As with so many other games the Giants have played this year, this was not a “pretty” win. It featured some curious offensive decisions, one offensive performance that was even better than you thought it was, and the Giants’ best defensive performance in four years.
Let’s see what we can learn about the Giants’ win from the snaps and stats.
There are few storylines in the snap counts on the offensive side of the ball. The first is on the offensive line, as Shane Lemiuex (42 snaps) seems to have supplanted Will Hernandez (16 snaps) as the Giants’ starting left guard. Lemieux is still an adventure in pass protection, but his run blocking has been a factor in the Giants recent winning streak.
The Giants are also still working rookie OT Matt Peart onto the field at right tackle with Peart playing 15 snaps while Cam Fleming played 42. Considering that adds up to 57 snaps and the Giants played 56 offensive snaps, we can assume that Peart had one play where he lined up as a jumbo tight end.
The real interesting snap count are at the skill positions.
Wayne Gallman Jr. only played 28 of 56 snaps on the game (50 percent exactly). Gallman was taken off the field for long stretches, including most of the first half, prompting some to wonder if he was injured. Considering how well he has played of late — which we’ll get to in a bit — the decision to ever have Gallman not on the field is a head scratcher to say the least. Likewise, Sterling Shepard only played 27 snaps, but that could be explained by the toe and shoulder injuries which limited him during the week.
Making the snap counts look just a bit odder, each of the Giants’ three tight ends — Evan Engram (40), Kaden Smith (37), and Levine Toilolo (32) — all played more snaps than any skill position player not named Darius Slayton (51 snaps).
On the defensive side of the ball, the Giants were in nickel or dime packages for much of the evening, with CB Darnay Holmes getting 56 of 72 snaps and S Julian Love playing 44, while James Bradberry, Isaac Yiadom, Jabrill Peppers, and Logan Ryan each played all 72 snaps.
In the front seven, Leonard Williams lead the way with 50 snaps, far outpacing Dexter Lawrence II (37 snaps), B.J. Hill (32 snaps), and Dalvin Tomlinson (30 snaps).
Carter Coughlin (45 snaps) and Tae Crowder (39) had the most snaps of the young guys up front, while Niko Lalos saw 26 snaps and Cam Brown played 10.
Rookie S Xavier McKinney played just 6 defensive snaps as he works his way back from injury.
Stats and analytics
We won’t spend much time here because there’s really only one thing to talk about, and that’s how the Giants’ offense was The Wayne Gallman Jr. Show.
It’s fairly obvious that the decision to (finally) use Gallman as the workhorse running back has been a revelation for the Giants’ offense. All year long — even back to when Ed thought Gallman was as good as cut at the start of training camp — the feeling here is that his no-nonsense, one-cut running style was a strong fit for Jason Garrett’s offense in the mold of DeMarco Murray or Ezekiel Elliott.
This week Gallman elevated his game, putting the Giants’ offense on his shoulders.
He was, once again, the most efficient runner in the NFL on Sunday, per NFL NextGenStats.
(NextGenStats defines “efficiency” as: “Rushing efficiency is calculated by taking the total distance a player traveled on rushing plays as a ball carrier according to Next Gen Stats (measured in yards) per rushing yards gained. The lower the number, the more of a North/South runner.”)
He averaged just 2.47 yards run behind the line of scrimmage per carry, while picking up the most total rushing yards of any runner on Sunday. Gallman’s 79 rushing yards above expectation (RYOE) were, far and away, the most in the NFL, as were his 4.91 RYOE per attempt. That’s even more impressive considering he faced an 8+ man box on 12 of his 16 carries (again, by far the most in the NFL).
That makes it all the more mystifying that Gallman was on the sideline for most of the first half, and annoying that he wasn’t allowed to finish the touchdown drives he powered.
Put simply, Wayne Gallman was the best running back in the NFL on Sunday.
One of the more annoying aspects of analytics is that there isn’t much directly said about the defensive side of the ball. There’s a few reasons for that, the biggest being that defenses are rarely consistent from year to year. They are heavily impacted by roster turnover, raw stats are influenced by the offenses the defenses face, and there’s no long-term moderating presence on the defensive side of the ball like a starting quarterback is for the offense.
Instead we find ourselves looking more at the play of a defense through the lens of the opposing offense.
We’ll start with the play of Russell Wilson, who had been having the best year of his career.
Wilson completed 62.8 percent of his passes which is just barely acceptable for a starting quarterback in the modern NFL, but 8 full points below his season average of 70.7 entering week 13. Likewise, where Wilson had been averaging an NFL-high 5.8 percent completion above expectation, against the Giants he averaged 3.1 percent below expectation. All told, Wilson produced an abysmal -11.2 EPA* and an estimated QBR of 21.8. In general, you can think of QBR as a measure of how often a quarterback playing at that level will win a game.
*In fairness, while his charged interception no doubt factored into Wilson’s negative points added and poor QBR, it wasn’t his fault. It was a well thrown and placed ball, but Chris Carson failed to complete the catch before attempting to turn upfield. It was his mistake, not Wilsons.
We can also see the effects of the Giants’ coverage on Wilson’s time to throw and the Giants’ pass rush.
Due to Seattle’s play-action and roll-out heavy offense, Wilson has held the ball all year long, which has caused issues for Seattle’s pass protection. But against the Giants he was forced to hold the ball even longer than normal, with his time to throw soaring to 3.38 seconds — the longest in the NFL on Sunday. But despite that, he threw shorter than usual passes, averaging just 6.1 yards per attempt, with 7.2 intended and 5.7 completed air yards per attempt.
And while the Giants were able to get to Wilson relatively quickly with blitzes from Jabrill Peppers (who had the Giants’ fastest sack at 3.4 seconds) and Tae Crowder, their average pass rush wasn’t particularly effective. Leonard Williams was the Giants’ only pass rusher to routinely get close to Wilson.
Considering the Giants still managed to get 5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits, that is yet another testament to how good their pass coverage was.