The Giants came into the game riding the high of their stunning upset of the Seattle Seahawks, extending their win streak to 4 games. This game, however, reminded everyone that the Giants have not yet arrived and still have plenty of work to do going forward.
As we turn the page to the week 15 match-up against the Cleveland Browns, which was flexed to Sunday Night Football, we should take the time to figure what went wrong against Arizona, and why.
For now, let’s take a look at the numbers from the game and see what they can tell us.
There weren’t too many surprises in the Giants’ snap counts, though perhaps the big story is the total snap counts themselves. The Giants only played 49 total snaps on offense and by the same token, the defense played 79 total snaps. The Cardinals dominated the time of possession, holding the ball for 37:59 to the Giants’ 22:01.
That amounts to roughly an extra half-quarter worth of game time and snaps for the defense than for what coaches typically plan and practice for.
As we’ve seen over the course of the season, the Giants maintained their offensive line rotation. Andrew Thomas, Nick Gates, and Kevin Zeitler played all of the offensive snaps while starting LG and RT Shane Lemieux and Cam Fleming played 38. The other 11 snaps went to Will Hernandez and Matt Peart who rotated on as LG and RT, respectively.
Unsurprisingly, the Giants’ starting defensive backs, James Bradberry, Isaac Yiadom, Logan Ryan, and Jabrill Peppers, played all of the Giants’ defensive snaps.
We’ve seen EDGE Carter Coughlin’s snap count increase since he first got to the field on defense a few weeks ago, and this week played 64 defensive snaps (80 percent). The Giants also increased playing time for rookie safety (listed as “DB”) Xavier McKinney in the absence of slot corner Darnay Holmes, with McKinney playing 38 snaps (48 percent).
As per usual, Leonard Williams had the most snaps among the down linemen, playing 56 snaps while Dalvin Tomlinson and Dexter Lawerence II played 47 and 43 snaps, respectively. Interestingly, reserve NT Austin Johnson saw slightly more snaps than B.J. Hill, 23 to 21.
Finally, UDFA EDGE Niko Lalos, who has made several big plays in recent weeks, only saw 17 defensive snaps.
Stats and Analytics
It doesn’t take a stats nerd with degrees in mathematics to tell that the Giants had a bad day on the offensive side of the ball. That was plain to see in the moment, watching the game. But we can take a look at some of the advanced stats try and shed some light on why the Giants struggled like they did.
We pretty much have to start with Daniel Jones, who didn’t look “right” from the start of the game. Jones only completed 11 passes on 21 pass attempts, for a 52.4 completion percentage. Per NFL NextGenStats’ player tracking data, that was actually a bit below his expected completion percentage of 55.2 percent.
Jones also held the ball for an average of 2.97 seconds, which was second only to Kyler Murray’s 3.06 seconds among the 1pm games, and fifth longest among all quarterbacks on Sunday. And when Jones threw, 33.3 percent of his passes were to receivers with a defender within 1 yard of them. That aggressiveness percentage is second only to Mike Glennon on Sunday.
Taken together, that explains Jones’ -14.1 EPA (-0.52 per play) on Sunday.
Of course, the Giants did little help Jones.
From a schematic point of view, they moved away from Wayne Gallman Jr. despite his runs largely carrying the Giants offense over the last several weeks. The Giants only called his number 12 times over the course of the game. There has been the sentiment that the Giants moved away from the running game because Arizona devoted too many defenders to stopping Gallman, and indeed he saw 8+ man boxes on half of his runs, the second most in the NFL Sunday. However against Seattle, he saw stacked boxes on 75 percent of his runs and still carried the Giants to a win. And this week he still managed to average 4.8 yards per carry and pick up 57 yards on the ground, the most yardage of any player.
The decision to throw the ball isn’t bad in and of itself. If the defense is stacking the box, they are leaving themselves open to the passing game. The problem there is that not only was Jones inaccurate, the Giants’ receivers were unable to get open.
Evan Engram was the Giants’ only receiving option to regularly generate any kind of separation, while Darius Slayton’s 1.37 yards of separation was the lowest of any receiver or tight end to see at least five targets on Sunday. Sterling Shepard, who is normally able to separate well with his route running, had the eighth-lowest separation on Sunday.
And finally there’s the pass protection, or rather, the lack thereof. As if the Cardinals’ 8 sacks — a franchise record 5 of which came from Haason Reddick — and 11 QB hits weren’t clear enough, the Giants’ pass protection was an issue.
The Cardinals’ pass rushers were, effectively, living in the Giants’ backfield all game long. This was, in part, due to Jones holding the ball for as long as he did. Over the course of the Giants’ winning streak, we saw him pass much more quickly, averaging 2.48 seconds in week 9, 2.35 seconds in week 10, and 2.69 seconds in week 12.
The Giants’ offensive line is able to hold up long enough for a quick passing game, but the longer they are asked to protect the worse the outcome.
But there were also issues with communication as rushers came unblocked, such as with Markus Golden’s strip sack at the start of the game, as well as technique issues, such as with Haason Reddick’s Osi Unemyiora like 2.7 second sack.
The tape and the stats will show the same thing, this was just a bad performance from the Giants’ coaches, quarterback, offensive line, and receivers. They’ll need to figure out some way to address at least some of those issues before meeting the Cleveland Browns Sunday night.