The New York Giants don’t do anything the easy way, and that included getting their fourth win of the season.
Since going 1-7 to start the season, the Giants are 3-1 since their bye week. Their gritty - albeit weird and ugly — overtime win against the Chicago Bears was impressive in its own way.
The Giants scored first, but soon found themselves having to come back against one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Game shouldn’t have been as close (or torturous) as it was. But the confidence gained from besting an 8-3 team as a 3-8 team could give the team a boost heading in to the final quarter of the season and beyond.
But beyond the fact that they could do enough to just outlast a team with a great defense and a bad offense, what was there to learn about the Giants?
Let’s go to the numbers from the game to find out.
It was a forgettable day for Eli Manning. His raw stat line was poor, competing 19-of-35 passes for 170 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Taking the stats a step further, Manning’s play was representative of what we’ve seen from the Giants’ passing game so far this season. His average completion traveled just 5.4 yards in the air, while his average intended pass was 6.8 yards downfield. On average Manning threw 2.1 yards behind the first down marker.
Manning was sacked three more times (and hit another six times), bringing his season total up to 41 sacks, a career high with four games yet to play.
However, when the Giants’ pass protection held up, it was surprisingly good. Khalil Mack had the fastest sack of the day for the Bears, getting to Manning in 3.1 seconds per Next Gen Stats. And for the first time all season, Manning’s pocket was nearly league-average.
Skill position players
The Giants had 72 offensive plays in regulation and overtime, and the skill position player who was on the field for most of them? Tight end Rhett Ellison with 68 offensive snaps. Ellison also made an impact on the stats sheet, with four receptions (on seven targets) for 42 yards. It wasn’t a big stat line, but the tight end had a couple crucial catches, including a 9-yard reception at the end of the first half to set up Aldrick Rosas’ career-best 57-yard field goal.
The next two players were Odell Beckham Jr. with 66 snaps and Sterling Shepard with 58 snaps. Beckham had the bigger impact on the game, but we have to take a moment to recognize Shepard’s pure toughness to leave the game with a rib injury, only to come back and play 81 percent of the snaps.
But Odell Beckham arguably won the game for the Giants. Not only was he responsible for both of the Giants’ offensive touchdowns (both throwing and catching a touchdown), but his blocking in space was a big reason for Saquon Barkley’s successful runs. Barkley (57 snaps), finished with 146 total yards, 125 of which came on the ground. His 29-yard run to on the first play of overtime effectively put the Giants in field goal range, but it was sprung by Beckham, who first took Kyle Fuller out of the play, then blocked Eddie Jackson to get Barkley further down the sideline.
All told, the Giants didn’t get much done on the offensive side of the ball. Outside of the touchdown by Beckham and the defensive score to open the game, the Giants only scored 13 points in regulation. Only one receiver had more than 50 yards — Russell Shepard, who had 59 yards and was the recipient of Beckham’s 49-yard touchdown pass.
Oh, one last note on that touchdown: Odell Beckham now has more 40+ yard touchdown passes than Patrick Mahomes.
The Giants mixed in more 12 and 21 personnel groupings in the second half of the game, getting Scott Simonson 27 snaps, while FB Elijhaa Penny had 15 snaps. When the Giants ran a three-receiver set, it was usually Bennie Fowler, who had 33 snaps on the game.
Two of the defense’s three best players on Sunday combined for a single missed snap. Those would be Alec Ogletree (82 snaps) and Janoris Jenkins (81 snaps). After a rocky start to his career as a Giant which saw him struggle in coverage and be just out of position on several potential tackles, Ogletree played like a linebacker who deserved his contract against the Bears. With a pair of interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), two passes defensed, 10 tackles, Ogletree was everywhere for the Giants. For the first time this season, he seemed to truly be playing fast and instinctive football, which let him use his athletic ability to its fullest.
Jenkins had a great game as well. He only had two tackles, but his coverage was air-tight. Chase Daniel rarely tested Jenkins in coverage, but when he did, the pass was unlikely to be completed. Jenkins finished with a trio of passes defensed, the last of which ended the game.
Meanwhile B.W. Webb played every snap, finishing with 9 tackles, a pass defensed, and a forced fumble. UDFA rookie Grant Haley seems to have definitively earned the Giants’ trust and becomes a starter in all but name. Haley had 8 tackles, 2 for a loss, while playing 75 snaps (91 percent), the fifth most on the defense.
Safety Michael Thomas also saw a significant jump in snap share, playing 49 snaps on the day. His increased role might signal a move to a three safety set to help minimize the impact of Curtis Riley and help allow Landon Collins play to his strengths.
On the defensive front, EDGE Olivier Vernon rebounded nicely from a series of poor outings the last couple weeks. He surrendered the edge in the running game a few times, but his pass rush finally got home. On 76 snaps he notched 5 tackles (2 for a loss), two sacks (one strip sack), and a QB hit. That is the level of play the Giants need from him on a consistent basis.
But Vernon wasn’t the best player on the defensive front. That honor belongs to rookie defensive tackle B.J. Hill, who finished with 3 tackles, 2 for a loss, 3 sacks, and 3 quarterback hits on 46 snaps. Hill had been virtually handcuffed to Dalvin Tomlinson over the last three weeks in terms of snaps, usually playing the same (or almost the same) number. This week, Tomlinson only had 28 snaps, but he was still able to show up and make his presence felt with 7 tackles and a pair of tackles for a loss.
EDGE Kareem Martin played 66 snaps, the second-most on the defensive front behind only Vernon. He finished with 5 tackles, one for a loss.
The Giants’ front seven rotation was rounded out by Kerry Wynn (35 snaps), Ukeme Eligwe (28 snaps), Connor Barwin (25 snaps), Josh Mauro (16 snaps), R.J. McIntosh (16 snaps), and Mario Edwards Jr. (11 snaps).
Edwards Jr. once again flashed upside, but his two penalties — which extended drives — likely contributed to his limited snap count. On the bright side, McIntosh got on the stat sheet with two tackles and a QB hit.