By now we all know what happened in week 8: the New York Giants lost to the Detroit Lions 31-26 and slipped to 2-6 on the season.
As we usually do, let’s look beyond the box score to see what the advanced stats and snap counts can tell us about what happened in the game. Who played well that we might have missed, why certain things happened, and how often some players were on the field.
Jones had a strong performance against one of the weakest defenses in the NFL. That shouldn’t be used to take anything away from him, NFL players are supposed to play well against poor competition. Jones had some questionable decisions and throws — every quarterback does — but he took what was available and played efficient football.
And what the Lions gave him were, largely, short throws.
Jones was, once again, willing to throw into coverage, and his aggressiveness percentage (percent of throws targeting a receiver within one yard of a receiver) was the sixth-highest among passers so far this week. He still leads the league in percent of passes thrown into coverage, and that doesn’t appear set to change in the near future.
Jones also held the ball more than any quarterback in the NFL Sunday — even Kirk Cousins — with a time to throw of 3.11 seconds per NextGenStats. But despite that he only averaged 7.5 yards in the air per attempt , though his 6.3 air yards per completion was about league-average.
The Lions were able to take away most of Jones’ deep options and force short throws and check-downs, but the Giants were still able to rack up yards after the catch thanks to some bad tackling on Detroits’ part.
The Giants might have wanted to run the ball against Detroits’ ailing run defense, but Saquon Barkley found tough sledding near the line of scrimmage. He found the most success running to the right A and B gaps, but even so, he only picked up 4 yards per carry on those runs.
Of his 19 carries, only five gained five or more yards.
Without the run game working, the Giants had to throw the ball. Jones got better protection from his line than he has in recent weeks.
Jones was able to operate in the pocket for most of the game, but he was under duress late in the game. It should be noted that after giving up five sacks through the first seven games, Nate Solder was beat for back-to-back sacks in the fourth quarter, bringing his season total to 7. Their 23 sacks allowed on the season is tied for ninth in the NFL, and trails the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans by one.
The Giants’ starting core of skill position players is clear looking at the snap count.
Golden Tate, Evan Engram, Darius Slayton, and Saquon Barkley lead the way for the offense, playing 69, 65, 62, and 61 snaps, respectively.
From there the Giants played Cody Latimer and Rhett Ellison fairly evenly, with Latimer getting 33 of 74 snaps and Ellison getting 30.
Of them, only Engram was consistently getting separation with an average of 3.82 yards of separation per route run. That is in spite of the Lions covering him tightly at the line of scrimmage and allowing the third lowest cushion in the NFL this week (3.2 yards). Neither Engram nor Tate were targeted downfield much, with Engram averaging just 3.7 yards downfield and Tate being targeted 6.6 yards downfield.
Rookie Darius Slayton dominated the Giants’ air yards, with his average of 19.8 ranking 3rd in the NFL this week.
Interestingly, despite Saquon Barkley averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, he saw the sixth lowest percent of runs with 8 or more men in the box at just 5.26 percent. But even so, Barkley was one of the least-efficient runners in the league, with the fifth worst difference between total distance run and yards gained, per NextGenStats. Barkley also spent the sixth most time behind the line of scrimmage.
The Giants defensive front had a good day against the Lions’ offense. Not only did they come up with four sacks, they limited their running game to 59 total yards.
Once again, linebacker Alec Ogletree played every one of the GIants’ 63 defensive snaps, while EDGE players Lorenzo Carter and Markus Golden played 57 and 53 snaps, respectively.
Linebacker David Mayo and DT Dexter Lawrence played the next-most snaps, getting 39 and 40, respectively, while Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, and Oshane Ximines played 35, 29, and 28 snaps.
New addition Deone Bucannon played just 11 snaps, mostly in the second and third quarters. He looked fast playing downhill, but the Giants took him off the field in high-leverage situations such as third downs and in the two-minute drill.
The Giants suffocated the Lions’ run game, and none of their running backs were able to find much room to run. Tra Carson fared the best, but even he only picked up 34 yards on 12 carries.
The Giants’ pass rush was able to get to Matt Stafford, sacking him four times on the afternoon. But unfortunately, the Giants’ secondary wasn’t up to the task of containing the Lions’ passing game.
The Giants’ starting secondary of Janoris Jenkins, DeAndre Baker, Antoine Bethea, and Jabrill Peppers each played every snap against the Lions. The Giants spent much of the game in nickel packages, with slot corner Grant Haley playing 48 of 63 snaps (78 percent).
The Giants’ defensive front put the team in good positions to get off the field, but the secondary was largely unable to slow Stafford down when it mattered. He completed 25 of 32 pass attempts on the game, didn’t throw a single incomplete pass in the second half, and threw on every third down, going went 12 of 13 for 200 yards.
Before the game we worried about the Giants’ ability to stop the Lions’ deep passes, and Stafford completed passes of 25, 49, 25, 18, and 41 yards — with the two 40-yard passes going for touchdowns.
Rookie DB Julian Love played just two defensive snaps, but with the team sliding to 2-6 on the season, the time has come for the Giants to get a look at Love on the field with a respectable workload.