The New York Giants dropped their third straight game, falling 27-13 to the Baltimore Ravens in week 16. This was always going to be a difficult game for the Giants to win, but they were simply outclassed and struggled to match up with a Ravens team which is one of the best in the NFL when healthy.
But while this game was tough one for Giants’ fans to watch, the numbers behind the outcome paint an interesting picture. The snap counts and stats offer glimpses into the Giants’ thought processes in trying to match up with an unconventional Ravens’ offense.
It, perhaps, could even offer a window into how the Giants game plan for the NFC East, and the presence of Dak Prescott, Jalen Hurts, and a potential “dual threat” quarterback in Washington, going forward.
There weren’t too many surprises from the Giants on the offensive side of the ball. As we’ve come to expect, Will Hernandez (10 snaps) and Matt Peart (17 snaps) rotated onto the field in place of Shane Lemieux (54 snaps) and Cam Fleming (47 snaps), respectively.
Wayne Gallman Jr. (32 snaps) played exactly half of the Giants’ 64 offensive snaps, while Dion Lewis played another 24 snaps, an increased workload from recent weeks. Alfred Morris played 8 snaps, rotating onto the field along with Hernandez and Peart.
For the most part, the Giants played with Sterling Shepard (61 snaps), Darius Slayton (55 snaps) and Evan Engram (50 snaps) as their every-down pass catchers. From there Dante Pettis (29 snaps) saw the most snaps in his first action as a Giant in their 11-personnel packages. Kaden Smith saw 26 snaps, largely in the Giants’ 12-personnel packages, though he also subbed in for Engram following some big plays.
Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, and Blake Martinez each played all of the defense’s 68 snaps, while James Bradberry and Isaac Yiadom played 65 snaps.
Interestingly, the Giants played smaller nickel packages for most of the game. They likely did so to try and accomodate the Ravens’ speed on offense, but they also made the unconventional choice to sacrifice at the second level instead of pulling linemen off the field.
Dexter Lawerence II and Leonard Williams each played 51 snaps, while Dalvin Tomlinson played 45. Even depth players B.J. Hill and Austin Johnson played 20 snaps apiece.
Tae Crowder (57 snaps) was on the field with Martinez for most of the game, but the personnel around them rotated throughout. Rookie DB Xavier McKinney played 46 total snaps in the Giants’ nickel package, while LB David Mayo played 44 snaps.
The only two EDGE players to see consistent action were Jabaal Sheard, who played 30 of 68 snaps and Cam Brown who played 24 snaps. The Giants were clearly trying to balance their need to win up front against the Ravens’ offensive line with the need to match their offensive speed. That decision, however, likely factored into the Ravens’ success running on the edges of the Giants’ defense.
Stats and analytics
The Ravens didn’t give up the deep ball
All told, Daniel Jones finished 28th of 32 quarterbacks to take at least 20 snaps in week 16, at least according to the EPA/CPOE composite. Jones’ EPA per play was -0.102 per play, fifth worst in the league, while his 58.5 completion percentage was well below the 65.5 completion percentage expected based on player tracking data.
The Giants’ receivers let Jones down with drops, but there were also instances where he lead defenders to them with his eyes or made catches harder than necessary with his placement.
The other factor impacting Jones is that while he didn’t have any turnovers (though the Ravens were in position to pick off a pair of passes, they couldn’t secure the catches), he was hurt by the fact that the passes he completed had little value.
Jones had a solid 9.3 intended air yards per pass, but his average completion was just 6 yards downfield. We’ve seen that the value of a pass peaks between 10 and 15 yards downfield, but 17 of Jones’ 24 completions were 10 yards or fewer. As little as a single deep ball could have changed the complexion of the game, but the Ravens are a remarkably stingy defense down the field. Their pass defense came into the week with the fourth fewest passes over 20 yards and the fewest passes allowed over 40 yards. While Jones attempted 16 passes more than 10 yards downfield, he only completed 6 of them. None of his five passes more than 20 yards downfield were caught.
In the trenches
The story of the game is really what happened up front, along the line of scrimmage.
In what has become something of a recurring theme for the Giants’ offense, their running game was more valuable than their passing attack. The Giants gained an average of 0.23 expected points per play (EPA/play), with a success rate of 55 percent. To put that in perspective, the Ravens had the same 55 percent success rate on the ground and gained 0.1 EPA/play.
Unfortunately, the game was out of hand by the end of the first quarter. Because they were forced to pass to keep up, the Giants were only able to run the ball 11 times all game compared to the Ravens’ 40 rushes. Wayne Gallman carried the ball all of six times, averaging a respectable 4.5 yards per carry, almost exclusively between the tackles with 4 carries and 21 total yards up the middle.
The Giants’ defensive line has been criticized for being pushed around by the Ravens’ offensive front. And there certainly is some truth to that, but the Ravens found, by far, their most success on the edges. Both Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins gashed the Giants on the outside.
Interestingly, while Jones was pummeled by the Ravens’ pass rush, to the tune of 6 sacks and 11 QB hits, the Giants’ pass protection held up fairly well against the Ravens’ base pass rushers.
Of their most frequent pass rushers, only Matt Judon got a sack, and none of them got particularly close to Jones.
That was aided by Jones’ 2.63 seconds to throw, which was 11th fastest in the NFL this weekend. The chart from NextGenStats also doesn’t take into account the myriad of other pass rushers the Ravens sent once they dialed up their man-coverage blitz packages.
Unfortunately, Lamar Jackson was able to hold the ball all day long and the Giants pass rush could get close to him.
Jackson held the ball for 3.12 seconds, a near eternity in the NFL and the third longest in the league this week. Part of that is due to the play-action nature of the Ravens’ defense, and part was due to Jackson effectively playing keep-away when the Giants were able to get some pressure. But for the most part, the Ravens’ line nullified the Giants’ rush.
The lack of a consistent pass rush and the need for speed off the edges has been a consistent theme for the Giants’ defense and something they will need to address in the offseason.