Does the New York Giants struggling defense have any chance of containing Tom Brady and the juggernaut known as the New England Patriots offense when the teams meet this week on Thursday Night Football?
On paper, the answer is an easy no.
By the numbers
Here are just a few of the statistics that do not favor the Giants.
- The Patriots are No. 3 in the league in points per game (31.0). The Giants are 24th in points allowed (25.0 per game).
- The Patriots are 14th in yards per game (390.0). The Giants are 30th in yards allowed (409.4 per game).
- The Patriots have the NFL’s sixth-ranked passing attack (279.2 yards per game). The Giants are 28th in pass defense, giving up 279.4 yards per game.
- The Patriots are third in the league in time of possession (32:41 per game). The Giants are 22nd in the league, allowing teams to possess the ball for an average of 30:55.
Is there a chink in the armor?
I asked BBV and Locked on Podcast Network quarterback analyst, an avid Patriots fan (yes, one of those writes for BBV) Mark Schofield and Bernd Buchmasser, producer for SB Nation’s Pats Pulpit, the following question:
“Is there one single place or one weakness in the New England offense the Giants might be able to attack?”
“Interior OL. Ted Karras is a backup playing center and Shaq Mason (who is usually extremely reliable) has given up some pressures and sacks. Gave up one against Miami and got beaten badly on a bull rush this past week against Tim Settle. We know quick, interior pressure is one way to frustrate Tom Brady and this is a way to accomplish that.”
“Despite the Patriots being 5-0 and looking like the best team in football, the offense has had some ups and downs recently. The main reason for that is the blocking up front: missing starters at left tackle (Isaiah Wynn) and center (David Andrews) because of injury, the offensive line has had its fair share of miscues as of late — both in run blocking and pass protection. Last Sunday against Washington, for example, the unit allowed Tom Brady to get sacked four times while he and the rest of the offense failed to get into much of a rhythm, especially early on.
“What does that mean for the Giants? If they want to slow down the Patriots offense, they better try to challenge the offensive line. Stunts. Blitzes. Overloads. Whatever they have in their back pocket to challenge the communication and chemistry up front, they better use it. Left tackle Marshall Newhouse is, unsurprisingly, the weak link and New York should try to attack him — especially using quickness and straight speed. Putting consistent pressure on Brady’s blindside protector might force New England to alter its approach and keep a tight end in to help with the blocking.”
If there is one, and that is debatable, it will be the Giants’ defensive front of Dexter Lawrence, B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson, along with EDGE Markus Golden (a team-high 4.5 sacks) against the offensive line Schofield and Buchmasser indicate could be New England’s weak link.
We know that Brady is a stationary quarterback. He will be in one spot. Question is, can the Giants get there? The Giants are actually 11th in the league in Adjusted Sack Rate at 8.2 percent. Despite the apparent weakness in the offensive line, the Patriots line is ranked No. 12 overall by Football Outsiders and has an Adjusted Sack Rate of 5.7 percent, also 12th.
Brady and Belichick? Against this pass defense?
Picture the greatest quarterback to ever play and the greatest coach of this and perhaps any era watching film of the Giants trying to defend the pass this season. Picture them laughing hysterically. Or, at least salivating profusely at the thought of the multitude of ways they can attack the Giants through the air. Which, to be honest, is the way the Patriots want to play, anyway. Putting the ball in Brady’s hands and letting him dissect opposing defenses.
As mentioned previously, the Giants are 28th in passing yards allowed. They are 25th in passer rating against (106.7), worst in the league in yards per completion allowed (14.3). 31st in net yards allowed per pass attempt (8.4) and 30th in passing yards allowed (1,397).
- Janoris Jenkins has a passer rating against of 100.1 and is giving up 15.0 yards per completion.
- Antoine Bethea has given up completion all six times he has been targeted for 23.0 yards per completion and a perfect 158.3 passer rating against.
- DeAndre Baker (15 completions allowed in 21 targets) has given up 19.8 yards per catch and has a 145.4 passer rating against.
- Grant Haley has surrendered 11 completions in 14 targets for an average of 14.1 yards and a passer rating against of 136.6.
Here are a few more unflattering numbers regarding the porous Giants’ pass defense:
- The Giants defense has allowed first downs on 43.5 percent of pass attempts this season -- second-highest in NFL; League Average: 34.7 percent [per Inside Edge]
- The Giants defense has allowed passes of 40+ yards on 7 of 154 attempts (4.5 percent) this season -- highest in NFL; League Average: 1.8 percent [per Inside Edge]
- The Giants defense has allowed passes of 20+ yards on 24 of 154 attempts (15.6 percent) this season -- highest in NFL; League Average: 9.7 percent [per Inside Edge]
- The Giants defense has allowed 13.4 Yards per Completion (1,397 yards/104 completions) this season -- second-highest in NFL; League Average: 10.6 [per Inside Edge]
Julian Edelman (29), James White (22) and Josh Gordon (19) are New England’s leading receivers.
Speaking of Haley and Edelman
There have been questions about why the Giants did not help the struggling Haley against Adam Thielen as Thielen caught 7 passes for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns. Could we see Haley get help against Edelman Thursday? Or, could we see someone else in the slot? Michael Thomas has experience there. Julian Love, yet to play a defensive snap this season, worked both in the slot and at free safety during training camp. Could Corey Ballentine be an option?
Help coming at linebacker?
With Ryan Connelly (knee) out for the season and Tae Davis (concussion), Alec Ogletree (hamstring) and Lorenzo Carter (neck) sidelined vs. the Minnesota Vikings the Giants fielded a makeshift linebacking corps that included David Mayo, Nate Stupar and rookie Oshane Ximines.
Davis, who lost his starting job to Connelly after a week, has been a full practice participant this week and should play. Ogletree and Carter could also be available Thursday night.
All three would be welcome additions. The Giants can use all the help they can get.