The New York Giants won their second game of the year late Monday night. It was far from a dominating win, but the offense finally punched through and capitalized on the defense doing just enough to keep the Giants in the game and give them an opportunity to win.
It was also our first chance to see the Giants after their Week 9 bye, and see what the team might look like in the second half of the year. So then, what do the numbers from the game tell us about the Giants as they move toward the end of the season and the next phase of their rebuilding effort.
Eli Manning played fine. The raw numbers for Manning were uninspiring, completing 19-of- 31 passes for 188 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Nobody should say that “Eli is back!” or that he held the team back in their win. All told, he did what the Giants’ needed him to do when they needed him to do it. Most importantly, Manning went 6-of-9 for 69 yards and a touchdown on the Giants’ final drive to secure the win. It was Manning’s 36th fourth-quarter game-winning drive, and regardless of what happens from here on out, it was nice to see.
Interestingly, it was Manning’s play in the passing game which reveals just how wildly different the offensive game plan was in the first and second halves.
At it’s core, Pat Shurmur’s offense is a safe “ball control” offense. He wants to make things as easy as possible on the quarterback and avoid putting the football at risk if at all possible. That means that the Giants’ offense is always going to feature short passes of five yards or less. In the first half, Manning averaged roughly 2.9 yards per attempt on his passes, but finished with an average intended air yards of 8.5 per NextGenStats. While we don’t have the breakdown for average intended air yards for the halves, for his average to get up to 8.5 for the game, it must have been much higher in the second half. Had they opened the game with that mentality, Manning might have been at the top of the league.
The Giants may want to run a ball control offense, but the evidence of our eyes suggests they should bow to reality and flip the script on their preferred low-to-high reads.
All told, Manning spread the ball around well and thanks to the more aggressive second half, attacked all levels of the field.
The headline heading in to the night was newly acquired Jamon Brown getting the start at right guard.
And at first blush, the newest incarnation of the offensive line played well. Manning was hit four times and sacked once in 31 drop backs. He was clearly more comfortable with his protection than he had been in previous weeks. Particularly, the play of Brown and Will Hernandez helped establish a firm pocket in which Manning could work. He still got the ball out in 2.6 seconds, but he had a (roughly) average sized pocket. Part of that was because San Francisco doesn’t have a great pass rush. They only rank 17th in pressure rate, and their best rusher — DeForest Buckner — plays on the interior, where the Giants’ best linemen are.
Skill Position Players
The Giants gave Saquon Barkley (54 snaps, 92 percent) 20 carries, the most of his career thus far. Most of them came in the first half when the time of possession was more equal and the Giants were either playing with a lead or only trailing by three points. But volume didn’t help Barkley produce on the ground — his longest run was 18 yards, and most of his carries were not successful.
As we have seen time and again, the Giants’ offensive line simply can not run block, and whenever Barkley had a successful run it was due to him stringing together jump cuts or bulling through arm tackles.
However, the Giants finally got Barkley involved in the passing game past the line of scrimmage, and it paid off.
Barkley only caught four passes on five targets, but the fact that they made an effort to get him involved past the line of scrimmage is a significant step forward for the offense.
That angle route, in particular, is something which should be a featured part of the Giants’ offense. It likely forces a match-up of Barkley on a linebacker, which is an easy read for the quarterback and likely as not puts Barkley in position to make a play in space. In this case, it resulted in a big 23 yard catch and run to help set up the Giants’ game-winning touchdown.
The wheel route — the only incompletion Barkley’s way — is another route which should be part of the Giants’ regular passing offense. It appeared as though there was a miscommunication which lead to the incompletion, but that is a very difficult route for any defense to defend, particularly when a back like Barkley is running it.
The Giants also got Odell Beckham Jr. (56 snaps, 95 percent) involved down the field.
The superstar wide receiver only caught four passes of his own, but two of them were for touchdowns, and he could have added another two long touchdowns to the tally — save for an underthrow by Manning and a slip by Beckham. However, it was still refreshing to see as many of his routes run down the field as there were.
All told, Eli Manning spread the ball around widely, with nine different Giants being targeted at least once:
- Wayne Gallman (1 target, 5 snaps)
- Bennie Fowler (1 target, 26 snaps)
- Rhett Ellison (1 target, 1 reception, 6 yards, 33 snaps)
- Corey Coleman (1 target, 1 reception, 11 yards, 8 snaps)
- Elijhaa Penny, (2 targets, 2 receptoon, 12 yards, 7 snaps)
- Sterling Shepard (3 targets, 2 receptions, 9 yards, 1 TD, 56 snaps)
- Evan Engram (5 targets, 4 receptions, 46 yards, 36 snaps)
- Saquon Barkley (5 targets, 4 receptions, 33 yards, 54 snaps)
- Odell Beckham Jr. (11 targets, 4 receptions, 73 yards, 2 TDs, 56 snaps)
The Giants’ front seven was lead by linebacker Alec Ogletree who once again played every one of the Giants’ defensive snaps (73 snaps). EDGE Olivier Vernon was next with 64 snaps (88 percent), while defensive tackles Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill played 45 and 42 snaps, respectively.
After a strong showing playing most of the Giants’ defensive snaps against Washington, EDGE Lorenzo Carter only played 33 snaps (45 percent) Monday night. Carter played roughly the same number of snaps as Kerry Wynn (36) and Josh Mauro (31), and only 13 more than Kareem Martin. However, considering Carter was probably the Giants’ best defensive player (racking up 7 total tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, and a quarterback hit), the Giants need to figure out a way to get him on the field more. He isn’t close to putting it all together and turning his flashes into consistent great play, but more snaps will only help that process.
The Giants also need to figure out how to get ILB B.J. Goodson more snaps. Goodson finished with 6 total tackles, a tackle for a loss, 2 interceptions and 2 passes defensed in just 34 snaps. Like Carter, Goodson is coming off a good game against Washington with an expanded role. It might mean rotating Ogletree (who was regularly exploited in coverage by the 49ers) off the field and replacing him with a third safety, but the Giants need to figure out some way to get their two young (and best) linebackers more time on the defense.
Unfortunately, the Giants didn’t record a single sack, and Carter’s QB hit (for which he was flagged) was the only one by the Giants. All told, none of the Giants got closer than league-average to Nick Mullens, who had a very comfortable pocket all night long.
In the secondary, CBs Janoris Jenkins and B.W. Webb, and safeties Landon Collins and Curtis Riley all played every defensive snap. Unfortunately, none of them played particularly well. Collins in particular was consistently singled out in man coverage on George Kittle, and the match-up was a go-to for the 49ers.
Collins’ role changed some in the second half and he did play better, but Collins’ role is something the Giants need to examine going forward. He can be an impact player, but he needs to either be in zone coverage or playing downhill, not going backwards in man coverage.
The Giants did use big nickel, three safety looks on the majority of snaps, playing Michael Thomas as the third safety on 39 snaps (53 percent). That could be a potential remedy for both the linebacker and Collins questions, using Thomas as a strong safety in place of Alec Ogletree while Goodson stays on the field and Collins plays more of the “moneybacker” role.
UDFA rookie Grant Haley played 31 snaps as the nickel corner and turned in another promising performance, with two tackles, a tackle for a loss and a pass defensed. Fellow UDFA rookie safgety Sean Chandler, only played 8 snaps. That was somewhat disappointing, as it was hoped that he could see some snaps replacing Curtis Riley and perhaps show some sign that he could upgrade the vital free safety position.