For nearly two weeks we have wondered how, and if, the New York Giants would rebound from their Thursday night loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
After what seemed like an eternity between games, we got our answer in yet another loss, this time against the Atlanta Falcons. Just watching the game revealed some good and entirely too much bad with the Giants. Let's take a closer look at the stats from the game and see what they have to tell us.
Monday night’s loss to the Falcons was a mixed bag for Eli Manning. The Giants’ quarterback had one of his best games from a raw statistical point of view. He threw for 399 yards and a touchdown, completing 71 percent of his passes and a season-high 10.5 yards per attempt.
Manning attacked every level of the Falcons’ defense, finally taking advantage of a poor secondary to employ their playmakers.
However, Eli also missed some passes he probably should have connected on, and also made some poor decisions which cost the offense opportunities for points. All in all, Manning had his issues, but he also did about as much as he could to compensate for a nonexistent running game and bad pass protection.
The third version of the Giants’ offensive line — Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, Spencer Pulley, John Greco, and Chad Wheeler — was hardly an improvement on the previous two combinations.
Once again, Manning was under duress all game long, adding four more sacks to his season total. He is on pace to be sacked 55 times this season, shattering his career-high of 39, set in 2013.
As has become a theme this season, each of the Falcons best pass rushers got well within league-average of Eli on their pass rushes, per Next Gen Stats
Meanwhile, the blocking for Saquon Barkley in the run game was nearly nonexistent.
Speaking of Barkley, who was on the field for 59 of the Giants’ 64 snaps, the looks he received in the passing game weren’t any better than those he got in the run game. He was targeted the second most times with 10, but all of them were in the backfield on either swing passes or as check-downs.
The Giants relied on Barkley for easy completions, but never actually set him up to do much of anything with them. Unfortunately, his streak of games with 100 or more scrimmage yards was broken, as he compiled 94 total yards. Given his extreme explosiveness in the open field, it simply doesn’t make sense that the team doesn’t let him run routes down the field, either from the backfield or from the slot or wide receiver positions.
But while the Giants’ usage of Barkley is mystifying at best, they finally seemed to figure out how to use Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard. Beckham played 61 snaps (95 percent), while Shepard played 59 (92 percent). The two combined for 210 yards on 13 receptions ( 8 for 143 yards and a touchdown for Beckham, 5 for 167 yards for Shepard), an impressive enough box score. But more importantly was how they were used.
Finally, the Giants used Beckham and Shepard as the complimentary weapons they are and moved them around the offensive front and targeted them down the field.
The Giants’ front seven had one of their best performances of the season against a porous Atlanta offensive line. The team had three sacks in the first quarter, and notched another 5 quarterback hits and 6 tackles for a loss over the course of the game.
For the first time since their Week 3 win at Houston, the Giants consistently got closer than league-average to the quarterback.
Olivier Vernon, who played an incredible 64 of 65 snaps — only Alec Ogletree played more — was the spark for the Giants’ defense early in the game. He routinely beat his man and set up his teammates for their own success. However, it was plain to see by the end of the game that he was gassed. He is a very well-conditioned athlete and has a non-stop motor, but playing every defensive snap but one is a lot to ask of a player in his second game back from a leg injury. Fellow starting EDGE player Kareem Martin played 34 snaps (54 percent), making three tackles and a tackle for a loss.
Lorenzo Carter (24 snaps) and Kerry Wynn (22 snaps) rotated with Martin. Carter picked up a tackle, a tackle for a loss, a sack and a quarterback hit, while Wynn notched a tackle, a tackle for a loss, a sack, a quarterback hit, and a pass defensed.
For the first time this season, B.J. Hill lead the defensive tackles in snaps, with 37 (57 percent). He didn’t record a sack, but the rookie tackle once again flashed his power, leverage, and technique with four tackles and a tackle for a loss.
Dalvin Tomlinson was close behind, logging 32 defensive snaps (49 percent), and notching four tackles of his own. Damon Harrison brought up the rear for the starters, with 30 snaps (46 percent). Mario Edwards Jr. came up with a quarterback hit and a sack — wiped out by penalty — in his 23 defensive snaps.
Safeties Landon Collins and Curtis Riley each played all of the Giants’ 65 defensive snaps, while Janoris Jenkins played 61, and the recently-traded Eli Apple played 58 snaps.
B.W. Webb — who will now be the Giants’ starting corner in place of Apple — played 39 snaps, getting two tackles, as well as two tackles for a loss, a sack, and a quarterback hit.
The play of the Giants’ secondary against the Falcons’ passing game is difficult to quantify. On one hand, they held Julio Jones to his lowest per-catch average of the season, but he still caught 9 passes for 104 yards. The problem for the Giants was that they simply did not have the defensive depth to match up with the Falcons’ passing game.
James Bettcher found early success by having defensive backs blitz rather than try their hands in coverage, but Atlanta eventually countered by replacing the blitz with the ball. The defense did its job, holding the high-powered Falcons’ offense to just 23 points and giving the Giants’ offense a chance (which it squandered) to build an early lead. But once Atlanta adjusted, they did a fantastic job of finding the holes created by the Giants’ blitz packages and spreading the ball around. Ten different receivers caught passes from Matt Ryan, nine of whom caught at least two passes.
All in all, the Giants’ defense had its work cut out for it against Atlanta’s potent offense. And while they were far from perfect, they did about as well as could be expected without the offense providing anything like a lead.