The New York Giants beat the Baltimore Ravens 24-20 on Sunday, improving to an improbable 5-1 record on the year.
This game went like so many others for the 2022 Giants. They were largely out-played early on and slipped to a deficit going into the fourth quarter. But the Giants were able to do enough on defense to hang around, capitalizing on mistakes and miscues from their opponent.
Ultimately, the other team combined mistakes with terrible decisions in a stunning fourth quarter collapse, while the Giants maintained their composure.
What can we take away from the Giants’ latest upset victory?
First down: Coaching is the difference maker
The Baltimore Ravens were the better team today. The Ravens have the better roster and dominated this game pretty much everywhere but the scoreboard. The Giants had few answers for Lamar Jackson or the Ravens’ defense for 57 minutes. Teams that throw for 173 yards, allow four sacks, and didn’t have a single player gain 100 total yards don’t win many games. And yet, the Giants won — and it’s the same way they’ve won throughout the season.
The difference came down to coaching.
The Giants were the team that was more disciplined. They were more composed, and stayed composed as the pressure mounted. The Giants’ schemes on offense and defense are wildly creative and they executed in key situations. They throw out the kitchen sink to get the most of their roster, and the players keep making it work. I don’t know if they can keep winning like this, if the Giants can keep not-losing for another 11 games.
But frankly, whatever happens over the remainder of the season, this year has already been an unmitigated success in my eyes. Brian Daboll should be considered the runaway favorite for Coach of The Year. What the Giants are doing with a limited roster is, frankly, incredible.
Second down: Penalties, penalties, penalties ...
This is the second time in two weeks I can’t help but remark on the role that penalties have played in the Giants’ victories.
It seems as though every time the game would swing in the direction of the other team, a flag would fly and nullify the play. Last week the Packers had multiple sacks wiped out by penalty. This week the Ravens were consistently forcing themselves backward with simple procedural penalties like false starts or alignment errors. Not only did that consistently knock the Ravens off schedule, but one of them lead directly to Julian Love’s interception. A pass interference took a game-changing interception off the board.
The Ravens ultimately finished with 10 penalties for 74 yards and many of those yards came at incredibly inopportune times.
The Giants, meanwhile, had just three penalties for 25 yards. Those hidden yards at key moments have been the inflection points around which the Giants’ wins have pivoted. They’ve allowed the Giants to hang around and create situations where their opportunism can win out.
Third down: The kids are alright
The Giants two leading receivers were tight end Daniel Bellinger and receiver Wan’Dale Robinson. Within the context of the Giants (largely) anemic offense, they were two of the main driving forces.
Bellinger was the Giants’ best receiving option, catching five passes on five targets for 38 yards and a touchdown. Robinson was close behind him, catching four passes on five targets for 37 yards and a touchdown. Those are hardly inspiring numbers, but they’re enough in the context of the Giants’ anemic offense.
More important than the specific numbers is that Bellinger and Robinson are stepping up for the Giants as rookies. This roster will likely change significantly over the coming years (and what this coaching staff might be able to do when they aren’t at a talent deficit is what is really exciting to me). Having rookies drafted outside the first round step up and contribute right away is a truly excellent development for the Giants.
Fourth down: Who needs wide receivers?
The Giants were without Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, while the Ravens were without Rashod Bateman.
The two teams adapted by featuring offenses that were largely dominated by tight ends. Maybe the most fascinating aspect of this game was how heavily the tight end position figured into the offensive production. All told, the two teams threw 59 passes, completing 36 for 383 yards.
Twenty-three of those pass attempts went to tight ends, with 16 receptions for 195 total yards and two touchdowns. Both teams’ leading pass catcher was a tight end.
Part of this shows how the tight end position is changing in the NFL, how offensive coordinators are becoming more creative in incorporating them into the passing game. It also shows the effect of strength and conditioning, and how more tight ends are just better athletes than they were in the past — gone are the days when a tight end was just an undersized tackle and used as such.
Receivers are still more dangerous offensive weapons than tight ends, but their use in unconventional offensive schemes creates opportunities to attack defenses in ways they aren’t built to defend. Considering how down offense is as a whole around the NFL this year, that’s what matters.
Extra point: A big thank you
I just want to take a moment to say “thank you” to Ed and Nick. As some of you may have noticed, I haven’t been around much this week. My grandmother passed away last week, and I can’t thank Nick and Ed enough for shouldering the load so I could spend the time with my family.