For the third time in as many weeks, a New York Giants game came down to the wire. The Giants couldn’t quite force overtime against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and lost 25-23 on a failed 2-point conversion attempt.
This might have been the Giants best and most complete game of the season, playing complimentary football and and capitalizing on their opponents’ mistakes. But it wasn’t quite enough as a late surge by the Buccaneers put them over the top.
The Giants were forced to play without a starter on the offensive line and to pull out all the stops on offense, defense, and special teams to give themselves the best chance to win.
How did that look with respect to the numbers from the game?
We have to start with the offensive side of the ball, and we have to start with the offensive line.
The Giants were handed the news no team wants this week when left guard Will Hernandez tested positive for COVID-19. The Giants were forced to dig into both their depth chart and their bag of schematic tricks to compensate. There was some speculation as to who would step in to play left guard in the absence of Hernandez, and the Giants turned to rookie Shane Lemieux. Lemieux played all of the Giants’ 74 offensive snaps. And while he had mixed success, he didn’t have any memorable breakdowns in and even generated some push in run blocking.
The Giants also continued to get rookie OT Matt Peart reps on offense, playing 24 total snaps. He likely had one snap as an extra lineman, as starting RT Cam Fleming played 51 offensive snaps. At this point it almost seems like a matter of time before the Giants make the transition from Fleming to Peart on the right side.
Third tight end Levine Toilolo got a relatively heavy workload as well, getting 21 snaps as the Giants looked for extra blocking in the run and pass games.
The other counts of note came in the backfield, where Wayne Gallman Jr. was the Giants’ lead back. Gallman played 32 snaps (43 percent), while Dion Lewis and the recently called up Alfred Morris each played 21 snaps. Gallman was clearly the Giants’ most effective runner, so hopefully the workload moves to him in the coming weeks.
Only three defenders played all 70 defensive snaps, cornerbacks James Bradberry and Isaac Yiadom, and linebacker Blake Martinez. DL Leonard Williams lead the way for the linemen with 55 snaps, while safeties Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers played 68 and 66 snaps, respectively.
EDGE Kyler Fackrell played 64 snaps, and much of the rest of the Giants’ defensive personnel was rotated freely throughout the game.
- DL Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill played 36 and 27 snaps (respectively)
- DE Jabaal Sheard played 34 snaps
- LB David Mayo played 35 snaps
- S Julian Love played 35 snaps
Patrick Graham’s game-plan clearly relied on ever-changing personnel groupings and coverage schemes to slow down Tom Brady, and it certainly worked for much of the game.
The story of the game is, and pretty much has to be, the play of quarterback Daniel Jones. We’ll get to the raw numbers in a bit, but first we should take a look at his quarterbacking grid as generated by NFL NextGenStats.
Broken down by distance and direction, it’s easy to see that Jones played like two different quarterbacks in side of, and beyond, 10 yards downfield.
Jones completed 21 of 30 pass attempts when throwing from behind the line of scrimmage to 10 yards downfield, or 70 percent of his passes. But as soon as he looked further than 10 yards downfield that dropped to just 4 of 10 passes. Diving further into NextGenStats’ data, Jones had a big discrepancy in intended and converted air yards. His average pass attempt was 8.1 air yards, which was among the deepest of the week, but his average completion traveled just 5.4 yards in the air. The -2.7 yard difference in air yards was the 9th most in the league this week.
What’s more, while Jones wasn’t throwing into coverage often, 9.8 percent of his passes, thanks to Tampa’s soft coverage looks, his completion percentage was well below expected. Based on the position of defenders and receivers, Jones was expected to complete 65.7 percent of his passes, but his actual completion percentage was an even 61 percent.
All that put together (in addition to his 2 touchdowns and interceptions) explains how Jones finished with just 0.7 expected points added, and 0.02 expected points added per play on his dropbacks. We know that the real value in the passing game comes between 10 and 15 yards downfield, but between missing receivers and erratic placement, he just wasn’t good there. While he racked up quick completions against soft coverage underneath, those passes just didn’t add much value to the Giants’ offense.
Moving on to the defensive side of the ball, DC Patrick Graham was the star of the show. While Brady completed 70 percent of his passes (2.2 percent over expected) and averages a solid 6.7 air yards per completion, the Giants’ secondary did a good job of frustrating the Buccaneers’ offense.
The Giants ultimately got to Brady twice, but each was certainly a “coverage sack”.
The Giants’ fastest sack belonged to Leonard Williams and was a glacial 4.9 seconds. For reference, a coverage sack is one that comes with the quarterback holding the ball for at least 3 seconds and is usually the result of good play by the secondary or poor play by the quarterback. In this case, we can credit the Giants’ secondary for forcing Brady to pull the ball down and hold it until the Giants’ pass rushers could get to him.
The Giants’ secondary was far from airtight — Brady wouldn’t have completed 70 percent of its passes if it was — and his receivers were generally able to find separation.
But between Brady under-throwing several passes beyond 20 yards downfield (he was 0 for 5 on such passes, while completing 9 of 11 between 10 and 20 yards downfield), and the Giants forcing Brady to pull the ball down and scan the field, they were able to frustrate an explosive offense.
The 1-7 Giants currently hold the second or third pick in the upcoming draft.
Tankathon currently lists the Giants as holding the second pick as their 0.537 strength of schedule is slightly less than the Jacksonville Jaguars 0.543. Football Outsiders lists the Giants as third, based on their probability of having a top-5 pick.
The woebegone Jets have a strangle hold on the number one pick with their 0-8 record. At this point its unlikely that the Giants, or any other team, will out-lose the Jets. Per Football Outsiders, the Giants have an 8.9 percent chance at the first overall pick, trailing the Jets (57.9 percent) and Jacksonville Jaguars (16.8 percent). As things stand now, Football Outsiders lists the Giants with a 60 percent chance of picking in the top 5 of the 2021 NFL Draft.