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The plays that changed the game in Giants’ 38-35 victory over Tampa Bay

Which plays had the biggest impact on Sunday’s victory?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New York Giants
Saquon Barkley crashes into the end zone for a fourth-quarter touchdown.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The New York Giants have been no stranger to strange games in 2018 and a 38-35 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers certainly qualifies. In a game full of interceptions and big plays, and a comeback with a quarterback who wasn’t the starter, it’s no surprise the most impactful plays mostly came in the second half.

These are some of the most important plays of the game by Win Probability Added (WPA) and Expected Points Added (EPA), per data provided by nflscrapR. Explainers here (WPA) and here (EPA).

Both WPA and EPA presented from the perspective of the offense.

5:02 remaining, second quarter - FitzMagic

EPA: 3.59 | WPA: 6.7 percent

The Giants got out to an early 14-0 lead, but late in the second quarter the Buccaneers drove into the red zone and faced a fourth-and-goal from the 1. Tampa Bay’s initial plan was to run a motion screen on the left side with Adam Humphries in motion behind Justin Watson and Mike Evans. It’s a play the Eagles used with Alshon Jeffery to score on the Giants during their Thursday night game in Week 6 and other teams have used around the league this season for a nearly automatic touchdown. But on this play, Janoris Jenkins charged the screen and Alec Ogletree jumped into the throwing lane inside Watson’s intended block. Ryan Fitzpatrick had nowhere to throw the ball and was able to scramble around his right and into the end zone.

:30 remaining, second quarter - Fitz to Thomas

EPA: minus-2.73 | WPA: minus-9.5 percent

Among quarterbacks with at least 100 passes on the season, no one has thrown deeper on average than Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston and no one throws into tight windows more often the Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston. That is the type of style that leads to the volatility of the Tampa Bay offense. The Buccaneers had a 2nd and 1 from the Giants’ 30-yard line and under no pressure, Fitzpatrick fired a strike to tight end O.J. Howard on a post route. Howard, though, was never open. Michael Thomas, who has been on the field more for three-safety looks, had Howard in coverage the whole way and was able to jump in front of the pass for an interception to keep the Buccaneers off the board to end the first half.

14:23 remaining, third quarter - A team pick-6

EPA: minus-5.73 | WPA: minus-8.4 percent

Sometimes the ball just bounces your way. That was definitely the case early in the third quarter. On a 2nd and 11 deep in his own territory, Fitzpatrick tried to sling a sidearm pass past pressure from a blitzing Landon Collins to DeSean Jackson. But the pass sailed wide and Janoris Jenkins was able to get his hands on the ball and tip in onto his chest and he laid on the ground. Before he got control of the interception, Alec Ogletree came over, scooped the ball up, and ran into the end zone for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.

11:26 remaining, third quarter - A nicely set screen

EPA: 3.7 | WPA: 6.7 percent

On Tampa Bay’s next drive, the Buccaneers faced a 1st and 30 from their own 21. Tampa Bay ran play-action to the right, which got the linebackers to move, then threw a screen back to the left. The play was well blocked, Giants defenders were out of place, and Adam Humphries gained 39 yards on the play to flip the field down to the Giants’ 40.

9:58 remaining, third quarter - Fitzpatrick to Riley

EPA: minus-6.3 | WPA: minus-10.1 percent

But after an encroachment penalty and a 3-yard run from Peyton Barber, Fitzpatrick wanted to take a shot on 2nd and 2. He dropped back and heaved a ball to DeSean Jackson in the end zone, but at no point was Jackson open in the end zone. Curtis Riley picked up Jackson as he went to the middle of the field on a post from the right side and with no other deep routes, Landon Collins was also able to get over and be in the area. Riley was able to box out Jackson for the interception and he returned the ball 46 yards. There was pressure on the play from Josh Mauro, who might have gotten a hand of Fitzpatrick’s arm to alter the throw, but even without that, the decision to throw there was a questionable one.

:56 remaining, third quarter - Beckham finds a hole

EPA: 2.34 | WPA: 4.7 percent

Odell Beckham only had four targets in this game, but all four were meaningful receptions. On this 3rd and 6 from the Giants’ 33, the Giants came out in a heavy personnel grouping with a tight end, fullback, and just two wide receivers. The receivers were also in tight splits with Sterling Shepard to the left inside the numbers and Beckham on the right halfway between the numbers and hashes. This formation screams run, so the Giants ran play-action against a seven-man box as Shepard and Beckham ran deep crossing routes. With the linebackers moved up from the play-action and the secondary playing deep in a zone, Beckham had a wide open area for a 27-yard reception.

13:10 remaining, fourth quarter - Get these hands

EPA: 3.24 | WPA: 4.1 percent

Five plays later, the Giants had a 3rd and 5 at the Tampa Bay 8-yard line, Tampa Bay put eight men in the box, which left one-on-one coverage against the Giants’ three receivers. Beckham and Shepard were stacked to the right and ran a levels concept — the same route at different depths. Because the Buccaneers didn’t have any extra help in the secondary, safety Isaiah Jonson (39) had to play for a potential inside break from Beckham. But that also left no time for recovery once Beckham broke for the corner of the end zone. The pass from Eli Manning was a little behind where it ideally would have been placed, but Beckham’s superhuman hands were able to hold on to the ball. Though Beckham ended the day with just four catches, he totaled 6.84 Expected Points Added — an average of 1.7 EPA per target.

4:30 remaining, fourth quarter - Engram unleashed again

EPA: 3.26 | WPA: 15.2 percent

Late in last week’s win against the San Francisco 49ers, the Giants needed a big offensive drive to score and win. That drive was aided by a big play to Evan Engram, who was mostly silent up to that point. On Sunday, the Giants needed a big offensive drive to keep the ball away from a surging back Buccaneers team late in the fourth quarter. The drive was aided by a big play to Evan Engram, who was mostly silent up to that point. Engram was inline on a 2nd and 8 from the Giants’ own 35. He ran a quick post up the seam and got inside the coverage of linebacker Devante Bond (59), caught the ball 15 yards past the line of scrimmage and ran another 39 for a gain of 54 yards. Per Next Gen Stats, Engram was only expected to gain 12 yards after the catch on this play given the position of the defenders and the 29 YAC above expectation was the third highest for any play in Week 11. It was also the Giants’ biggest offensive play by EPA and WPA.

3:55 remaining, fourth quarter - Barkley gets in

EPA: 3.02 | WPA: 5.4 percent

The Giants relied on the legs of Saquon Barkley often in this game. He had 27 carries for 142 yards, picked up 5.53 EPA on the ground, and had a success rate of 44.4 percent. But the only play that tipped the scales by EPA and WPA was his 3-yard touchdown run on a 3rd and 1 in the fourth quarter. With the Giants only up by three points, they needed a score to put the game out of reach for Tampa Bay. left guard Will Hernandez and left tackle Nate Solder opened a wide hole for Barkley up the middle and the score gave the Giants a 10-point lead with just under four minutes remaining in the game.

2:30 remaining, fourth quarter - Evans wide open

EPA: 4.78 | WPA: 25.4 percent

Tampa Bay answered back quickly, though. Now with Jameis Winston at quarterback, who had started to engineer a Buccaneers comeback in the second half, Tampa drive to the Giants’ 41 with two and a half minutes remaining. A busted coverage between Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins left Mike Evans wide open down the left sideline for a 41-yard touchdown. It was the biggest play of the game by EPA and WPA — immediately giving the Buccaneers a chance again.

The Giants were unable to get a first down on their next drive but drained a significant amount of clock with the Buccaneers out of timeouts. Tampa Bay opened the drive with a 14.2 percent chance to win, but the first pass was forced to DeSean Jackson, overthrown, and intercepted by B.W. Webb to end the game.