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5 plays that changed the game in Giants’ victory over Tennessee Titans

Let’s check out some of the critical plays from Sunday

New York Giants v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The New York Giants upset the Tennessee Titans, 21-20, in a bold manner on Sunday to start the Brian Daboll era. Here are five plays that define this game.

Play 1: Push the chips in

Brian Daboll is all in. The first-time head coach won his first game with an aggressive approach where he entrusted his players to emerge victorious when all the chips were pushed in. Here’s Daboll in the post game presser:

I love the mindset, the consulting of players, and the analytical decision to go for it on the road. It’s refreshing, and it marks a new era of New York Giants football. Here’s the play:

This concept is a standard call in the Kansas City Chiefs playbook in the red zone. Saquon Barkley is off-set with Richie James (80) in motion; this drags Kevin Byard (31) across the formation, but, more importantly, it expands the read defender - the end man on the line of scrimmage Dylan Cole (53).

Jones rolls to his right as eyes focus on James in the flat with stalk blocking wide receivers in front of him. The Giants pull backside guard Joshua Ezeudu (75) to lead block for Barkley, who patiently waits for the shuffle pass.

Cole expands with Jones’ rollout but notices the play design and closes inside. The space created by the expansion gives Barkley enough time to cut around Cole - who grabs a handful of Barkley’s face mask. Barkley avoids Cole and lowers his shoulder through contact for the 2-point conversion that ultimately won the game. The Kansas City effect pays dividends in Week 1.

Play(s) 2: Barkley is back!

The Giants rightfully relied on their best offensive player. Barkley was the focal point of the Giants game plan, and he must have listened to Avenged Sevenfold before the game because he knew how to Seize the Day.

Barkley also received help from blockers upfront. Rookie third-round pick Joshua Ezeudu (75) uproots Kevin Strong (97) off the COMBO block with Jon Feliciano (76). Barkley uses excellent vision to find the cut-back lane between the rookie and star left tackle Andrew Thomas (78).

Barkley also finds the crease off the backside of Sterling Shepard’s (3) impressive block. He showcases his explosiveness, following his blocks, on the 68-yard run, and on the impressive second-and-7 run late in the fourth quarter. It’s great to see Barkley this confident and comfortable.

Play 3: Jones’ touchdowns

Cornerback Kristian Fulton (26) gets caught looking at Daniel Jones and the backside drag route - Jones and Shepard made him pay. It’s fantastic to see Shepard healthy and thriving. Jones connects on the deep post for a 65-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 13.

Giants’ offensive coordinator Mike Kafka used several WR-insert blocks with the receiver motioning tight to the formation before the snap. Kafka had Shepard as the blocker for most of these plays, and it helped spring several key Barkley runs. On this second-and-goal, Kafka motions David Sills (13) inside to help sell the play-fake right before Sills and tight end Chris Myarick (85) fake block and release outside. Jones rolls out off the play action and finds Myarick for the touchdown. It is great to see Kafka use run looks to really sell the play action fake and set his quarterback up for an easy touchdown.

Play 4: Huge defensive sequence

The Giants’ defense came through in clutch situations throughout the game, but these two plays are two of the unsung efforts that may have helped the Giants win the game.

The Giants were down 13-0, with the Titans receiving the ball out of the half. Derrick Henry (22) rips off a 7-yard run to start the half; a long demoralizing drive would take time off the clock and presumably lead to points for the Titans - that could have been the premature nail in the coffin after the 7-yard gain.

However, two huge plays by the Giants’ defense forced a three-and-out, leading to the Giants’ four-play, 90-yard drive.

On the first play, the Titans fake jet-motion with Treylon Burks (16) and pitch the ball to Henry with lead blockers on a pin-pull concept. Ben Jones (60) has the unenviable task to reach and attempt to swivel around Dexter Lawrence (92). The team captain does a great job keeping his chest clean while hustling down the line of scrimmage to tackle Henry short of the sticks, with impressive help from Oshane Ximines (53).

On the next play - third-and-short - Henry bobbles the wildcat snap, and the Giants aggressively fill their gaps. Tae Crowder (48) does a great job avoiding Aaron Brewer’s (64) blocking attempt, as Austin Calitro (59) flies around the edge as a backside pursuit defender; Tomon Fox (49) also does a great job shedding his block to assist in stopping Henry. This was a great team effort to stop Henry in his tracks and force a very important punt.

Play 5: Defensive vulnerability

Titans’ offensive coordinator Todd Downing made it a point to exploit the Giants linebackers in the red zone. This is a short trend that we should monitor as the season progresses.

Dontrell Hilliard (40) gets isolated against Calitro in a 2x2 reduced stack set, with Hilliard releasing into his vertical to the boundary. The receiver on the line of scrimmage to the play side releases inside to occupy the center field safety, as the second receiving threat in the stack releases outside to remove the cornerback away from the numbers. These routes isolate Calitro in man coverage against Hilliard, who releases with ample space to operate. The running back uses his superior athletic ability to run past Calitro for a vertical touchdown.

The Giants clear out the field side with two vertical routes. With both routes going vertical, it’s on Crowder to match the running back in the flat; he initially works underneath the No.2, and it takes him a bit to realize that Hilliard is open in the flat. Crowder is slow to recognize and can’t locate Hilliard, who waltzes into the end zone. Downing did a great job scheming these two touchdowns up, and I expect to see opposing offensive coordinators attempt to attack Martindale’s man-heavy scheme in a similar manner.