Did you know the New York Giants have allowed a touchdown to a tight end in every game this season? If you go back to Week 17 of 2016, they’ve allowed a tight end touchdown in 10 straight regular season games? Of course you do. It’s like knowing Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard, or Julian Edelman played quarterback in college, or Chris Hogan played lacrosse.
You probably also know Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs -- currently first in Football Outsiders’ DYAR and third in DVOA -- is the next tight end on the Giants’ schedule. Kelce already has five receiving touchdowns on the season. After that, the Giants face the Washington Redskins and Jordan Reed, the man who started the streak, on Thanksgiving night. Then the Giants see Jared Cook of the Oakland Raiders then two divisional tight ends who have already scored on the team this season — Jason Witten and Zach Ertz. This streak might not end soon.
So in preparation for one of the league’s best tight ends on Sunday and the assembly line of above average ones to come, let’s run through the previous 10 games worth of touchdowns to tight ends and rank them from the most sad and indefensible to the most reasonable. This exercise will be easier said than done because most of these plays lean toward the former than the the latter.
Note: while there have been 10 games with a touchdown to a tight end, there have been 11 touchdowns total.
11. Week 10 - Garrett Celek, San Francisco 49ers
The most recent is also the most sad. The Giants had the 49ers with a third-and-8 slightly over midfield with just over half a minute to go in the first half. They also had a 13-10 lead. But Celek ran a deep crossing route to get separation on Jonathan Casillas. Darian Thompson gets walloped my Marquise Goodwin and Janoris Jenkins made one of his many strong tackling efforts on the day. Celek went 47 yards for the score.
10. Week 4 - O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is sad because of how wide open it is, but the optics are worse than reality. When this play first happened we broke it down with the note of how successful the tight end throwback is as an offensive play. Still, letting a tight end run down half the field wide open isn’t great.
9. Week 9 - Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams
Higbee’s 8-yard score was the first in what would be many for the Los Angeles Rams in Week 9. The Giants had the Rams facing a third down and could have forced a field goal with a stop. The actual touchdown is great offense from Los Angeles. As Jared Goff looked to buy time in the pocket, Higbee adjusted his route to get open in the middle of the end zone.
The bigger issue was how the Giants defense was deployed.
In the image above, the circled player is Damon Harrison. Why is that Damon Harrison?
8. Week 5 - Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers
Henry’s touchdown gave the Chargers a brief 17-16 lead before the Giant came back on an Odell Beckham touchdown. Beckham would later get hurt, the Chargers came back for a 27-22 win, and the Giants season officially went off the rails.
On the touchdown, Henry was inline to the right and inside Antonio Gates on the end of the line. Henry ran a deep corner route through the Giants’ zone coverage. B.J. Goodson rushes in on a delayed blitz. Keenan Robinson is too far to the left and behind Henry to matter. Landon Collins stays over the top, but Darian Thompson was caught cheating on the two outside receivers, so Henry had a free path to the end zone.
7. Week 4 - Cameron Brate, Buccaneers
Teammate O.J. Howard scored earlier in the game, but Cameron Brate got a late touchdown to briefly put the Buccaneers ahead 22-17. Brate ran up the seam from the end of the line to the right. Jonathan Casillas looked completely lost in coverage. Initially, he almost ran into Brate. Then as he went to change direction, he slipped on the wet field from the near monsoon that started the game, and allowed Brate a wide open reception for the touchdown.
6. Week 2 - Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions
Fair or not, Eric Ebron will be known as the tight end the Lions drafted over Odell Beckham. To this point, Ebron has been a disappointing play who has yet to live up to his physical potential. That didn’t matter against the Giants. His second quarter touchdown have the Lions a 14-7 lead and Detroit would hold on 24-10 for the Giants’ second loss of the season.
Ebron ran a drag route for the left slot and despite a chip from Calvin Munson, he gained plenty of leverage on Darian Thompson for a wide open touchdown.
5. Week 17, 2016 - Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
4. Week 7 - Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks
3. Week 2 - Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
These three plays are going to be lumped together because they share a common theme -- leaving Eli Apple one-on-one against a tight end outside. Reed ran a slant off the line and just had to body out Apple, which wasn’t much of an issue.
Seattle tested the Graham-Apple matchup in the end zone early in the game, but either a Graham drop or an Apple deflection -- depending on your point of view -- prevented a touchdown. They went back to it later in the fourth quarter and Graham had little issue outworking the smaller corner.
Apple had an outside zone against the Cowboys and Witten was inline to the left. Dallas used a run-pass option (RPO) to set up the perfect play. The right side of Dallas’s offensive line and the center blocked for a run as Dak Prescott had the ability to hand the ball to Ezekiel Elliott. The left side of the line pass blocked and once Prescott saw Witten had plenty of leverage to the inside, he chose to pass to Witten on the post.
2. Week 3 - Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
This play was the Philadelphia Eagles excelling at creating space. Zach Ertz motioned from the left to right before the snap. As he went into his route, Landon Collins chipped him before the safety went to cover the running back in the flat. Eli Apple. Responsible for the back corner of the end zone, is too far to make a play on Ertz and despite Darian Thompson having the play read from the beginning, his start at the far side hash was too much ground to cover. This gets graded on a bit of a curve because of how well the Eagles have been able to create open spaces in their passing game all season.
1. Week 6 - Jeff Heuerman, Denver Broncos
Outside of Celek this past week, Jeff Heuerman would be the most unexpected tight end to score against the Giants, but his was also the easiest to cope with and the best play. The Broncos were already down 20-3 at the time of the score and were 13 yards away from the end zone. Denver basically ran four verts and the Giants had it read. Heuerman ran a post from the left slot and Keenan Robinson kept not great, but close enough coverage underneath. Andrew Adams broke great on the route and was all over the tight end, but Heuerman came down with the ball on a perfectly placed pass from Trevor Siemian. And nothing has gone right for the Broncos since.