The story arc of New York Giants’ quarterback Tommy DeVito took an exultant turn, as the New Jersey product earned his first NFL victory on Sunday. The former Don Bosco quarterback, who is currently sleeping in his childhood home, threw for three touchdowns and 246 yards in the Giants’ 31-19 victory over the Washington Commanders.
New York was 9.5 point underdogs on the road. The Giants were uncompetitive for two consecutive weeks. Discussion about Brian Daboll’s job security was heating up, but all that was seemingly put on hold after Sunday’s win.
DeVito operated the offense well. Daboll and Mike Kafka did a great job isolating mismatches while creating traffic to open up space. Their offensive focal point was Saquon Barkley against the second level defenders of Washington, specifically linebacker Jamin Davis.
The Giants split Barkley out wide and in the slot on 12% of the Giants passing attempts. Barkley did damage on a rail (wheel) concept from the backfield, backfield extemporization, and on the beautifully called running back mesh that resulted in Barkley’s second receiving touchdown.
Barkley’s receiving ability came in handy early and often for the Giants, as DeVito picked up an early third and long conversion to the veteran running back.
Third down success
The Giants were 5 of 14 in third down situations, but most of the converted third downs were timely and eventually led to points. Not the one below, though, albeit picking up the first third down of a game can settle nerves:
On third-and-10, DeVito did an excellent job keeping the play alive. It’s a four-man rush and there’s good protection in front of the young quarterback, who didn’t have a lot of open initial options against this Cover-3 look. Barkley noticed DeVito’s path and ran away from the curl-flat defender, in front of the cleared-out deep third player. With great touch on his pass, DeVito threw a catchable ball to Barkley, who climbed the proverbial ladder and made the catch.
This catch by Saquon Barkley pic.twitter.com/9ctYMvn2RU— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) November 19, 2023
Just an insane grab from Barkley. That wouldn’t be the only deep catch from the running back; but first, one of my favorite DeVito plays from the game.
Beautiful anticipatory throw from Tommy Devito on third-and-thirteen— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) November 20, 2023
The power of the cornicello pic.twitter.com/oQiBmeMqf9
On the Giants’ third drive, they found themselves in a third-and-13 situation after DeVito was sacked on first down. DeVito had Daniel Bellinger (82) wide open for the check down that would have likely ended the drive and forced a punt, or a tough decision from Daboll.
However, from a clean pocket, DeVito did not settle for the check down. He waited patiently for Darius Slayton (86) to get into his break before delivering an anticipatory throw in a tight window that was ajar due to DeVito’s pump fake. With the apex defender on the 39-yard line, DeVito pump faked, which prompted the defender to step toward Bellinger.
That subtle movement by DeVito held the defender just long enough for space between the middle hook defenders to remain open in the Cover-2 defense. This is a technically sound, savvy, play from DeVito, who also delivered a perfectly placed pass that allowed Slayton to secure the first down. On the very next play, this happened:
Saquon Barkley with another touchdown isolated against Jamin Davis in man coverage pic.twitter.com/IIMYEWz0M5— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) November 20, 2023
Kafka took advantage of Barkley against Davis (52) in man coverage with this wheel route. The tempo upon closing width with Davis was excellent and reserved from Barkley; once the running back got Davis close to him, he exploded outside and away from Davis. Great play by Barkley -- one of many in this game.
The throw from DeVito is a pure dime. This ball is placed optimally toward the sideline and away from the safety, who was initially occupied with the seam route toward that side. Everything about this play is great; the protection, the play call, the route, the Barkley burst, and the Jersey juice on this football from DeVito for six.
On third-and-8, the Giants put Danny Johnson (36) in conflict with this sail concept. Johnson has to find a way to mid-point the clear-out and the deep seven, as the curl-flat defender was glued to Barkley. DeVito easily read the play and delivered an 11-yard strike for a first down. A few plays later, on third-and-1, the Giants opt to run a play-action leak pass that resulted in Darius Slayton’s touchdown. Here’s that play:
What a move by Darius Slayton at the end of this play to get himself in the end zone for his first touchdown of the season.— Anthony Rivardo (@Anthony_Rivardo) November 19, 2023
Slayton is a good player. He hasn’t been given many opportunities this season, but he can be a playmaker.
Also, Tommy DeVito is balling. #NYGiants pic.twitter.com/izABY9crmh
Then we had this beautiful third-and-5 touchdown pass to Barkley, his second touchdown reception of the game:
Tommy DeVito to Saquon Barkley for a 5-yard touchdown pass.— Doug Rush (@TheDougRush) November 19, 2023
Saquon’s second receiving TD today, Tommy DeVito’s 3rd touchdown pass today.pic.twitter.com/aaLc90j9Sf
Great call by the #Giants— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) November 20, 2023
Mesh at the 5...work Barkley underneath Hodgins and Campbell to force 52 to work over top the traffic
31 saw this, but a well placed Devito pass to the outside helped SB score his 2nd TD
Create traffic, create space, create confusion, create points pic.twitter.com/xCVghETuty
The Giants call a running back mesh play with Barkley off-set to the boundary against Washington, which ran plenty of man coverage in third-and-short situations. The Giants ran Isaiah Hodgins (18) and Parris Campbell (0) toward the middle of the field, creating the necessary traffic for Davis and Cameron Kurl (31); the former flowed over the top of the traffic, while the latter did an exceptional job to position himself in defense.
DeVito, however, threw an elite pass to the outside to maximize Barkley’s ability to get into the end zone. He also changed his arm angle on the play to perfectly fit this football into place. This pass isn’t as glorious as some of the others in this game, but it was impressive.
The Giants surrendered nine sacks against the Commanders. On the surface, that reflects poorly on an offensive line that’s rightfully maligned through much of the season. However, the Giants’ protection in Week 11 is better than what we witnessed in the beginning of the season. Nine sacks is a lot, but many of those sacks can be attributed to DeVito, who played well on Sunday, but was not faultless. Here all nine of the sacks suffered by the Giants:
Emmanuel Forbes with the Mortal Kombat move in an attempt to sack Devito pic.twitter.com/cKykOHlfjw— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) November 20, 2023
The protection was solid for most of these sacks. DeVito held onto the football a bit too long, tried to escape, and was eventually sacked. The play directly above was a double corner blitz off play action where Emmanuel Forbes blatantly attempted to trip DeVito. It was not called, and the young quarterback was sacked.
This is to be expected, though, from a rookie undrafted quarterback. What isn’t necessarily expected is that same rookie undrafted quarterback efficiently operating a quick rhythmic passing attack on an offense that has struggled all season, to say the least.
DeVito became the first Giants quarterback in team history to throw five touchdown passes in his first two starts. He’s the first Giants’ quarterback to throw three touchdown passes in a game since Daniel Jones’ 2019 rookie season, when he threw five in Week 15 against Washington. Who expected that?
Quick passing attack
There are several reasons to applaud Daboll and Kafka for their offensive game-plan against Washington. The Giants were not shy to punish the run oriented approach of Washington’s defense. They Giants passed on 65% of their first down plays, and passed on a third of their second-and-short plays.
The trust bestowed to DeVito by the Giants coaching staff can’t be understated. Washington defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio predictably played the safeties tight to the line of scrimmage and basically asked DeVito to beat him -- DeVito did.
It wasn’t just the explosive pass plays, of which the Giants had six through the air. DeVito was able to to attack off-leverage when it presented itself, and the timely play calling of Kafka allowed DeVito to establish a rhythmic passing attack.
First-and-10 three step drop against a defender with inside leverage. DeVito quickly saw the defense, noticed the leverage, and knew Isaiah Hodgins would be open for a six yard gain agianst Washington’s Cover-3 defense. The curl-flat defender - who naturally has plenty of distance to cover - was occupied with Barkley, which also gave more space for the completion to Hodgins.
Another first-and-10 with a similar concept against another Cover-3 defensive look. Jalin Hyatt (13) ate into the leverage and quickly turned outside the numbers with plenty of space between the defender and the sideline. DeVito hit his back foot and found Hyatt with a low pass that picked up 7 yards.
Another first-and-10 pass with a Wan’Dale Robinson (17) Jet-motion that sat near the sideline to the boundary to set up his 21-yard completion. Robinson does a lot of the work, but DeVito delivered an accurate pass to the outside shoulder, which allowed the second year wide receiver to spin out of a tackle for 16 more yards. Good timing, good rhythm, good play by the Giants.
The Giants continued with their offensive focal point known as the receiver Barkley. Kafka aligned Barkley outside the numbers in an empty formation before calling a quick slant underneath a slot fade route. Davis struggled mightily all season against Barkley in coverage; this slant went for 7 yards on first-and-10.
Was DeVito perfect on Sunday? No. Was he accurate with every pass? No. Did he accomplish a feat that a Giants quarterback was unable to achieve since prior to the pandemic? Yes.
DeVito, an undrafted local kid living with his parents, consuming chicken parmesan subs with vodka sauce, led the Giants to a rare 2023 victory when they were 9.5-point road underdogs. That’s a story arc we can all appreciate.