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Giants at Lions: When Detroit has the ball

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Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

With the New York Giants going on the road Sunday to face the Detroit Lions, let’s look at some of the key factors to pay attention to when Detroit Has the ball.

Dealing with Matthew Stafford

Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford looks like a horrible matchup for the Giants.

By most statistical measures (touchdown percentage, interception percentage, yards gained per pass attempt, adjusted yards per attempt, yards per completion, yards per game, passer rating, QBR, net yards per pass attempt, adjusted net yards per pass attempt) Stafford is having the best season of his 11-year career.

There’s more, per Inside Edge:

  • Stafford has thrown 13 touchdowns on just 136 completions (10.5 Completions Per TD) this season -- tied for third-best of 28 qualified NFL quarterbacks; League average is 14.9.
  • Stafford has completed passes for 20+ yards on 28 of his 218 total passing attempts (12.8 percent) this season -- third-best of 28 qualified NFL quarterbacks; League average is 9.7 percent.
  • Stafford has thrown deep balls on 18.8 percent of pass attempts (41/218) this season -- highest of 28 qualified NFL quarterbacks; League average is 12.1 percent.

The Giants have surrendered 30 passes of 20 yards or more this season, and only the Oakland Raiders (32) have given up more. The Giants have given up seven passes of at least 40 yards this season, with only two teams faring worse in that category.

Giants safeties Antoine Bethea (156.3 passer rating against) and Michael Thomas (133.3), cornerbacks Grant Haley (122.0) and DeAndre Baker (144.6) and linebacker Alec Ogletree (112.5) all have sub-par ratings vs. the pass.

So, what are the Giants going to do?

Well, rush the passer

Want to limit a quarterback’s ability to throw the ball down the field? Well, the most obvious way to do that is by not giving him enough time to make those deeper throws.

Fortunately for the Giants, there has to be optimism that Sunday’s matchup could provide them with an opening to harass Stafford.

The Lions have surrendered only 12 sacks and are 13th in the league surrendering a sack on 5.22 percent of Stafford’s dropbacks. Still, that does not mean they have been able to build a wall in front of him. Per ESPN, the Lions are 24th in the NFL in Pass Block Win Rate (holding a block for 2.5 seconds) with a win rate of just 53 percent.

Led by Markus Golden with 5.0, the Giants are tied for 12th in the league with 18.0 sacks. The Giants are eighth in the league, earning sacks on 7.69 percent of dropbacks by opposing quarterbacks.

“I think the guys on the edge have probably exceeded what the outside expectations were. I think I mentioned it throughout, I thought Markus Golden was a guy that has sack potential. I really felt like Lorenzo (Carter) was going to get better and have production. We’ve got guys on defense that … X-Man (Oshane Ximines),” coach Pat Shurmur said. “You talk about just the edges, and then some of the interior stuff has been good, too, with some of the younger players.”

The Giants will need that pressure to continue vs. the Lions.

Deone Bucannon

How big a role will the team’s new ‘moneybacker’ play? It sounds like the Giants want him on the field as quickly as possible.

“We’ll try to get him ready to go for this week if we can,” Shurmur said. “We feel like he’ll understand where he fits on the run, and then he has the ability to cover.”

Best guess is that the player ultimately most likely to lose snaps to Bucannon could be Alec Ogletree.

Beware the understudy!

The Giants got torched for 126 yards on 27 carries, including three touchdown runs of at least 20 yards, by Arizona backup running back Chase Edmonds last week.

This week, the Giants once again face an understudy. The Lions have placed leading rusher Kerryon Johnson on injured reserve.

They will turn to fourth-year man J.D. McKissic (15 carries, 109 yards, 7.3 yards per carry), rookie Ty Johnson (23 carries, 83 yards, 3.6 per carry) and perhaps former Giant Paul Perkins to carry the load.

Showing up for the first half

The Giants have been the worst defense in the NFL in the first halves of games this season. Per Inside Edge, the Giants’ defense has given up a league-worst 17.1 points per game in the first half this season, basically a full touchdown more than the league average of 10.7 points.

The Giants have trailed at halftime in all but one game this season, a Week 4 victory over the Washington Redskins.

After Sunday’s loss to Arizona, Michael Thomas expressed frustration with the play of the defense at the beginning of games.

‘It’s no excuses there; other components, you can think of them: injuries, young players, stuff like that, but I’m not making any excuses for that. It’s man-up and rally and whoever is in there has to execute and that’s where we are at right now,” Thomas said. “We are going to find a way to make sure that the people that are out there are doing that from the jump and from the start of the game and it’s not going to be a ‘Oh, we’re down 14 and now let’s play with a sense of urgency’, no. We have to do it from the very beginning.”