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Jets 34, Giants 27: Four plays that changed the game

On which plays did the Giants’ loss to the Jets pivot?

New York Giants v New York Jets Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

The New York Giants lost on Sunday to the New York Jets, 34-27. That much we know, and it was yet another winnable game which the Giants found a way to lose.

And as you can expect from two teams like this, both had and gave up big plays that swung the momentum of the game back and forth.

Given that both teams both have talented players and are prone to frustratingly poor play, that made it relatively easy to pick out the turning points in the game. But as we did last week, let’s take a look at the Win Probability Chart and see which plays had the biggest impact on the game’s outcome, and what exactly happened (and why).

Darius Slayton’s second touchdown (NYG + 20 percent)

Second quarter, 5:33
Fourth-and-4, NYJ 39

While Golden Tate’s touchdown might have had a bigger impact on the Giants’ win probability, this was the play of the game for them. Not because it gave them a chance to tie the game heading into halftime (after which they would receive the opening kickoff), but because of the player and the situation.

This was 4th and 4, the Giants were betting heavily on their ability to convert the 4th down and not give the Jets great field position. It was a near thing, as the Jets brought pressure — not a particularly inventive blitz, just an extra rusher — and it very nearly got to Jones. He was, however, able to get the pass off before Will Hernandez was pushed back into his lap.

The other end, we have probably the best route that Darius Slayton has run as a professional. He gets a nice release off the ball, getting into his route as though he was going to run a fade down the sideline.

Third-year corner Nate Hairston makes a couple mistakes right off the bat. First, rather than staying square in his backpedal, he immediately turns his hips and gets ready to run with Slayton down the sideline. He is out of phase quickly and that makes it all too easy for Slayton to stick a foot in the ground and execute the slant route.

The result? Hairston on the ground after trying to lunge at Slayton, and Slayton running to the end zone.

We might not have seen this result against a better corner, but Slayton taking a step forward with his route running is a positive development. At this point we have to take those where we find them.

Golden Tate’s catch and run for a touchdown (NYG +21 percent)

Third quarter, 12:01
Third-and-9, NYG31

The Giants needed a play here.

This was the drive after Jamal Adams’ defensive touchdown and the Jets were up 21-13 and looked to be set to walk away with the game. The Giants were facing a third-and-9 from their own 39-yard line, and had the Jets managed to get a stop, they would have been forced to punt and potentially go down by two scores.

Instead, the Giants were able to establish a successful screen and Golden Tate did what he had done so often in his career, turn a short pass into a long gain.

The Giants blocked this up well enough for it to be a good play, but Tate was also able to make use of some truly awful pursuit angles (I’m looking at you, Brian Poole and Marcus Maye) to stretch a -2 yard pass into a 61-yard touchdown run.

The Giants attempted to go for the tie with a 2-point conversion after the touchdown, but a pass interference call on Tate took the points off the board. It wasn’t quite enough in the end, but this did serve to put the Giants right back in the game, and was a high point for the team.

Demaryius Thomas makes a big catch (NYJ + 12 percent)

Fourth quarter, 9:57
First-and-10, NYJ 31

When the Jets got the ball to start this drive, they were on their 7-yard line. But after plays of 8 and 15 yards by Le’Veon Bell and Treven Wesco, the Jets had some breathing room.

That breathing room turned into an explosive play when Sam Darnold was able to evade the Giants’ pass rush long enough to find Demaryius Thomas. Thomas had found a sizable void in the Giants’ zone coverage and was able to make himself an easy target for Darnold to find downfield to keep the chains moving. After the catch, however, Thomas was able to take advantage of poor positioning and bad angles by the Giants’ defense and turn what could have been a 15-yard reception into a 45-yard gashing.

Thomas was eventually brought down when Sam Beal dove at Thomas’ legs, slowing and him allowing Antoine Bethea to hit him from behind.

Fortunately for the Giants, the Jets weren’t able to capitalize on the big play with a touchdown, but they were able to cap the drive with a field goal. That score put them up by 7 points, which was a lead they would not relinquish.

Jamal Adams mugs Daniel Jones (NYJ + 22 percent)

Third quarter, 14:23
Third-and-1, NYG 34

There is no other word for this than to say that Jamal Adams mugged Daniel Jones. It’s one thing to have a sack, a forced fumble, or a fumble recovery for a touchdown — it’s another thing entirely to have it all done on one play by one player.

This play completely negated any advantage the Giants might have had getting the ball to start the second half of a (basically) tied game.

And as great a play as it was by Adams, we have to look to two Giants for culpability: Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones.

As a running back in pass protection, it was Barkley’s job to step up and pick up Adams as a blitzer, which is what he does. But rather than take on the blitzer with proper technique, Barkley stops his feet early, ducks his head and just lunges toward Adams. He has no leverage, no ability to anchor, and does nothing to blunt any of Adams’ momentum. That makes it all too easy for Adams to simply run through Barkley’s block on his way to Jones.

And much like Adams, this brings us to Jones.

He is under pressure from two different players here. The first is, obviously, Adams, but Will Hernandez also lost his battle up front, getting pushed back right into Jones’ lap. But despite that, Jones takes his left hand off the ball and raises it up as though he was about to try and throw a pass. And given the way he was rearing back, he wasn’t just trying to throw it away, he was going to attempt a deep shot. This is bad for a couple reasons. First, he compromised his ball security with rushers on him (and we saw the result of that), but also, he was going to try to throw a deep pass without even the possibility of being able to step into the pass. We’ve criticized Eli Manning enough about trying to throw off his back foot to not let Jones get away with it here. Jones has struggled with tipped passes throughout his college and nascent NFL careers and had a couple this game. This ball would have had a good chance of being tipped, or sailing on him and potentially into the hands of a defender.

Sometimes the best play is just to protect the ball and take the sack.