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5 plays that mattered in the Giants’ upset victory over the Packers

New York Giants v Green Bay Packers Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The New York Giants upset the Green Bay Packers across the pond in London on Sunday. There were several critical plays that led to the Giants' 27-22 victory, where the Packers' only second-half points were a designed safety by the Giants’ special teams at the end of the game.

New York was down 17-3 before the Giants led a second-quarter 11-play, 86-yard drive that was ended by a double-reverse touchdown to rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger; the play provided a glimmer of hope and resilience that helped the Giants’ pursuit to earn the upset victory. Here’s that bonus play since it was impressive and could easily be one of the top five in this game:

Coach Brian Daboll often preaches about players who are smart, tough, and dependable. This staff, along with the players on the field, exude these three adjectives, and it’s a primary reason why the Giants are 4-1.

Here are five critical plays or sequences that led to this victory over Green Bay.

Play(s) 1: Barkley-less drive

Saquon Barkley suffered a shoulder injury on the first play of the second drive in the third quarter. The Giants were down 20-13, and Barkley is the impetus of production. The loss of Barkley put the burden on the shoulders of Daniel Jones and his hobbled ankle, and he did not disappoint.

Jones converted this third-and-4 after a 12-yard Matt Brieda run and a defensive holding penalty against Rasul Douglas. Bellinger (82) finds the soft spot and sits in front of Jones (8) for an easy conversion, which set up the following plays on this 15-play, 91-yard drive.

As instructed, off the play-action, Jones finds an open lane through his blockers as the second-level defenders drop to depth and match receiving options. Despite having an injured ankle, Jones picks up the first and gets hit by two Green Bay Packers. Jones was the definition of toughness in London.

Jones does a very good job using patience on this rollout, allowing Marcus Johnson (84) to cross past the linebacker into an open window. Jones shows solid athletic ability by rolling out and keeping his eyes downfield while using good timing to deliver a catchable ball to Johnson.

Kafka has done well using Jones’ ability to move on these play-action bootlegs; the brilliance with the play is the block and release by the inner-tight-end in the double-Y set, Daniel Bellinger. Tanner Hudson (88) releases into a route, Bellinger blocks, and then is an easy option - wide open - after the Packers pursue Jones or drop to locate other eligible receivers. Kafka exploits the defense’s proclivity to forget about eligible receivers when they’re initially blocking.

The Giants use a similar concept, with David Sills (13) blocking and releasing as Gary Brightwell (23) heads to the flat. Again, Jones shows patience and isn’t under duress as he moves laterally and keeps his eyes downfield. The drive was finished by this Brightwell touchdown:

Play(s) 2: Impressive offense

Third-down conversions

New York had two key third-down conversions on their first touchdown drive.

Jones stands tall in the pocket, steps up, and delivers a strike to Richie James (80) to keep the chains moving. Jones had several plays throughout this game where he looked comfortable and decisive within the pocket. Here is a third-and-9 conversion later in this same drive:

Darius Slayton (86) was one of the stars of the game for the New York Giants. Jones finds him on this quick slant; Slayton wins inside and Jones hits him right before the safety can break the pass up. Slayton shows excellent extra effort to pick up this first down to set up the Bellinger touchdown.

The Giants also had two clutch third-down conversions on the first drive of the second half. The Giants run mesh with Slayton motioning underneath two receivers, and Jones connects with Slayton to convert on the third-and-3.

Kafka and Daboll went back to the quarterback draw, using Barkley as a fast three in a 2x2 set. De’Vondre Campbell (59) follows Barkley in motion, which opens the box for Jones. He might be hobbled, but he showed so much grit in this tough performance.

Saquon Barkley

Barkley was unreal - once again - for the New York Giants. Kafka did a great job aligning Barkley off the line of scrimmage and giving him an easy release underneath, where he used his ability to pick up 40 yards while making professional athletes look silly.

The Giants have struggled to create explosive plays over the last several seasons, but Saquon Barkley seems to do it every week. Kafka and Daboll’s scheme help maximize his immense potential of Barkley by using him creatively, as we see above. Great explosiveness and burst from Barkley, but also a great lead block by Matt Breida (31), and an amazing effort by Sills, who throws three blocks. This wouldn’t be the only time New York finds success with the Wildcat.

Barkley does a great job finding the end zone behind great blocks by Mark Glowinski (64) and Brightwell. The Giants align in a bunch and run away from the bunch, with Daniel Jones as the “wide receiver” off the line of scrimmage.

Play 3: Defensive stand

The Packers needed a touchdown to tie the game up; in the waning minutes of the game, Rodgers led a fourteen-play, 69-yard drive. Rodgers was nickel and diming his way down the field, and the Packers also ran the football on the drive with little panic. On a second-and-three run, Aaron Jones (33) took the ball up the middle and Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) made a tackle for a short gain, setting up a third-and-2.

The Packers run a 3x1 follow concept that the Giants played well; New York sends six but drops Jaylon Smith (54) underneath the No.2 wide receiver after bluffing the blitz to force protection to hold on the offense’s right side. Thibodeaux jumps into Rodgers’ throwing path and knocks the ball into the air, where Tae Crowder (48) nearly comes away with a game-sealing interception.

The Packers go back to the air on fourth-and-2, with the Giants aligning eight men on the line of scrimmage. Rodgers attempted to find Allen Lazard (13) on a back shoulder, but two un-blocked blitzing defenders get their hands in the air and knock the pass down. Xavier McKinney (29) made the contact. This goal-line stand was the last catalyst to victory for the Giants.

Play 4: Dexy time

The sack by Dexter Lawrence was one of the more significant plays in the game. The Giants opened the second half with an 11-play, 56-yard drive that was finished by a Giants field goal, making the score 20-13.

On the Packers’ first drive of the second half, Rodgers led a seven-play, 46-yard drive where he was positioned at the Giants’ 36-yard line on a third-and-eight where Dexter Lawrence just bull-rushes the guard into Rodgers’ lap. The sack knocked the Packers out of realistic field goal range and led to the punt that gave the Giants the ball to tie up the football game.

Play(s) 5: Three-and-out for Rodgers

After Brightwell scored a touchdown, the Giants tied the game with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense gaining possession. Stopping Rodgers and the Packers is a daunting proposition, and that was exacerbated by the loss of starting cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. The Giants were forced to play several backups at cornerback.

Rodgers may have thought he’d receive some sort of defensive holding on first down as he threw the ball out of bounds. On second down, Nick McCloud (44) does an excellent job getting a piece of the football as he dives in front of the deep horizontal cross to force a third-and-10. Rodgers attempted to find Allen Lazard in a one-on-one situation that was played well enough by Fabian Moreau (37).

New York forced this three-and-out that led to a six-play, 60-yard drive, where the Giants held onto the lead. Wink Martindale and this Giants' defense made the necessary plays when they had to against a formidable opponent.