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After further review: Tales from the Giants-Vikings Wild-Card timeline

Looking at some of the noteworthy plays from Giants-Vikings

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - New York Giants v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

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.


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.

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.

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.

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

Brief breakdowns

Here are two quick breakdowns of interesting play designs and executions from Mike Kafka and the Giants' offense:

(ignore my dumb face!)

Other tweets


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.

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.

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

Other tweets

Final thoughts

No words (other than this sentence), just a tweet: