These types of come-from-behind losses follow a similar script. The Giants intercepted Lions quarterback Nate Sudfeld on the very first play of the game; with excellent field position, the Giants only managed three points, as the offense picked up just two yards on three plays.
On the Lions’ next offensive drive, safety Jason Pinnock - who intercepted Sudfeld four plays prior - knocked a fourth-and-1 pass away for a turnover on downs. The Giants' offense started on Detroit’s 32-yard-line but still only managed three points.
The Giants' defense gifted their offense with incredible field position and an opportunity to seize a 14-point lead, but penalties and poor execution led to just two field goals. A propitious start was wasted, and head coach Brian Daboll was hotter than Phoenix in July.
Daboll’s ascending blood pressure would further escalate early in the second half for reasons too familiar for Giants fans.
Play 1: Special teams ... again
For more than a decade now, it seems like the Giants' special teams have been less than desirable. That could be harsh, but between muffed punts, inconsistent punt location, and poor coverage, the Giants have not consistently won the third phase of football. Luckily, Graham Gano is a very good kicker (knock on wood), but that didn’t help the Giants when Jamie Gillan punted the football to return specialist Maurice Alexander on fourth-and-22.
WATCH: Former @USFLStars WR Maurice Alexander with a 95 yard punt return touchdown for the Detroit Lions.— James Larsen (@JamesLarsenPFN) August 12, 2023
Spring football works, folks. Alexander has been with the Lions since last season, and is proving himself early this preseason. #USFL pic.twitter.com/3aLVXluYZh
I would list all the names, but it’s several missed tackles. This play was the turning point in the game after the Giants positioned themselves well in the first half. It also prompted a seething glare from Daboll to special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey. It’s only preseason but plays like this are unacceptable and must be rectified.
Brian Daboll’s at Giants special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey after that 94-yard punt return for a TD by the Lions. pic.twitter.com/PWEo5Bk9yL— Ralph Vacchiano (@RalphVacchiano) August 12, 2023
Play 2: Jason Pinnock, starting safety?
There are several takeaways from the Giants’ first preseason game, but one training camp narrative that may have been substantiated was Pinnock’s rise on the depth chart. It went beyond this...
Pinnock had three noticeable reps on his first five plays. The interception, while the most impactful, was the least impressive play that Pinnock made out of the five.
Tomon Fox with the double swipe move before he hit the QB and forced a bad ball that was intercepted by Jason Pinnock— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) August 11, 2023
First play, what a way to start the season pic.twitter.com/dy1MM5r8V3
Pinnock was in the right place at the right time, but he did read Lions quarterback Nate Sudfeld well, coming from depth to undercut the pass to wide receiver Jameson Williams (9). However, Tomon Fox (49) deserves much of the credit for this play. Fox, who is currently in a battle for the third pass rusher role, used a double-swipe move to shed the tackle’s contact to get hip-to-hip before bending the corner and hitting Sudfeld as he threw the ball.
On the Lions’ next possession, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale sent a six-man pressure at a condensed formation with Pinnock and Micah McFadden (41) looping to the boundary side. No one picked Pinnock up, and the young safety tackled Jahmyr Gibbs (26) for a loss of yards. On the same drive, the Lions decided to go for it on fourth-and-1, and Pinnock made another huge play.
Off play-action, 12-personnel, Pinnock carried the cross from athletic rookie Sam LaPorta; Pinnock was able to harass the talented tight end and force an incomplete pass and a turnover on downs.
There are several plays that could have earned the second spot here, but meaningful snaps from possible significant contributors like Pinnock and Tomon Fox sufficed.
Play 3: Turnover into touchdown (finally)
As I already stated, this was an issue for the Giants early in the game. However, on their third opportunity, the Giants were able to capitalize and turn an ill-advised Sudfeld pass into six of their own points. Here’s the defensive part of that, headlined by second-year safety Dane Belton.
On the very next play, a Don Bosco connection was reignited as quarterback Tommy DeVito found Tommy Sweeney up the seam for a touchdown.
Double Tommy touchdown— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) August 12, 2023
Tommy Devito found Tommy Sweeney on the 12 personnel double-Y seams to the boundary...Devito hit Sweeney on the inner seam directly after Dane Belton's interception pic.twitter.com/kjXRqhjAfk
Play 4: Another UDFA edge contributor?
The edge defender depth is a concern for the New York Giants as they head into the regular season. Not only did Fox make plays, but Pitt UDFA Habakkuk Baldonado was solid throughout the game. Earlier in the affair, he had a bull rush that led to a pressure; strength and maximizing length are two things the Italian possesses.
Above, he sacked Adrian Martinez as the mobile young quarterback attempted to evade the pocket. On the previous play, Baldonado sacked Martinez but was flagged for ‘roughing the passer.’
Pitt UDFA Habakkuk Baldonado with the preseason sack that was flagged for 'roughing the passer'— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) August 12, 2023
He's had a good game from the broadcast angle so far...does well to turn through the OT's inside shoulder and hit the QB...just a bit too hard though pic.twitter.com/xL68VSJ057
He’s not the quickest or most explosive edge rusher. Still, he’s smart, instinctual with his movements, and his 10.5-inch hands carry pop-on contact. Baldonado may or may not make the initial 53-man roster, but he’s a good rotational player on the practice squad with solid intangibles. He had a good showing on Friday.
Play 5: Flott in the slot
Flott is initially beaten on this play; it’s a 3x1 double-in with the number two running a corner route versus man coverage (Flott). It’s not an easy task for the second-year LSU Tiger, but Lions’ wide receiver Dylan Drummond (83) had a step on Flott. Sudfeld’s ball placement was poor, which allowed Flott to play through the catch point and force the incomplete pass.
I put this play here not just due to Flott’s success in favorable circumstances, but it was also a huge moment on fourth-and-goal. Also, I do appreciate Flott’s effort in the play and wish him well, for he left the game with an abdominal injury, ostensibly due to this rep.