The New York Giants stumbled their way through a third consecutive loss to start the 2020 season, falling 36-9 to the San Francisco 49ers. This was a complete loss in every phase of the game, but why did the Giants lose like they did?
We can tell a lot about the Giants and the game based on the final score, but what insights can we get from the Giants’ snap counts and going beyond the box score?
There are really only a couple things of note with the Giants’ snap counts that we’re going to focus on. The offense was about as we could have predicted, with the overwhelming share of skill position snaps played by Darius Slayton (51), Golden Tate (48), and Evan Engram (44), while C.J. Board was the Giants’ third receiver with 24 snaps.
From there the Giants’ offense rotated personnel pretty freely with RBs Dion Lewis (20), Wayne Gallman (18), Davonte Freeman (15) all getting close to the same number of snaps. TE Kaden Smith saw 16 snaps while WR Damion Ratley saw 18 snaps.
Of greater interest is the defensive side of the ball.
Due to the Giants’ offensive struggles and an inability (for various reasons) to get off the field on third down, the 49ers absolutely dominated time of possession, controlling the ball for 39:44 of game time. The Giants’ defense was on the field for 77 snaps, which is about what you would expect from a tight overtime game, not a 36-9 rout.
Isaac Yiadom and Corey Ballentine
Coming into the season we were curious to see how the cornerback position would shake out opposite James Bradberry. The two saw a roughly equal share of the defensive snaps as Patrick Graham rotated his defensive secondary. This week Yiadom played 59 of the 77 defensive snaps, while Ballentine played 0, only seeing special teams snaps.
Also of interest was the injury to Jabrill Peppers, who exited the game after just 9 defensive snaps following an ankle injury suffered on an attempted kick block. In his place, the Giants played Nate Ebner (13 snaps), Ryan Lewis (18 snaps), and Darnay Holmes (27 snaps).
Interestingly, the Giants played linebacker Devante Downs on 55 snaps against the 49ers. The decision was likely influenced by the 49ers featuring of tight ends, running backs, and their fullback in their offense with heavy use of 12 and 21 personnel packages.
A week after coming in third in the NFL in throws into tight coverage, Daniel Jones lead the NFL in throws into coverage with 25 percent of his 32 attempts (8 passes) coming when there was a defender within a yard of the receiver. With that in mind, it makes sense that Jones was second to last in the league in completion percentage above expectation (CPOE). Jones completed 53.1 percent of his passes, but was expected to complete 61.5 percent. Prior to the Giants’ final drive in which San Francisco simply cared about getting out of the game without any further injuries, Jones had completed 13 of 27 passes (48.1 percent) for 114 yards (4.2 yards per attempt, 8.7 per completion).
Jones had a total EPA of -4.9 and an EPA per play of -0.13. While Jones’ carries on scrambles, read-option plays, and designed QB runs were the best rushing production of the season, he still finished -1.5 EPA on his 4 runs. That is less of a commentary on the runs themselves and more on the efficiency of running the ball.
The Giants’ defense has been able to harass opposing quarterbacks and generate sacks. All told they finished with 2.0 sacks, 8 quarterback hits, and 7 tackles for a loss. But while the Giants were able to get pressure and make stops in the backfield, they didn’t get particularly close to Nick Mullens on average.
The 49ers were also able to generate pressure and came up with a pair of sacks of their own, though some last-second throws by Jones kept that number low. All told, the 49ers pass rushers were consistently close to Jones, who consistently had defenders — or blockers — in his face.
Has draft season come early?
Football Outsiders is keeping a running prediction of each team’s play-off chances as well as draft order based on their DVOA and DAVE (DVOA adjusted for early volatility) analysis.
The Giants currently have the second-highest odds of having the first overall pick in the 2021 draft with 13.3 percent. Football Outsiders has the Giants with the second-highest chance for a top-5 pick as well, with 48.8 percent odds of making one of the first five selections.
The Denver Broncos currently lead both categories with 17.7 percent chance of getting the first pick in the 2021 draft and a 56.4 percent chance of having a top-5 pick.
There’s usually pushback against talking about the draft mid-season, but this is worth keeping an eye on if the Giants’ stays on its current trajectory.