The New York Giants lost to the Carolina Panthers 33-31 on sunday, falling to a record of 1-4 on the 2018 season. However, while they are in the basement of the NFC East, they are still only one game behind the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.
This game also happened to be the best the Giants have played on offense — at least passing offense — in years. As has been covered already, this was the first time the Giants have scored more than 30 points since the last game of the 2015 season.
The Panthers dominated the time of possession battle, holding the ball 35 minutes, 27 seconds to the Giants’ 24:33. But despite the Giants’ defense’s inability to get off the field (due largely to mental mistakes and bad penalties), they still held Cam Newton to his worst passing performance of the season, as well as holding both he and Christian McCaffrey to one of their worst rushing games of the season.
Let’s take a look at the snap counts and advanced stats and see what we can learn about the Giants before turning the page to Thursday night’s game against Philadelphia.
The Giants saw a different quarterback on Sunday afternoon against the Panthers. For the last two years Eli Manning has been a check-down machine, chasing completions and loathe to put the ball in any kind of danger. Through the first four games of this season we have seen an uncharacteristically efficient Eli, who had been the second most accurate QB in the league and thrown only one interception. However, that efficiency came at the price of effectiveness, and Manning averaged just over 6 yards per completion in three of the four games with big plays few and far between.
Against Carolina we saw “Eli Classic”, a quarterback who ignored pressure in his face, awkwardly avoiding rushers and somehow extending plays as he waited for routes to develop downfield. It was a much less efficient Manning, completing just 61 percent of his passes and a pair of interceptions. However, it was a much more effective Eli Manning.
The majority of his passes were thrown down the field, with an average completed air yards of 9.8 (per next gen stats) up from just 3.8 in Week 4. It was a Manning who disregarded checkdowns, with only five of his 36 attempts going at our behind the line of scrimmage (not counting his touchdown pass to Saquon Barkley). Manning also had the third highest intended air yardage in the league Sunday, with 10.7 per Next Gen Stats.
Odell Beckham Jr. was obviously the Giants’ go-to receiver Sunday afternoon, hauling in 8 of 14 targets on 52 offensive snaps. He finished third in the league in receiving yards with 131, which accounted for roughly 43 percent of the Giants’ passing production.
Sterling Shepard caught four of seven targets while playing each of the Giants’ 56 snaps. He has been a reliable target for Manning this year, and has added more yards after the catch than some might have thought from him.
Primarily playing out of the slot this game, Shepard had 75 yards, but averaged more than 11 yards after the catch per reception, good for seventh in the league. The Giants did a very good job of scheming him open with opportunities for run after the catch, and per Next Gen Stats, he was second in the league with 10.9 expected yards after the catch per reception.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, wide receiver Russell Shepard got 32 of 56 offensive snaps, catching three of four targets for 52 yards (17.3 per catch), including a long of 40 yards. Undrafted rookie Jawill Davis got 10 snaps, catching two passes on four targets.
Rhett Ellison played every offensive snap but one (55 of 56), collecting two receptions on three targets for 17 yards, most of which came on a 12 yard reception on a 2nd and 2 on the Giants final drive.
Once again Saquon Barkley was the Giants’ workhorse running back, and one of their top receivers.
Barkley played 48 of 56 snaps, running the ball 15 times for 48 yards. Though he averaged 3.2 yards per carry — which is bad — it is a better mark of how bad the Giants’ run blocking was that he had runs of 20 and 30 yards, but finished with fewer than 50 total yards.
Barkley did most of his damage through the air, with four catches on four targets for 81 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Of course, one of those was the 56 yard catch and run on the pass from Odell Beckham.
Wayne Gallman played just 8 snaps, primarily on third downs. He didn’t get a carry or a target.
The Giants defense once again played more nickel sets than anything else, which mostly meant a four-man front. EDGE Kareem Martin lead the way with 47 snaps, while DE Kerry Wynn played 41 snaps.
Defensive tackles Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson were once again played the bulk of the snaps on the interior, with 38 plays apiece. The pair was active in the run game, notching a combined 7 tackles, four for Harrison, three for Tomlinson. Rookie B.J. Hill saw his share of the snap count grow for the second straight week, playing 32 of 71 snaps and coming up with five tackles of his own.
EDGE players Connor Barwin and Lorenzo Carter each played 32 snaps as well, with Barwin coming up with two tackles and the Giants’ lone sack. Carter had a pair of tackles as well.
All told, the Giants’ pass rush was virtually nonexistent per Next Gen Stats, with none of their rushers coming within league average of Cam Newton.
Inside linebacker Alec Ogletree once again played every defensive snap, collecting 6 total tackles on 71 snaps. Interestingly, Ray-Ray Armstrong played the second-most snaps among inside linebackers, with 33 snaps (4 tackles), while B.J. Goodson played just 22 snaps (4 tackles).
But despite playing a nickel defense most of the game, the Giants still managed to contain the Panthers’ run game, limiting them to 118 yards rushing, down from their season average of 166 yards per game.
CB Eli Apple played every one of the Giants’ 71 defensive snaps in his first game back from injury, as did Landon Collins. Apple had 5 tackles and a forced fumble on a Cam Newton run. Collins had 8 tackles as well as a pass defensed.
Janoris Jenkins played 69 snaps, coming up with 4 tackles, 2 passes defensed, and an interception.
Free safety Curtis Riley played 70 of 71 snaps, and was once again an adventure. His tackling was generally poor, though he came up with three tackles. However, he also had a pass defensed and the Giants’ other interception.
B.W. Webb played 54 of 71 snaps, which is a mark of just how many snaps the Giants spent in their nickel package. He had four tackles, as well as one of the Giants’ three quarterback hits on a slot blitz.
Finally, safety Michael Thomas played 19 defensive snaps (and 26 special teams snaps). He had a pass defensed, which was very nearly an interception, to start the Panthers’ final offensive drive.