“The New York Giants don’t make sense.”
That’s a perfect description of the 5-1 Giants, a team that won four games last season, has five consecutive double-digit loss seasons and is realistically at the beginning of a rebuild process with a first-year GM and head coach.
It’s also not mine. It comes from Pro Football Network in PFN’s Week 7 power rankings.
The Giants have trailed in every game so far this season. Four of their five victories have included second-half comebacks, three of those in the closing minutes. They are 3-1 in games during which they have trailed by double digits.
A first glance at statistical data doesn’t reveal the Giants to be a team worthy of a 5-1 record. Here are some of the numbers:
- The Giants are 25th in yards per game (317.3).
- They are 31st in passing yards per game (154.3).
- The Giants are 31st in sacks allowed per pass attempt (11.73 percent).
- They are 18th in the league in points per game (21.2).
- The Giants are 28th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (144.8) and last in rushing yards allowed per pay (5.61).
- They are 29th in interception rate (0.54 percent).
- Pro Football Focus grades the Giants No. 22 in offense and No. 27 in defense.
- Football Outsiders has the Giants at No. 18 in its DVOA statistic, -3.0 percent below league. average.
There are, though, some critical numbers that favor the Giants. Some of them are:
- The Giants are fourth in the league in rushing yards per game (163.0).
- They are +2 in takeaway/giveaway ratio.
- The Giants are fifth in the league in time of possession (31:15).
- The Giants are top half of the league (14th) in red zone scoring (58.82 percent).
- Defensively, the Giants are fourth in the league in third-down defense (32.39 percent conversions allowed), fifth in the red zone (40.0 percent), and 11th in goal to go situations (66.67 percent).
- Overall, the Giants are seventh in the league in points allowed per game (18.8).
Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens was a microcosm. Baltimore outgained the Giants 406 yards to 238 and held a 10-point fourth-quarter lead. A team with a former MVP at quarterback and a winning pedigree should have been able to close that game out. Yet, it was the Giants who played with poise and resilience and game the game-winning plays over the final minutes.
What are some of the reasons for the team’s surprising success? Let’s touch on a few.
For many coaches and teams, resilience, next man up, playing 60 minutes, being tough, smart, dependable are just words. They are said because they are in the ‘How to talk to the media’ coaches’ handbook. For the Giants, though, they have been reality during the first six games.
The Giants have been outscored 64-40 in the first half this season. They have only led once at halftime. In the second half? The Giants have outscored their opponents 87-49. The only game in which they were outscored over the final two quarters was the game they lost to the Dallas Cowboys.
“It’s something we’ve preached since day one – since we’ve been here: coaches, people in the building. This league is hard. It’s not always going to be perfect. There will be a lot of people down on you. And you might be down on yourself, wish you could do better. But you keep on getting back up. You keep on swinging, keep on competing, regardless of the score or the situation of the game,” Daboll said. “And that’s not easy to do, right? That’s not easy to do when you’re down. If you sit on the bench and start bitching and complaining, that’s easy to do. It’s hard to stick with it and get ready to play the next series and not worry about if you just got beat on a pass or if you got sacked. You’ve got to flush it pretty quick. Dr. Lani (Lawrence) does a great job – our team psychologist – of talking to the team. And I think our guys, each week we get a little bit better. We know we’re a long way away. (It’s the) early part of the season. But we just try to compete and do the best job we can.”
Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post pointed out this week that the Giants have been scored on eight times in the last two games. On six of those occasions, they have answered with a score of their own.
“You can’t focus on the scoreboard or what’s happening with the other side of the ball either way or in the kicking game. You have to go out there and be prepared and ready to go and execute,” Daboll said. “Those guys, along with (offensive coordinator Mike) Kafka calling the plays, have done a good job with that.”
Efficiency where it matters
The statistics above show that the Giants are not a juggernaut in any way, shape, or form. They have been efficient where it matters — running the ball, controlling the clock, scoring when they have had the opportunity, winning the turnover battle, getting off the field on third down and playing good defense in the red zone.
“Even though it might not be the flashy — Saquon (Barkley) ran for 200, (Daniel Jones) DJ ran for 400 and threw four and I had 10 (catches) for 150 – we’ve been effective in the areas the areas that you need to be effective to win football games,” wide receiver Darius Slayton said on Monday.
“I think you just develop your team as you go and do what you need to do to try and win each week,” said head coach Brian Daboll. “Whether that’s hand it off a bunch, (or) whether that’s throw it a bunch. We’ve been heavy on the run side, but I don’t think about it as it’s a pass offense or run offense. I just think each week there’s things you need to try to do to win the game and that’s what we’ll try to do.”
Barkley, of course, is the lynchpin of the offense and is having a terrific season, leading the league in total yards from scrimmage with 771. He has been spectacular.
The Giants are also getting efficient, though unspectacular play from quarterback Daniel Jones.
Leaders in EPA per dropback over the last three weeks:— Austin Gayle (@austingayle_) October 18, 2022
Daniel Jones - 0.32
Josh Allen - 0.31
Patrick Mahomes - 0.26
Jones is completing a career-best 67.3 percent of his passes, even while averaging a career-low 170.2 yards passing per game. He has a career-best interception percentage of 1.3, and has just four total turnovers. He is making big throws at big times and averaging a career-high 39.3 yards rushing per game. He has led four game-winning drives and three fourth-quarter comebacks.
The kids are alright
No. 5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux made a game-changing play Sunday. No. 7 overall Evan Neal is starting at right tackle and getting better week by week. Second-round pick Wan’Dale Robinson contributed a touchdown and three overall receptions Sunday. Tight end Daniel Bellinger is playing an increasingly large role in the offense each week. Fourth-round pick Dane Belton is contributing heavily on defense and even undrafted free agent edge defender Tomon Fox has been on the field at key moments.
“We try to put the best guys out there that we think can help us win,” Daboll said. “Those guys have certainly earned the right to play. Whether you’re a rookie or a 10-year vet, what we try to do is give the opportunities to the guys that have earned them. Again, I think that obviously playing young players – that helps in the long run.”
The Giants are not supposed to have a ton of depth. Maybe they actually don’t. Yet, they are getting contributions from a great many unlikely sources this season.
Oshane Ximines was not even expected to make the team. Yet, he has been a big part of victories over Tennessee, Carolina and Green Bay.
Jaylon Smith wasn’t on the team at the start of the season, but is now a starting inside linebacker. Same with starting cornerback Fabian Moreau.
Backup cornerbacks Nick McCloud and Justin Layne made big plays in the victory over Green Bay.
An unheralded group of receivers including Richie James, David Sills, Marcus Johnson and Darius Slayton are taking advantage of opportunities.
Players like guard Ben Bredeson and tight end Tanner Hudson are adequately handling big roles.
Is all of this sustainable? I don’t know. Does 5-1 mean the playoffs are guaranteed? Absolutely not. Should you be enjoying this? Absolutely.