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Giants 17, Seahawks 12: 5 plays that led to a stunning upset

NFL: New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks
Alfred Morris and Colt McCoy celebrate their touchdown collaboration.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

I embrace the slimy yellow yolk that dribbles from my unkempt quarantine beard. Surely my doubts were rational - a 4-7 New York Giants team led by a journeyman backup quarterback can’t travel to Seattle and defeat the 8-3, unbeaten at home, Russell Wilson-led Seahawks, right? Wrong, breakfast face!

New York took the Joe Judge mentality to the Pacific Northwest, controlled the line of scrimmage on offense and defense, limited mistakes, and made Wilson uncomfortable the entire game to earn a 17-12 victory. The Giants rushed the ball 31 times for 190 yards and a touchdown, while holding Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde to 15 carries for 66 yards and zero touchdowns.

Star wide receiver DK Metcalf, who just went 8 catches for 158 on 11 targets against the Eagles’ Darius Slay, went 5 for 80 against the Giants on 8 targets. Wilson was sacked 5 times, and Seattle couldn’t do much offensively. As for the Giants offense, Colt McCoy threw for just 105 yards, only turned the ball over once, and did just enough to win this football game. Let’s look at 5 plays that led to this improbable Giants victory.

Play 1(s): Control the line of scrimmage

The Giants offense was stymied in the first half, but the defense did enough to keep the game attainable; can’t say the same about the special teams that gave up a safety. On the Giants second third-quarter possession, they ran a pin-pull concept with Andrew Thomas leading the power/gap play and both guards pulling to the play side. The tight ends do a great job blocking down and sealing the edge, along with Austin Mack (81) while the lead blockers kick out the alley defenders and Wayne Gallman hits the hole hard to pick up 60 yards. This play helped set up the next two consecutive run plays.

At this point, it’s safe to assume that the defense is aware of the Giants limitations, and they know that running the football may be wise, yet they can’t stop the run. New York runs what looks like DUO and Alfred Morris does a very good job with patience, allowing the SAM to shoot the C-Gap before splitting Kaden Smith and Evan Engram on the three-tight end side. He shows physicality, vision, contact balance, and continues to pick up yardage by churning his legs through the tackling attempts. This play set up the very next play, which was a touchdown to Morris.

Morris runs off the back of a nice Shane Lemieux block for a touchdown to give the Giants an 8-5 lead after McCoy found Sterling Shepard near the back pylon on a 2-point conversion attempt. This was an excellent way for the Giants to impose their will on a home, 10.5 point favorite, squad.

Play(s) 2: Third down sacks

All five of the Giants sacks were important, but the ones that essentially killed drives get the nod here.

A perfectly executed stunt by Dalvin Tomlinson (94) and Leonard Williams leads to this third-and-10 sack that forced the fourht-and-18 that went incomplete, sealing the Giants road victory. The Giants are tight in man coverage and run this well timed stunt up front while bringing four. Tomlinson is an unsung hero in this play; he does a great job attacking the outside shoulder of the guard while chipping the inside hip of the tackle. This deters the tackle from cleanly transitioning Williams to the guard and it masks the guard from Williams loop. This was well timed, well executed, and couldn’t have come at a more important time.

Tae Crowder comes up with this big third-and-4 sack on a T/LB stunt (tackle-linebacker). Williams penetrates as a 3-Technique across the center’s face to occupy his attention while Crowder comes in on an A-Gap blitz a bit delayed because of Williams’ pass rushing path. This was early in the game and could have set an entirely different tone, but this play helped the Giants defense set a foundation of physical football.

Play(s) 3: Opportunistic

One could look at both of these plays above and think “a lucky tipped pass, and a botched snap. How are those good plays?” Well, whatever they’re perceived to be, the Giants ended two Russell Wilson-led drives by taking advantage of Seattle mistakes. The zone defense the Giants tend to run gives them an opportunity for these types of plays when offensive players fail to secure catches. Crowder is a bit late to the catchpoint, Carson can’t secure the pass, and Darnay Holmes (30) puts himself into a position to come away with his first career interception. On the second play, for the second straight week, Niko Lalos (57) comes up big by falling on a Russell Wilson fumble. It’s another huge part of this game; a third-and-1 play at midfield - even if they lose a yard, Pete Carroll would probably go for it, and that could had led to another 3 or 7 points for Seattle. In the NFL, you have to receive some luck to win - but you also have to seize the luck, and New York did that against Seattle.

Play 4: Is it 2012?

2020 has been a strange year to say the least. Colt McCoy throwing a touchdown pass to Alfred Morris was not exactly something I would have expected when the NFL season began, but here we are! It was a good play call by Jason Garrett to run play action boot to the field with a leaking running back to the three-tight end side. Seattle’s defense bit hard on the play action and then struggled to find their exact assignments with all the tight ends in the area - Jamal Adams (33) is one of the players that looks confused with that play side linebacker.

Play 5: Don’t capitulate

We’ve seen a lot of big plays in similar situations in 2020 for these Giants. This seemed like it could have been a devastating, all too familiar, type of play if Wilson got his hands on the spatula. Broadcaster Adam Amin saying “he’s done this so much in his career” added to the anxiety as Wilson extemporized the play against a four-man rush. Mr. Unlimited lofted the ball high and James Bradberry was able to get his hands on the football and knock it down. The defense holding strong against Alex Smith was great, but watching them keep Seattle’s offense at bay for an entire game, and on this specific drive, was an admirable moment for the Giants 2020.

Final thoughts

The Giants defeated a future Hall of Fame coach and quarterback in their home. In a game that Seattle needed, but will not receive. This Giants coaching staff has the team playing incredibly hard and effective football. There was no “woe is me” mentality for a team that was 1-7, and that’s one defining reason as to why this team now sits at the top of the NFC East at 5-7. A four-game winning streak in the middle of the season leads to momentum - and a healthy Daniel Jones provides a different pulse to an offense that seems to have found their true identity. There’s still a lot of football to be played, but let’s hope Joe Judge can keep this positive inertia moving forward as the playoff push continues.