For the first time in almost a year, the New York Giants have something to feel good about. Not only did they get the first win of the year against the New Orleans Saints, but they did so on the road against a heavily-favored opponent.
It wasn’t a clean, or pretty, win, but it was a win just the same.
They, and we, don’t have much time to savor the feeling, as we all have to turn the page in anticipation of a matchup against a surging divisional rival this week. However, we have the time to take a quick look back at the Giants’ win and see what the numbers can tell us.
Between the Giants’ early three-and-outs and their explosive scoring plays, the Giants didn’t hold the ball very much. They only had control of the ball for 27 minutes, 35 seconds to the Saints’ 37 minutes, 31 seconds time of possession.
With Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton out, the Giants didn’t use much substitution on the offensive side of the ball. Kenny Golladay, Saquon Barkley, Kadarius Toney, and Evan Engram formed the core of their offense and they played most of the game together.
The Giants spent most of the game in their 12-personnel set, with Kyle Rudolph playing 37 snaps. When the Giants did play their 11-personnel set, it was freshly activated WR John Ross who got the nod, playing 28 snaps.
Reserve tight end Kaden Smith played just 9 snaps, while No. 2 running back Devontae Booker only played 7 snaps.
Notable in his absence is OT Matt Peart, who played just 4 special teams — and no offensive — snaps all game.
Full offensive snap counts
If there is anything that truly stands out about the Giants’ personnel usage, it’s just how much Leonard Williams played. He was on the field for 62 of 68 defensive snaps, which is an incredible number a defensive tackle.
It’s also notable that the Giants leaned into their nickel personnel package, sacrificing an EDGE defender for another DB for the second week in a row. Julian Love played the nickel DB role, and was on the field for 47 total snaps. EDGEs Lorenzo Carter and Azeez Ojulari both played little more than half of the Giants’ defensive snaps, with
Making this more interesting is just how ineffective the Giants’ defense was for most of the game. Jameis Winston was the fourth quarterback in four games to complete roughly three quarters of his passes against the Giants, and the Giants’ pass rush was all but nonexistent. They didn’t record any sacks or quarterback hits, and just one tackle for a loss.
Another discouraging stat is that the Giants missed an astounding 15 tackles, per Pro Football Focus.
As with Peart on the offensive side of the ball, Carter Coughlin was notable in his absence from the defensive formation. It was widely believed based on his preseason usage that Coughlin had impressed in his transition to off-ball linebacker and was relatively high on the depth chart. Likewise, it’s interesting that Darnay Holmes only received 3 defensive snaps. It seems likely that the slot defender job is Aaron Robinson’s when he returns from injury.
Full defensive snap counts
Special teams snap counts
Win probability chart
I’m not going to be diving into stats or analytics this time, because honestly, one single chart tells the story of this game and just how improbable this win was.
A week ago I remarked that the Giants lost a game they absolutely should have won. This week, the chart makes it clear that they prevailed in a game they had no business winning.
The Saints were in almost absolute control of this game for 52 minutes. They dominated the time of possession, converted 8 of 13 third down attempts (including converting 7 consecutive third downs), and doubled the Giants’ rushing yardage. They even forced two fumbles and had an interception.
And even with all that, it is hard to overstate just how monumentally bad Sean Peyton’s decision to run Taysom Hill on that fateful third down in the fourth quarter was.
The plateau around the middle of the fourth quarter was that drive. There, the Saints had a 97 percent chance of winning. To that point in the game, they had outscored the giants 21-3 since getting the ball in the middle of the second quarter and hadn’t had a single 3-and-out all game long. Their only truly poor play came on a Taysom Hill interception on the exact same play on which Jameis Winston had a 46-yard touchdown nullified by a holding penalty.
But with the Saints firmly in control and their cleats on the Giants’ neck, Peyton couldn’t help himself and made the exact same mistake he did on the Hill interception. He showed the Giants something they had already seen and been beaten badly by, and had to have resolved to not get beaten by it again.
That 3-and-out resulted in a the Saints setting the Giants up with great field position and another quick score, letting them back in the game. Maybe Peyton got cocky or he outsmarted himself, but whatever the reason, he gave the Giants a bit of life. Ultimately, they were able to capitalize in a situation which, objectively, should have been hopeless.
That chart is worth 1,000 words on this game.