In some ways, this game mirrored their six wins to start the season. However, the Giants had uncharacteristic breakdowns in discipline and execution from which they couldn’t recover at the end of the game.
There are a few things we could talk about with the Giants’ defense. They did their job for three quarters and had the game tied 13-13 going into the fourth quarter. However, the real stories are on the offensive side of the ball. The Giants struggled to get much going on offense, and saw little success through the air or on the ground — at least when they weren’t faced with third downs.
So what does a deeper look at the stats from the game tell us about the Giants’ game against the Seahawks?
Getting loose on offense
The Giants offense has been best described as “enough” this year. The Giants wouldn’t have been confused with an offensive dynamo, but have been able to do enough to give their defense a lead to protect at the end of the game.
Against the Seahawks, however, the Giants offense just couldn’t get much of anything going. They finished with 147 yards through the air and 78 yards on the ground for just 225 total yards on the game. That’s about 110 yards short of their average over the previous seven games. There was no one reason why the Giants struggled so much on offense, so let’s take a look at a few reasons why they struggled.
What went wrong with the running game?
This was the Giants’ worst rushing performance of the season. It didn’t seem to matter what the Giants tried, they couldn’t get their ground game going in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed.
Saquon Barkley carried the ball 20 times, but only managed 53 rushing yards on the day (2.7 per carry). He had a couple off-tackle runs that made it to the second level, but the Seahawks’ interior run defense was both stout and disciplined.
Barkley had very little running room for most of the game. NextGenStats has Barkley as one of the more efficient runners in the NFL this year, averaging 3.52 yards run behind the line of scrimmage, just ahead of Nick Chubb at 3.53 yards.
This game, however, Barkley averaged nearly twice as much time behind the line of scrimmage this week. He averaged 6.14 yards behind the line of scrimmage, which was the second-most through Sunday Night Football. Much of Barkley’s success this year has been due to a willingness to run more behind his pads, but Sunday he found himself having to try to out-athlete defenders. That said, the Seahawks didn’t sell out to stop the run, either. Barkley saw 8+ man boxes on four of his carries (20 percent, per NextGenStats).
Daniel Jones’ scrambling
The other big factor in the Giants’ offense has been Daniel Jones’ legs. Between designed quarterback runs, read-option runs, and scrambles, Jones has picked up 363 rushing yards. His 45.4 yards per game is, by far, the most of his career.
The Seahawks remained disciplined and didn’t bite on the Giants’ misdirection. Jones struggled to find running room, picking up just 20 yards with a long run of 6 yards.
Jones runs, and the threat of them, have served to slow defenses down. They introduce confusion and indecision, which Barkley and the Giants’ underneath receivers have benefitted off of. As mentioned above, the Seahawks defense was more disciplined that the other defenses the Giants have seen this season, and didn’t over-react to mesh points in the Giants’ backfield. That left defenders in position to guard Jones, keeping him in the backfield and not letting him pick up yardage with his legs.
However, with the threat of a quarterback run largely contained, the Seahawks were able to play faster and much more effectively rally to the ball.
What about through the air?
The Giants obviously have issues throwing the ball and they still have the second lowest passing yards of any team to play 8 games this year. For the most part, they’ve been able to work around their limitations. But this week the problems showed up without the running game to pick up the slack.
The Giants didn’t add much to their total passing yardage with just 147 yards through the air against Seattle.
Daniel Jones had some of his best moments of the season in this game, which largely came when trying to convert long 3rd downs. Jones had an average depth of target of 7.9 yards downfield, his best mark of the season. Per NextGenStats, his intended air yardage with 8.3 yards downfield.
However, he only averaged 5.68 yards per attempt and 4.6 completed air yards. So despite the willingness (or perhaps necessity) to look further downfield, the Giants still had to settle for the short-range offense they’ve had all season long. But despite the short passes, Jones had the second-longest time to throw of any quarterback, with his 3.34 seconds to throw only trailing the Jets’ Zach Wilson.
Jones also lead the NFL in aggressiveness, throwing into coverage on 32.3 percent of the time on Sunday. That likely had something to do with Jones completing just 54.8 percent of his passes, 8.3 points below his expected completion percentage of 63.1.
Note: NextGenStats defines a covered player as a receiver who is within a yard of a defender.
Their receiving corps is thin and doesn’t stack up well to the rest of the NFL. They were also without one of their most dependable options in TE Daniel Bellinger.
The Giants pass catchers simply struggled to get open, with the notable exceptions of David Sills V and Tanner Hudson.
Darius Slayton was the Giants’ best receiver, but his 1.71 average yards of separation was the third-worst in the NFL through Sunday. Slayton has been one of the worst-separating receivers in the NFL, and his average on Sunday was right in line with his average of 1.7 yards on the season. As you might have guessed, Marcus Johnson’s average separation of 0.83 yards was the worst among receivers who saw enough targets to be ranked by NextGenStats.
The Giants’ receiving corps is light on natural separators, but Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka have done a good job of scheming open looks for Daniel Jones. This week the Giants came up against a disciplined defense that’s adept at dealing with RPO-based offenses. They did a good job of converting third and longs through the air (they converted six of 16 third downs). However, the Seahawks’ discipline and the Giants’ inability to move them out of position largely prevented New York from getting much going with any consistency.