Dec 192016
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 18, 2016)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 17 – Detroit Lions 6

Overview

This was an impressive win against one of the NFL’s better teams. It was a matter-of-fact, business-like effort that was reminiscent of the Giants teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The offense was unspectacular but efficient. The defense was smothering and opportunistic. Special teams helped the defense by pinning the Lions offense deep in their territory. There weren’t a ton of highlights, but at the end of the day, the Giants tallied yet another victory – their eighth in nine games.

Giants on Offense

Statistically, the offensive performance was not much better than the dreadful performance against the Cowboys as New York only accrued 17 points (up from 10), 17 first downs (up from 12), and 300 total net yards (up from 260), averaging 4.8 yards per offensive play. But the offense was far more efficient, being 7-of-15 (47 percent) on 3rd down conversions and 2-for-2 (100 percent) in red zone opportunities. And the Giants did not turn the ball over. Offensively, the New York was flagged just twice.

The big change in the last two weeks has been the commitment to the run. Last week, the Giants literally ran the ball on half of their offensive snaps. This week, 32 of New York’s 62 offensive snaps were running plays – or slightly MORE than half. Against the Cowboys, the Giants averaged 3.1 yards per rush. This weekend, they averaged 3.6 yards per rush. These are not good figures. But the commitment to the ground game is keeping opposing defenses honest, balancing the time of possession, providing more respite for the defense, and most importantly, reducing mistakes and risk. The offense may not be winning games, but it hasn’t been losing them either.

That all said, let us not lose sight of the fact that the offense is not carrying its fair share of the workload. Seventeen points is not enough. Punting the football away seven times in a game is far too much. The offense needs to do better.

The Giants had four pass plays over 20 yards but none over 29 yards. Their longest run was 11 yards.

Quarterback

This was a bit of a rebound performance for Eli Manning, who had not reached the 200-yard passing mark in the previous three games. While Manning barely surpassed that mark against the Lions (201 gross yards), he was efficient (20-of-28 or 71 percent completion percentage). Manning threw two touchdowns and no interceptions and finished with a 115.3 QB rating. Quarterbacks hate the description, but Eli “managed” the game, very similarly to Phil Simms in the later years of his career. Manning averaged 10 yards per completion.

Running Backs

For better or worse, Ben McAdoo and staff have decided to run the football and grind it out. Detractors will point to the scoreboard – only 27 total points in two games. Advocates will point to fewer killer mistakes and improved time of possession. Giants backs ran the ball 31 times for 105 yards (Odell Beckham had a 9-yard end around), averaging 3.4 yards per carry. That average was dragged down by Rashad Jennings, who only gained 38 yards on 18 carries (2.1 yards per carry). The far more productive player was Paul Perkins, who carried the ball 11 times for 56 yards (5.1 yards per carry). Shane Vereen also chipped in with 11 yards on two carries (5.5 yards per carry). The ground game was an important factor in all three scoring drives.

The backs were only targeted five times in the passing game for a total of two completions for 9 yards. The best passing play was a 25-yard screen pass on 3rd-and-12 where Vereen fumbled at the end of the play, the ball being recovered in the end zone for a touchdown by Victor Cruz. However, an illegal-use-of-hands penalty wiped out the play. Vereen has had ball security issues in his limited playing time this year.

Wide Receivers

Same story as most of the other contests. Odell Beckham remained the primary option with six catches of eight targets for 64 yards and a touchdown. Sterling Shepard was a bit more productive this week with four catches (targeted five times) for 56 yards and a touchdown. Victor Cruz got his one catch – this one on a perfectly-thrown pass from Eli Manning for 29 yards. Cruz hasn’t caught more than one pass in a game since before the bye week. It’s no coincidence that the Giants best passing plays came on their scoring drives:

  • 29-yard pass to Cruz and then 6-yard TD to Shepard.
  • 22-yard pass to Beckham on FG drive.
  • 25-yard pass to Beckham on 3rd-and-10, 23-yard pass to Shepard, and 4-yard TD to Beckham.

Beckham did drop a deep pass right before halftime that might have resulted in additional points. Shepard also dropped a pass.

Tight Ends

The tight ends were move involved this week with seven catches in eight targets. Will Tye caught four passes for 25 yards and Jerell Adams chipped in with three catches for 18 yards. Both averaged only about six yards per catch however. Tye was flagged for holding, but the penalty was erased with an offsetting penalty by the Lions. The blocking was decent.

Offensive Line

Justin Pugh returned to left guard after missing five games with a knee injury. The Giants ran for 114 yards on 32 attempts (3.6 yards per carry). Eli Manning was only officially hit three times, but two of those were sacks. The first sack occurred on a strange play where RT Bobby Hart let the left defensive end go and Pugh attempted to block him from across the formation. The whole thing looked like a mess. The second sack came when RDE Ezekiel Ansah beat LT Ereck Flowers to the inside. Flowers also gave up the other hit on Manning. Bobby Hart’s illegal-use-of-hands penalty did wipe a touchdown on the Giants field goal drive. Overall, this was a reasonably good performance.

Giants on Defense

Despite missing two of their best players (Jason Pierre-Paul and Janoris Jenkins), for the second week in a row, the New York Giants defense did a number on the opponent:

  • 6 points
  • 16 first downs
  • 324 total net yards (but 48 of those came in garbage time)
  • 56 yards rushing (13 of which came on QB scrambles)
  • 5-of-14 on third down (36 percent)
  • 0-of-3 in red zone opportunities with two turnovers

Detroit’s 11 offensive drives resulted in:

  • 2 field goals
  • 2 turnovers
  • 6 punts
  • end of the game

Aside from the two turnovers, there were not a lot of dramatic plays. The Giants were credited with only one sack, four QB hits, four tackles for losses, and five pass defenses. But the run defense was excellent and the secondary only gave up one big passing play. Detroit’s two longest drives (74 yards and 58 yards) resulted in end zone turnovers. Those turnovers were the difference in the game. And the Lions had come into the game with only seven interceptions and three fumbles lost all year. Also keep in mind that the Lions are the NFL’s comeback kings this year, winning eight come-from-behind games in the 4th quarter. Not this time.

Defensive Line

The Giants controlled the line of scrimmage, limiting the Lions to 56 yards rushing on 19 carries (2.9 yards per rush). Ironically, Detroit’s best run of the game was their first play which picked up 12 yards. The Lions only attempted to run the ball seven times (not counting one scramble) in the second half as they recognized the futility of doing so. The pass rush was a bit better than the stats reveal. The Giants were only credited with one sack and four QB hits. However, Matthew Stafford was forced to escape the pocket a number of times. As expected, Oliver Vernon led the way with 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 0.5 sacks, 2 QB hits, and the fumble recovery in the end zone that prevented a touchdown. Damon Harrison (4 tackles) and Johnathan Hankins (5 tackles, 0.5 sacks) were rocks in the middle. Romeo Okwara (2 tackles) was not as noticeable this week. Kerry Wynn was flagged with a late roughing-the-passer penalty.

Linebackers

It was a pretty nondescript game for the linebacking corps as Jonathan Casillas, Devon Kennard, B.J. Goodson, Kelvin Sheppard, and Keenan Robinson were only credited with 10 total tackles. Casillas had one tackle for a loss and Kennard one quarterback hit. Coverage was decent as tight end Eric Ebron was limited to four catches for 36 yards. And not counting one late 33-yard garbage-time catch, the backs were held to five catches for 28 yards.

Defensive Backs

While not perfect, the Giants did a good job on a potentially-dangerous passing attack despite Janoris Jenkins missing the bulk of the game with a back injury. Three Lions receivers caught a total of 14 passes (in 22 targets) for 176 yards. But 67 of those yards came on one play, when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC) was beat deep by WR Golden Tate. However, give DRC credit for chasing down Tate at the 11-yard line and saving a touchdown as the Lions fumbled the ball away on the next snap. DRC finished the game with a team-high three pass defenses and a game-sealing interception in the end zone late in the 4th quarter.

Eli Apple played every snap and also saved a touchdown with his sole breakup in the end zone. DRC and Apple combined for 14 tackles, including two tackles for losses by Apple after short throws. Eli was flagged with a defensive holding penalty on a 3rd-and-9 incomplete pass that kept a field-goal drive alive. He also gave up a 21-yard completion on 3rd-and-7 to WR Marvin Jones despite very tight coverage. CB/S Leon Hall saved a touchdown with his forced fumble that was recovered in the end zone by the Giants. Coty Sensabaugh and Trevin Wade both received more playing time than normal (25 snaps each) with Jenkins out. Landon Collins had a team-high eight tackles. He was flagged with a 6-yard pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-3. Collins made a strong tackle on TE Eric Ebron after a 1-yard catch on 3rd-and-2 to force a punt late in the 3rd quarter.

Giants on Special Teams

The Detroit Lions have one of the strongest special teams units in the NFL and the Giants held serve in this department. The negative was the partially-blocked punt that traveled only 18 yards with Jonathan Casillas missing his man. Thankfully that did not lead to any points for Detroit. Brad Wing has been very busy this year. He punted the ball seven more times on Sunday, averaging 42.6 yards per punt (41 yards net) despite the block. For the second week in a row, two of his punts were downed inside the 5-yard line. That was huge.

Robbie Gould nailed his 47-yard field goal attempt. One of his four kickoffs resulted in a touchback, but another was ruled out-of-bounds at the start of the second half and contributed to Detroit’s second field goal drive because of the outstanding field position it provided.

Dangerous returner Andre Roberts was limited to 32 yards on two kickoff returns and 11 yards on four punt returns. That was huge as well. There was a big hit by Kerry Wynn on one kickoff return.

Dwayne Harris returned one kickoff 23 yards and two punts 19 yards. Odell Beckham returned two punts and had a spectacular 63-yard touchdown return called back due to a blatant and unnecessary illegal block by safety Eric Pinkins.

(Detroit Lions at New York Giants, December 18, 2016)
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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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