For the first time since Super Bowl XLVI, the New York Giants have won a playoff game. Big Blue marched into Minneapolis and achieved retribution for their Christmas Eve loss, defeating the Minnesota Vikings 31-24, with quarterback Daniel Jones becoming the first player in playoff history to throw for more than 300 yards with two passing touchdowns and over 70 yards rushing.
Over the last few weeks, we at Big Blue View have assembled tweets from the timeline, an amalgamation of my tweets analyzing the Giants' victory over Minnesota. Here are those tweets.
Isaiah Hodgins deserves respect.— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 16, 2023
This is such a smart play to work into Kendricks' blindspot to influence the defender inward, which created a throwing window for Jones rolling right
Hodgins broke into the void and picked up 32 yards on the play
Smart☑️, Tough☑️, Dependable☑️ pic.twitter.com/K5JfzGmSfi
This 32-yard completion to Isaiah Hodgins early in the third quarter is an excellent example of how Hodgins is so smart as a route runner. The Giants motion from a boundary BUNCH to mirrored stacks; Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell adjusted his defense to push Saquon Barkley’s flare to the apex defender aligned to the field side stack.
This forced linebacker Eric Kendricks to flow outside the hashes to cover the curl/flat area. Hodgins noticed the restricted space and worked into Kendricks’ blind spot, giving the illusion that he was breaking over the middle of the field. Kendricks reacted by shifting inside, but it was a ruse by Hodgins, who then expanded outside toward the numbers into a voided space left by the cornerback, who pushed to the sideline to match the running back.
It was an excellent adjustment by Hodgins but also a great play by Jones to feel the rushing lane (which was there all game), press it along the line of scrimmage, and give Hodgins a chance to uncover.
2nd & 7: Great job by Jones to not throw this football to James at No. 2— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 16, 2023
DJ has made this mistake in the past...Vikings run C2 w/ outside CB reading the release of No. 2 WR
Apex assumed inside pos on RJ, setting the trap, SAF worked over the top
DJ read it and rushed for 5 yds pic.twitter.com/BlDipyjPYa
Against a Cover-2 defense where the outside cornerback is reading the release of the No. 2 wide receiver, Jones opted not to throw to his pre-snap read, which was the correct move based on the defender’s post-snap movement/leverage. In the past, Jones has thrown receivers into contact as the flat defender sat in place on a TRAP type of coverage. Here’s one instance of that at the top of the screen against Indianapolis:
The apex defender plays inside leverage over the No. 2, giving Jones the impression that an out route will be open if the outside vertical removes the defender, but that’s exactly what the defense wants Jones’ to think. We see how Jones threw Hodgins into contact as the Colts’ defensive back cut down the out route. It’s a similar type of concept that was detailed well by former NFL DB Matt Bowen in a 2015 Bleacher Report article:
The Vikings were more in a two-high look, but the essence of the cornerback jumping the No. 2 and passing the No. 1 off to the free safety working hard outside the numbers is the same concept.
However, Jones learned from that mistake against the Colts; he didn’t take the shot into the honey hole, but he found rushing room up front and picked up five yards with his legs instead of throwing Richie James into a big hit or possibly an interception.
Kafka dialed up a SG TE Leak (drag & up, w/ no PA) to former WR Lawrence Cager— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 16, 2023
11 Personnel w/ Speed: Cager at Y, Marcus Johnson as No. 2, Slayton as the No. 1, Hodgins as boundary No. 1
Vikings jump offside...Jones diagnosed man coverage and used his legs to pick up 14 yds pic.twitter.com/Sg51LqPtWR
Jones diagnosed man coverage and picked up 14 yards with his legs after Za’Darius Smith jumped offside. The presence of Lawrence Cager allowed the Giants to run some more dynamic tight-end plays from the “Y” position. Kafka dialed up a TE Leak play where Cager - a former NFL wide receiver - runs an out an up to the field side with two clear out routes.
The TE Leak is a Kyle Shanahan special. It’s typically run-off play action with a rollout element to force hard defensive flow. The Giants ran it out of shotgun, so that element was not a part of the play design. Still, the route isolated a linebacker against the athletic Cager and theoretically could lead to an explosive play. I like the concept and the idea, but Jones did well to pick up a first down with his legs.
Barkley's 1st rushing TD— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 16, 2023
21 personnel, jet-motion, Crack Toss to the open side of the formation
(jet-motion forced 22 to rotate into box post-snap)
Excellent playside blocking with reduced WR Hodgins blocking an EDGE
Great job by Barkley to navigate through blocks for 6 pic.twitter.com/wYLPA0kiKv
The Giants used 21 personnel (2 RB/1 TE) on 20.6 percent of their offensive snaps. The utilization led to a diverse rushing attack that consisted of a statue of liberty run, a wing-back power hand-off, an end around to Darius Slayton, and this crack toss touchdown scamper by Barkley.
New York kept Minnesota on its toes when Matt Breida entered the game with Barkley. On the Giants' first touchdown, Andrew Thomas and Jon Feliciano kick outside, where Isaiah Hodgins is blocking edge defender DJ Wonnum. Here’s another Matt Bowen special from a 2014 article on Bleacher Report:
The cornerback did not travel with the jet motion of Breida, but the linebackers shifted and played the rollout to the closed side - this was an open-side (weak side) field toss to Barkley, which meant there was one less blocker to the play side with Daniel Bellinger to the boundary. The numbers to the boundary drew the attention of the Vikings’ second-level defenders and effectively removed them from the play.
Barkley showed exceptional patience to wait for the blocks to develop and then incredible conviction and burst to explode through the narrow hole before accelerating for a touchdown.
Here is Barkley’s second touchdown rush. Yeah, the one where the 235-pound running back runs through a 325-pound defensive lineman for the touchdown on an HB-Dive play. Giants fans know full well how talented Dalvin Tomlinson is as a player. He’s exceptional at using leverage to maximize his incredible strength, but damn, did Barkley get the best of him on this play.
Some other 21 personnel runs
21 Personnel fake HB-Pitch Wingback Power w/ Nick Gates pancaking Hunter on the kick-out block— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 16, 2023
Both LBs were removed by Barkley fake and Bellinger motion pic.twitter.com/LYMWmPKLbE
After showing jet-motion all game out of 21 personnel, the #Giants finally hand the football to the WB on the jet-sweep— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 16, 2023
The defense was not fooled, but Breida did an excellent job picking up the first down on 3rd & 1 pic.twitter.com/0pDfdXlZYM
Here are two quick breakdowns of interesting play designs and executions from Mike Kafka and the Giants' offense:
This play is microcosm of the brilliance displayed from Mike Kafka and Brian Daboll: a 3rd & 3 24 yard pass to Barkley— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 16, 2023
This coaching staff consistently adjusts and puts their players into an advantageous situation. pic.twitter.com/I7fqZ77zqc
(ignore my dumb face!)
2x2 Dbl stack in PONY personnel (21)— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 16, 2023
Isaiah Hodgins cleanly won out of his break on the corner route to create separation for Daniel Jones on this 19 yard gain early in the 4th Quarter pic.twitter.com/bNjglQCyIh
The #Giants love the Double Cross w/ the drag underneath that creates a Hi-Lo over the middle of the field from a boundary stack— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 16, 2023
MOF cleared out by backside Cross and flare from the backfield pic.twitter.com/d7xzxK8nk8
Using tempo in 21 personnel, Daniel Jones fires a strike w/ good ball placement from the far-hash to Slayton after scanning the full field and taking the 1v1 shot— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 16, 2023
Good job by the Giants protection holding up pic.twitter.com/6w9FZb29kV
Kenny Golladay eliminated his blocking assignment on the outside to allow Saquon Barkley to pick up the first down. pic.twitter.com/SmJSJN1BsP— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 16, 2023
Daniel Bellinger made Za'Darius Smith miss his cut on the zone-read keeper by Jones— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 16, 2023
Bellinger then executed a key block along with Isaiah Hodgins to allow Jones to cut-back inside for a first down pic.twitter.com/c1C8hrsnO0
Mark Glowinski Traped Harrison Phillips (97) to spring Barkley's 16 yd Pistol rush— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 16, 2023
Great spin-off Harrison Smith (22) as well...key plays on two Harrisons from the #Giants...not all that relevant but a fun observation pic.twitter.com/WpjeFRZriD
Evan Neal as a lead blocker with a head of steam is fun to watch pic.twitter.com/MLhmXs01F3— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 16, 2023
On a 3rd & 8 - second to last offensive snap fro MIN - rookie CB Cor'Dale Flott did an excellent job playing through the catch point and forcing an INC against KJ Osbourn— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 16, 2023
Flott was aligned in outside leverage and was able to successfully force a PBU in Man on a crosser pic.twitter.com/58X398NXNa
Wink Martindale completely deviated from his normal identity and philosophy. After blitzing at a league-high 43.9 percent of snaps during the regular season, Martindale only sent more than four 22.5 percent of the time. Furthermore, the Giants played a lot more split-safety looks to mitigate the explosive nature of the Vikings’ offense.
Martindale’s defense ran Quarters on 48.2 percent of the snaps vs. Minnesota; they averaged 15.9 percent on the season. The Giants only ran Cover 1 10.7 percent of the time against the Vikings; they averaged 29.2 percent on the season, ranking them second-most in the league.
I bring these statistics up to dispel any notion that Martindale isn’t adaptable as a coach but also to highlight the tweet above. On the final Vikings drive, Martindale called Cover 1 and rookie cornerback Cor’Dale Flott played one of his first snaps of the game. Flott aligned across from KJ Osbourn and carried his horizontal crossing route while the Giants buzzed Julian Love over the middle to assume responsibility on Justin Jefferson with Adoree’ Jackson high and outside of the talented wide receiver.
Flott was in a big spot, and he did not flop. He helped force an incomplete pass on a throw that was catchable but a bit inside. Still, it was a huge moment on a third-and-8 before the Giants went back to Cover 1, where Xavier McKinney stuck to T.J. Hockenson’s flat route well, with Dexter Lawrence just bullying the interior offensive line of Minnesota.
Xavier McKinney did an excellent job positioning himself inside of the deep post vs. Justin Jefferson in Quarters coverage— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 17, 2023
Great rep by McKinney pic.twitter.com/ZmfZxAsOCz
The Giants transition to a more Quarters-based attack was handled well by the defense. The team passed routes off well, and they were playing in a cohesive manner. The return of Xavier McKinney is a primary reason for the smooth transition between schematic approaches. We see how effortless it looks as he positions himself inside of the deep post route against Justin Jefferson.
Great job by Kevin O'Connell here— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 17, 2023
The only time the #Giants went into BASE personnel was against 21 (2 RBs/1 TE)...Giants also used a ton of Split-Safety looks
KOC knew that and ran a Post-Wheel with LB Jarrad Davis over the No. 2 (Thielen)
Post cleared deep - wheel wide open pic.twitter.com/ij6PokPEDC
Some of Kevin O’Connell’s successful plays came when he employed a 21-personnel package; that, and the one time the Vikings used 22 personnel, was the only time Martindale used his BASE personnel, which was exploited by the Vikings on the play above. Jarrad Davis was mismatched against Adam Thielen; an easy post-wheel cleared the space necessary for the Vikings to create an explosive play.
The Dex effect
Per usual, Dexter Lawrence wasn't only a dominant pass rusher but a force vs. the run as well.— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 16, 2023
An unreal season for Dex. pic.twitter.com/qz9DNLYoL0
Dexter Lawrence: A Center's Nightmare pic.twitter.com/YpEHo76bpw— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 17, 2023
Dexter Lawrence is tackled on this 2nd & 9 play to cause a holding penalty pic.twitter.com/dQDUbuTCLw— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 17, 2023
Dexter Lawrence is an anomaly— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 17, 2023
345 pound nose tackles playing 50+ snaps in a game don't rush the passer like this late in the 4th Quarter
Here are the #Giants last three plays on defense...the 1st and 3rd clips are true testaments to Lawrence's unique greatness pic.twitter.com/DiLbaBxCRl
Leonard Williams quickly shed the OG with a violent swim move to pressure Kirk Cousins pic.twitter.com/1VrcYYPORr— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 17, 2023
One of the low-key huge plays in the game was a 2nd & 13 where Tony Jefferson swung Cook around, which eventually lead to Cook losing his balance— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 17, 2023
If Cook maintained his balance, this may have went for six
A few plays later, MIN committed a 4th down false start, leading to FG pic.twitter.com/ZRITAkx4Tg
Kayvon Thibodeaux did an excellent job hustling toward TJ Hockenson on this 2nd & 14 TE screen on the three-and-out late in the 4th Quarter— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 17, 2023
Great job by the rookie pic.twitter.com/eVWUj9fEQh
Adoree Jackson playing high and outside on Justin Jefferson...smooth transition for Jackson once Jefferson breaks to the outside.— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 17, 2023
Jackson displayed exceptional body control in coverage from a variety of different leverages against MIN pic.twitter.com/QUdannuvoP
Solid initial job by both #Giants LBs to present their chest in their gap assignments to force Cook to cutback into Leonard Williams— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 17, 2023
Nice job by Smith staying square in the B-Gap to force the hesitation pic.twitter.com/kTHrf8xqZN
No words (other than this sentence), just a tweet: