The New York Giants came into their Week 11 game against the Detroit Lions with high hopes.
The Giants were 3-point favorites at home and looking to ride a two-game winning streak into their Thanksgiving evening match-up against the Dallas Cowboys. Advancing to 8-2 on the season could have been huge when heading into a home stretch dominated by divisional games.
Instead, the Giants suffered a disappointing loss to a team they probably should have beaten. Not only did New York slip to 7-3 before heading into the toughest seven-game stretch in the NFL, they were ravaged by injuries.
We have a very quick turnaround before Thursday’s game, but we should probably take a look at the stats and analytics from Sunday’s game to see what went so wrong.
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers
The Giants’ three turnovers were the three biggest plays of the game from an EPA standpoint.
Isaiah Hodgins’ fourth-quarter fumble was the second-biggest play of the game in terms of EPA lost (-5.3 for the Giants’ offense). The Giants were down 12 points at the time, while trying to dig themselves out of a field position hole. Hodgins had just caught a 20-yard reception on a third-and-15 and the Giants went back to him for a 2-yard crossing route on the subsequent 1st down. However, the Lions were playing zone coverage and CB Will Harris closed down and made a good open-field tackle to jar the ball loose. The Lions went on to score the fourth of four rushing touchdowns and put the game fully out of reach.
The Giants’ second interception felt like the “backbreaker” play of the game. With the Giants down 18 in the middle of the third quarter, Daniel Jones dropped back to throw on a fourth down. Unfortunately, the Giants didn’t execute well and the play turned into a disaster. Jones had Lawrence Cager open down the field, but over-threw him and was picked off.
Keeping the offense on the field for a fourth-and-5 at the 40-yard line was a gutsy decision by Brian Daboll, but the conditions, field position, and situation left the Giants without any good options. A failed conversion or missed field goal (very likely given the weather) would have given the Lions the ball on the 40-yard line while a touchback on a punt would have put them on the 20-yard line.
However, a successful conversion could have been the start of a much-needed rally for the Giants.
So Daboll took the aggressive option and it almost paid off. But instead it turned into a disaster. The play was a -3.9 EPA for the Giants’ offense, but only a two-point dip in winning probability — when your odds of winning are at 7 percent, they can only drop so far.
But by far the most consequential play of the game was Aidan Hutchinson’s second quarter interception. It was the biggest play of the game in terms of both EPA (-5.7 for the Giants’ offense) and a 19-point swing in winning percentage. The Giants’ odds of winning dropped from 69 percent all the way down
That play was the momentum shift in the game, and turned it from a game the Giants were likely to win into a true tossup. It stands out on the win probability chart as a true inflection point and the turning point in the game.
The play was made all the more impactful because it was almost immediately followed by a Jamaal Williams touchdown to put the Lions up 10-6. That set the tone for the
What happened to the Giants’ running game?
If the Giants’ three turnovers were the biggest individual reasons for their loss on Sunday, the largest general factor was the Lions’ suffocating the Giants’ running game.
There are a number of reasons why the Giants struggled to run the ball. The play of the respective offensive and defensive fronts, the flow of the game, and injuries all had an effect.
It was a common complaint after the game that the Giants had no answers for the Lions stacking the tackle box against Saquon Barkley. However, per NextGenStats, the Lions only used an 8+ man box against Barkley on one of his 15 carries.
The Giants’ injuries along the offensive line likely had a more significant, and immediate impact. Reserve tackle Tyre Phillips only played 14 snaps before leaving the field with a neck injury, bringing on Matt Peart.
The impact was pretty plain to see in Saquon Barkley’s usage, as well as how Jones ran.
All told, the Giants had three carries for 9 yards behind the right tackle all game long.
Jones’ touchdown came on a “Pin and Pull” play, capping the Giants’ first quarter touchdown drive. That was also the Giants’ 14th play of the game, and the last of Phillips’ day.
Finally, the flow of the game pretty much precluded the running game by the middle of the third quarter.
The Lions quickly put an enormous amount of pressure on the Giants’ offense by bookending halftime with touchdowns. They went from a slim 10-6 lead in the second quarter to a commanding 24-6 lead in the third in the span of about six minutes of game clock. The Giants only ran the ball five times in the second half, three of which came before Jones’ second interception.
With the Giants down by 18 points and time quickly slipping away, the offense was forced to abandon their preferred methodical tempo and throw the ball almost exclusively.
How did the defense play?
The Giants’ offense did not put their defense in a very good position to succeed.
Turnovers and poor play from the Giants’ special teams meant that the Lions enjoyed excellent starting field position in this game. On average, Detroit started on their 40-yard line, as opposed to the Giants, who’s average starting field position was their own 21-yard line. Those 19 hidden yards — as well as the 63 yards the Giants lost to penalties — allowed the Lions to play with a more open playbook with which to attack the Giants’ defense.
The Giants, broadly speaking, didn’t have many answers for the Lions’ offense. They were able to be efficient in the air and on the ground.
The wind and Wink Martindale’s pressure packages did have an effect on Jared Goff. He was consistently forced to take quicker, shorter options and there were times throughout the game where he missed potentially big plays because his process was rushed. We can see the impact of both of those factors in the Lions’ reduced early-down pass effectiveness.
However, the Giants’ pass rush wasn’t able to consistently get close to Goff, and Dexter Lawrence II was once again the Giants’ best defender.
The Giants’ already depleted secondary took a beating in this game, and the results could be seen on the field.
The defense mixed man and zone coverage schemes, but the Lions top receivers were consistently able to generate separation. Amon-Ra St. Brown (7 of 8, 76 yards) averaged 3.58 yards of separation while Khalif Raymond (3 of 7, 33 yards) averaged 3.79 yards of separation.
The Giants’ secondary played better than the stats might show, as they had their hands on a pair of potential interceptions on poor decisions by Goff. However, the Giants weren’t able to take advantage of their opportunity.