richard Sherman and a pass defense that has given up a paltry 202 yards per game. But the Giants need to have some semblance of a threat on the outside to make some room for Evan Engram and prevent Seattle from choking out the running game.
Commit to the run
Speaking of the running game, once again the Giants will need to lean on it.
Having most of their receiving weapons stripped away forced the Giants to turn back to the running game to move the ball, and it paid off against the best run defense in the league last Sunday. They used a variety of formations and plays that we haven’t seen since the heyday of the 2007 offensive line. The Giants kept Manning under center much more than in previous years and featured a blend of inside and outside zone runs, as well as more traditional power concepts to keep the Broncos off balance. But most importantly, they stuck to the run game, even when it wasn’t consistently producing results.
With new and untested receivers and facing a dangerous pass rush, they needed the running game to keep the offense functional. They were rewarded with an offense that looked more functional than it had in a year.
The Seahawks have a fearsome defense, but as Dan Pizzuta points out, they are surprisingly week against the run. They have given up an average of 127.2 yards per game, ranking them 26th in the league. Per Football Outsiders, Seattle ranks 16th in the league against “power” runs, 29th in the league when it comes to stuffing runs, and 30th in the league in terms of open-field yards allowed.
I just got done saying that the Giants can’t afford not to keep their passing game involved — both the receivers and their tight ends — but if they can continue to run the ball the way they have the last two weeks, the Giants could actually be a problem for the Seattle run defense.
Who will call plays?
The first big surprise of the Giants’ win in Denver was that Ben McAdoo had handed play calling duties to Mike Sullivan. He refused to say whether or not that would be the case for the rest of the season, but McAdoo did indicate that he felt that it was a positive change.
“I think what can happen sometimes is when you call plays, your mentality may be a little bit different,’’ McAdoo said. “Your personality may be a little bit different. So I felt my personality came out a little bit more last night than maybe it normally has. I was still involved with the offense, I had a chance to buzz around and be around all the players, let my energy come out a little bit more, maybe than I have in the past. That’s part of it.’’
It’s a change that the Giants should, and probably will, stick with. McAdoo orchestrated a top-10 offense as offensive coordinator under Tom Coughlin, but he still only had two years of experience calling plays before becoming a head coach and (essentially) keeping his offensive coordinator job. It seems now that he took on too much and it detracted from the qualities that earned him his current job.
Sullivan might not be an offensive mastermind on par with Sean Payton or Josh McDaniels, but he is proving himself capable of shouldering the load so McAdoo can do his primary job of being the team’s head coach.
Hopefully he has learned from the experience and remains open to delegating responsibilities and letting his assistants assist him.