Nobody really expected the New York Giants to come away from Thursday Night Football with a victory over the New England Patriots.
The Giants, however, made things interesting for more than three quarters. But by that point the Giants struggled to sustain drives on offense and the Patriots’ dominated the time of possession, and fatigue set in. The Patriots held the ball nearly twice as long as the Giants, 39:36 to 20:24, and played half again as many offensive snaps, 82 snaps to 50.
The Giants’ defense played valiantly, playing fast and hard for as long as they could, but on average a team plans for roughly 65 snaps on offense or defense per game. The Giants’ defense played more than an extra quarter by the end of Thursday night’s game.
So let’s take a look at some of the numbers from the game and see what they can tell us.
Despite the weather Thursday night, the Giants came out throwing the ball. Of the Giants’ 50 offensive plays, Daniel Jones attempted 31 passes. The Giants clearly intended to be aggressive and not go into a shell without Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Wayne Gallman.
And the Giants’ personnel woes were clear looking at the snap counts.
- Rhett Ellison played all 50 snaps
- Golden Tate and Darius Slayton played 49 of 50
- Cody Latimer played 23 snaps while Cody Core played 17
- RB Jon Hilliman played 31 snaps while Elijhaa Penny played 20
With that personnel, it shouldn’t be surprising that Jones had his worst game as an NFL passer. But even so, his stat line: 15 of 31, 161 yards, 5.2 yards per attempt, 1 touchdown to 3 interceptions, and an ANY/A (Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt) of 1.4, is just bad.
Granted, the Giants were asking Jones to play an elite defense without four of his top weapons on offense and that is never going to go over well. However, Jones himself needs to play better as well. There were flashes, such as his 64-yard touchdown to Golden Tate, but too much indecision, or poor decisions, on behalf of the rookie.
The Giants could have made things easier for Jones as well. An incredible 48.4 percent of his passes were thrown into tight coverage Thursday night. By comparison, only 7 percent of Brady’s were thrown into coverage. Put in actual numbers, Jones threw 15 of his 31 passes into coverage while Brady threw 5 of his 41 to a receiver with a defender within a yard of him. A big part of that is the Giants’ offensive personnel issues, and the coaching staff needs to do a better job of scheming players open.
NextGenStats separation plot shows just how little separation the Giants’ receivers and tight ends were getting against New England’s secondary:
Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula should take the opportunity afforded by the “mini bye” to go really look at how their plays are being executed and see what they can do from a schematic perspective. Meanwhile, Jones needs to take the opportunity to go into the film room and work on seeing the defense better.
As you might suspect from the lopsided time of possession and the Patriots getting a ridiculous 82 snaps on defense, quite a few Giants played a lot of snaps.
Jabrill Peppers lead the way, playing each of the Giants’ 82 defensive snaps, a total reminiscent of his days playing offense and defense in Michigan. Alec Ogletree was close behind, playing 81 snaps while Antoine Bethea and Janoris Jenkins played 80, and DeAndre Baker played 79.
If we factor in special teams snaps, even the players who were on the field for a paltry three quarters or two thirds of the defensive snaps played nearly as many as the defensive backs. Dexter Lawrence played 62 defensive snaps (roughly a normal complete game), but played 9 special teams snaps as well. David Mayo and Oshane Ximines played 70 (58 defensive, 12 special teams) and 65 (52 defensive, 13 special teams) snaps, respectively.
Even nose tackle Dalvin Tomlinson played 60 snaps, between his 52 defensive snaps and 8 special teams snaps.
It should be no wonder that the Giants’ defense was gassed by the fourth quarter, and these guys definitely earned the weekend off.
Lorenzo Carter was the last player to get a heavy snap load, playing 50 defensive snaps and no special teams snaps coming off of a neck injury.
He was also the Giants’ most effective pass rusher, getting a strip sack and was a fraction of a second from coming up with a second later in the game. Per NextGenStats, Carter was the most effective pass rusher in the game, averaging 3.67 yards from the quarterback per rush, well below the NFL-average of 4.49 yards.
The Giants did well to keep Tom Brady from throwing a touchdown, but as mentioned above, the Patriots were consistently able to find open receivers.
All told, it was still something of a mixed bag for the Giants on defense, and particularly in the secondary. But despite the 35 points given up, this was certainly their best performance of the season. Hopefully the team will be able to rest up while the rest of the league is playing Sunday, address some of the issues from this game and build on the positives going forward.