On October 28, 2007 – the first Super Bowl-winning season of the Eli Manning era, the NFL played their inaugural game in London with the Giants taking on the Miami Dolphins. They won a 13-10 defensive battle in wet conditions as Manning passed for 59 yards, the second lowest of his career. Fast forward nearly 15 years and the League is now playing multiple games overseas, branching into multiple countries spread out over multiple weeks. NYG last played overseas in 2016, a 17-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams thanks to a four-interception day by Case Keenum. Their 2022 contest was, for a third time, considered a road game, against Aaron Rodgers and the 3-1 Green Bay Packers.
The Giants roster has been one of the more injured in the league. They were without multiple receivers (Golladay, Toney, Shepard, Robinson), multiple cornerbacks (Robinson, Flott, Williams), multiple outside linebackers (Ojulari, Smith), their top defensive lineman (Leonard Williams), and their starting left guard (Lemieux). Matching up against a Rodgers-led team, the 2021 MVP, with such a bare cabinet was yet another tall task for this new regime to take on. The Packers had already beaten CHI, TB, and NE in consecutive weeks while allowing 17 points or less to all three of those offenses respectively (NE scored a defensive touchdown in their match-up).
Rodgers led GB to three points on the opening drive via the foot of Mason Crosby. His rookie season was in 2007, the year NYG first played in London. The first two NYG drives, on the other hand, resulted in a couple of three-and-outs, four yards gained, and five yards of penalty (net -1 yards). GB’s third possession was very-much aided by a 33-yard pass interference penalty called on safety Xavier McKinney. Two plays later a quick-strike throw, the offensive theme for GB in the first half, resulted in a four-yard touchdown to Allen Lazard. GB had a quick 10-0 lead, and the game was heading in the direction many thought it would.
NYG responded with 42 yards on three plays, including a 26-yard strike from Daniel Jones to Darius Slayton. The drive stalled out, but it was productive enough to warrant a 48-yard field goal attempt by Graham Gano, which he nailed. GB responded with their second-straight touchdown-scoring drive, this one a two-yard pass from Rodgers to Marcedes Lewis, a tight end drafted five spots ahead of defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka in 2006. He is the last active player from the class.
NYG continued to show the “this feels different” mantra I have had in my head the entire season to this point while watching this club. How so? They responded with yet another positive drive of their own. Eleven plays, a forty-yard gain by Saquon Barkley, and two third-down conversions (one of 13 yards, one of 9) brought NYG inside the five-yard line. They scored on a trick play of sorts, a double reverse that was designed to end in a pass by tight end Daniel Bellinger but instead had him taking the ball into the end zone as a runner. (Brian Daboll hinted to him it would be there). NYG got the score to 17-10 with over a minute remaining for Rodgers with three timeouts at his disposal. For him, time-wise, that might as well equal an entire half of football to work.
Rodgers and the GB offense gained 45 yards, economically used all three timeouts, and set up Crosby for another field goal attempt with a running clock. Crosby nailed the 48-yarder as time expired to make it three-straight scoring possessions by GB to give them a 20-10 lead at the half.
NYG came out of the half keeping the game’s scoring streak alive. A couple of third down offensive line gaffes (false start by Ben Bredeson and a missed block by Evan Neal) stalled the drive at the 19-yard line where Gano hit a 37-yard field goal to make it a one-score game. The momentum took a turn on the following drive. After three straight scores by the GB offense, NYG forced a punt after GB was once again in NYG territory. A third-down sack by Dexter Lawrence, one of the top defensive tackles in the game, was the nail in the coffin for the GB scoring streak as it knocked them out of field goal range. NYG had the ball, with momentum, down one score, as the fourth quarter got under way.
Barkley went down with a shoulder injury after a one-yard loss on the next drive. In the past, this would have resulted in the wind disappearing in the sails. Instead, NYG responded with what I consider to be their best drive of the season, partially because they accomplished it without #26 on the field. 15 plays, 8 first downs, 8 players who touched the ball, and a two-yard touchdown by Gary Brightwell (the first of his career) tied the game up at 20. NYG then forced another GB punt after a three-and-out and the game was fully in their control.
Barkley was back on the field, and he let everyone know right away. He took the second play of the next drive 41 yards after a short pass. He was then the one who crossed the goal line on a two-yard run out of the wildcat following an unnecessary roughness penalty by Rasul Douglas that gave NYG an automatic first down.
Rodgers, an eventual first-ballot Hall of Famer coming fresh off a MVP award, took the GB offense all the way inside the NYG 10-yard line. 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1 from the six-yard line did not result in a single run despite the fact the GB backfield was averaging well over 5 yards per carry. The team opted for two passes, both of which were batted at the line, giving NYG the ball back as they kneeled the ball inside the five-yard line to get rid of the GB timeouts. Punter Jamie Gillian ran out of the end zone with the ball rather than exposing the team to a Matt Dodge situation. This ended up giving GB the ball back, down five, and without any timeouts at their own 41-yard line. After a false start, Rodgers dropped back and tried to escape pressure so he could throw a Hail Mary for the win, but he was sacked by Oshane Ximines.
NYG wins 27-22.
-Daniel Jones: 21/27 – 217 yards / 0 TD – 0 INT / 100.2 RAT
Jones also added 41 rushing yards (not including the three kneel downs) just days after nobody knew if he would miss the game because of an ankle injury suffered last week. Mid-week, we were wondering if NYG would sign Brian Lewerke or Jake Fromm to backup Davis Webb. Now we look back and I think this was Jones’ top performance of the season considering the circumstances. We may see better statistical games from him, but he made multiple big time throws, took some of the biggest hits we have seen this year, and still made a huge difference on the ground. Prior to this game, I wrote down a list of things to look for. At the top? “How does Jones impact the game on a bad wheel?” Athletic quarterbacks are all the craze in the League now, everyone wants one. But what happens when they are nicked up? What happens when they age and lose some of their movement capability? Jones rose to the occasion and what he did post-Barkley injury on the touchdown scoring drive cannot go overlooked. 6/7 – 56 yards including two 3rd-down conversions and 25 yards rushing. What he did with what he had is exactly what good quarterbacks do: create more than the sum of parts. Big-time performance for Jones.
-Saquon Barkley: 13 att – 70 yards / 1 TD / 3 rec – 36 yards
Barkley went past 100 total yards for the third straight week and for the fourth time in five games. He missed what ended up being just 14 plays with a minor shoulder injury. He had two big plays, one in the running game and one in the passing game. A 40-yard run and a 41-yard reception were the two biggest plays of the day, and both of those drives respectively ended in touchdowns. These big gains do more than just accrue points for your fantasy team. When a drive has zero 15+ yard gains, 4.3% reach the red zone, 5.9% score points, 2.2% score touchdowns. When a drive has one 15+ yard play, 40.8% reach the red zone, 51% score points, 28.8% score touchdowns (information taken from Sharp Football). Explosive plays mean the world to an offense that is trying to score points. Barkley, in his current state in this current system, is absolutely vital to this team’s success.
-Matt Breida saw a season-high 18 snaps and gained a season-high 27 yards on 6 touches. He also threw a key block on Barkley’s 40-yard run. Gary Brightwell scored his first career touchdown on one of his two carries and also threw a key block on Barkley’s touchdown. It is great to see the depth chart contribute with subtle, but key components to game-changing plays.
-Darius Slayton: 6 rec – 79 yards
Perhaps the most-overlooked player on this roster by everyone as we headed into this game. Slayton is, by far, the most-talented pass catcher on this team. A team that is without (arguably) their top 4 receivers. A team that has been signing guys off the street and playing multiple players without a full season of starts on their resume. Let’s not forget that Slayton has had success (2019 rookie season that saw a 48/740/8 season long stat line). There have been countless lows and very few highs since that year, but he stepped up in a big way here. 5 of his 6 catches went for a first down and a quality route forced a defensive holding (also resulting in a first down on a play that was originally a sack). Two of Slayton’s first downs came via yards after the catch + yards after contact. He showed grit and strength, and both ended up being huge plays when looking back. This is the best game we have seen out of him since Week 5 of 2020. Let’s see if this will turn into something because this could be THE opportunity of a lifetime that will undoubtedly set up his future in the league.
-Marcus Johnson, David Sills, and Richie James all caught every single one of their targets. Jones was accurate and these guys did their job. Johnson is tools-rich and many around the League know it. While he has never quite capitalized on opportunities consistently, Johnson has been a part of over 24 transactions since 2016 including two trades. Everyone sees the upside, but he just hasn’t had consistent looks and has had some injury misfortune. I liked his routes when looking at the All-22 and I like how he attacked the ball. He, like Slayton, is playing for his career right now.
-I also need to give credit to Sills for multiple big-time blocks on multiple plays that were game-changing. “Smart, tough, dependable”.
-Daniel Bellinger caught two passes for 22 yards and scored a touchdown on the ground. I credit Daboll and Kafka for the play design (both have used this play at previous stops) and I credit Bellinger for instilling the confidence in the staff to put this kind of trust in him. Remember, this was a designed pass for him, but Daboll hinted the run would be there. It was, and Bellinger used the power and momentum he had to take it on himself to score. He is a rookie playing like a third-year vet when it comes to nuances. His transition to the league has been stunning. He was flagged for a hold and graded below average as a blocker, a work in progress who does show positive flashes there every week, especially on the move.
-Chris Myarick and Tanner Hudson played nearly half of the snaps. NYG went with a lot of heavy personnel and while these two did not impact the game much as receivers (Myarick had 1 catch for 4 yards), they both were solid as blockers both in the run and pass game respectively.
-Andrew Thomas and Ben Bredeson both had sacks nullified by defensive holding in the GB secondary. Thomas, besides that, threw another shut out. The potential All-Pro continues to shine and his run blocking in this one was a key difference maker as well. Bredeson was flagged for a false start and allowed 1 pressure. His overall performance was average, which all things considered, ends up just fine for who he is and what he has been doing. He struggled to get a push against the powerful interior GB defensive line, but he did stay sticky to his guy, which is the minimum I look for.
-The right side was up and down. Guard Mark Glowinski allowed a pressure and was beat for a few tackles in the running game, but finished out average. Rookie Evan Neal’s struggles in pass protection continued. He allowed a sack and a pressure as we are seeing the footwork issues arise week to week. He did get movement off the ball in the running game but his gaffe on a 3rd-down run by Jones up the middle was a key miss. We have seen worse out of Neal, and this was a tough matchup for him, but I want to see the outside shoulder and speed up the edge improve. We are seeing too many of the same losses week to week.
-Center Jon Feliciano plays the game hard and he brings some plus quickness and attitude. But he is, as many NYG centers have been since Sean O’Hara, a major weak point. He allowed a pressure and a TFL. But even more than that, he was constantly giving up ground to the likes of Kenny Clark (a very good player) and T.J. Slaton, a sizeable-second year pro. This is an issue for the running game that needs to be fixed. Nick Gates is knocking on the door.
-With each week that passes, we see more out of rookie and #5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux. Even within this contest, he took his game to a higher level in the second half. He finished with 2 pressures, 0.5 TFL, 3 tackles, and 2 pass breaks ups, including one on the final drive that prevented GB from tying it up. A productive game for a kid who, in my opinion, still isn’t reacting. He is thinking too much and not moving naturally which is common for young edge players. He looks stiff. With all the time missed in the preseason, Thibodeaux is right where he should be and I suspect the sacks are coming, just wait. Maybe the refs will actually call a hold or three next week on the tackle trying to block him.
-Oshane Ximines had 2 tackles, 1 sack, and (technically) a forced fumble. The sack was at the end of the game on the Hail Mary attempt, but he has now hit the quarterback in every game and 6 times on the year. He hit the quarterback 5 times in the previous two seasons combined (14 games). Tomon Fox added 2 tackles in a backup role.
-Jihad Ward had 1 tackle, 0.5 TFL, and a pressure which came from the defensive tackle position on third down. An unsung hero of the strong defensive performances. It stems from his unique skill set that credibly belongs at multiple spots of the front.
-Dexter Lawrence came up with a key sack right as NYG was turning this game around. I think it was one of the biggest plays of the game and possibly the biggest one on defense. He also added a pressure and 5 tackles showing great range and push. He is changing how offenses approach the middle in a big way.
-In a game like this, it is easy to discuss unsung hero Nick Williams. When a team wins, you want to bring in all the components to the win but in a game a team loses, it is common to overlook a solid performance from a guy that who on the bubble in August. He played just over half the snaps and finished with 3 tackles and 2 pressures. He and Justin Ellis were stout inside and while the run defense still could have been a hair better, these guys got the job done.
-D.J. Davidson left the game on a cart. A lower body injury to him that forces any missed time makes yet another position group on this team thin, especially if Leonard Williams is out any longer.
-Jaylon Smith, signed just weeks ago, made multiple highlight-reel hits on the move. While we need to be careful in using splash plays on tackles beyond the line of scrimmage as an influential barometer in player evaluation, Smith’s presence needs to be discussed. There is an attitude that comes with a Wink Martindale defense. Smith embodies that and it brings energy to the defense. He had 6 tackles and there was one he essentially ran laterally step for step with GB rookie receiver Christian Watson, a credible sub-4.4 receiver. Smith’s hit was direct and sure, and Watson got up awkwardly afterward.
-Tae Crowder added 3 tackles and a TFL, filling the inside running lanes in a hurry. Micah McFadden was beat to the outside multiple times against both the run and pass. He did add 2 tackles, though. I just worry about how an offense can expose him in space right now.
-Adoree’ Jackson missed the second half with a knee injury but finished with a productive game. He had 6 tackles and a TFL. I am pleasantly surprised by how aggressive he has been when filling on the outside. It hasn’t always been a strong point to his game, but then again, his durability has been an issue in the past. A lengthy injury to him would be a major blow to the defense.
-Nickel Darnay Holmes had 3 tackles and a pass break up in the end zone. He also added a pressure and a quick tackle that does not show up in the box score. Minimizing yards after catch is such a huge part of defending today’s plethora of short passing concepts. Holmes did a nice job playing to that strength.
-With Aaron Robinson, Cor’Dale Flott, and Rodarius Williams already out, NYG had to give substantial playing time to Fabian Moreau and Nick McCloud. Even Justin Layne saw 17 snaps. All three of these guys were added after training camp after being by cut by their original 2022 teams. Moreau and McCloud both had a pass break up, but both had two negative plays as well. Layne contributed a breakup via a physical hit that jarred the ball loose from Lazard. An entire game with those three seeing significant snaps would worry me.
-The safety duo of Julian Love and Xavier McKinney were the glue on the back end that kept things together. Love led the team with 6 tackles and a TFL while McKinney added 3 tackles and pass break up on 4th-and-goal to essentially seal the game. He was flagged for a 33-yard pass interference on a GB touchdown scoring drive, however. Did you notice BOTH of them knew exactly where Rodgers was going to throw the ball before the 4th-and-1 snap? Rodgers tapped his right shoulder pre-snap and they BOTH told McCloud the ball was coming his way. Those little things are what can make us feel good about this team in big situations against big-time talent. Much like what Antonio Pierce provided as a middle linebacker 15+ years ago.
-Dane Belton had a tackle and a pressure and Tony Jefferson added 3 tackles in their backup roles.
-K Graham Gano: 2/2 (Made 48, 37)
-P Jamie Gillian: 2 Punts / 50.0 avg – 44.5 net
-QB Daniel Jones, WR Darius Slayton, DT Dexter Lawrence
-OC Jon Feliciano, OT Evan Neal, LB Micah McFadden
3 THOUGHTS ON GB
1. A fun fact for you. Marcedes Lewis was the FIRST EVER 1st round pick to catch a touchdown from Aaron Rodgers. Crazy to think about. Over 450 touchdown passes – and that was the first thrown to a 1st rounder. I respect GB and the way they have run their organization throughout history and my lifetime. But even the best has their warts and the one I strongly believe here is the fact they made Rodgers continue to create with lesser-than-ideal targets to throw to. Look what he did with Davante Adams, see what it looks like without him. And just remember they chose QB Jordan Love over the likes of Michael Pittman and Tee Higgins (taken 7, 8 picks later). To think GB could walk away with just ONE Super Bowl appearance with Rodgers under center makes you think, doesn’t it? Not good enough.
2. Fortunately GB is in a division that is already very much just a two-team race. While MIN does appear a notch above right now, the fact they get four games against CHI + DET combined certainly paves the way for a likely wildcard appearance. While they have issues on both sides of the ball, I trust their defense will be good enough because they have very good players at key spots at all three levels. Throw in Rodgers and a likely progression of their young receivers, I think they get into postseason play pretty easily. What do they need, though? Like Rodgers suggested, I think they need to go get Odell Beckham when that knee is ready to go.
3. The starting offensive line for GB: 4th round, 6th round, 2nd round, 4th round, 2nd round. Their top backup and current rotational left tackle (Yosh Nijman) was undrafted. Their backups? 4th round, 6th round, 3rd round, 7th round (in addition to Nijman). Every single one of these guys was drafted by GB. I think this means a lot to future upside and maximizing the value of a collection of players. Chemistry means more to quality OL play than most people know.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
1. One of the most overlooked positive components to this game? The tackling. I had a season-best 2 missed tackles for that side of the ball as a whole. They were averaging 5 per game prior to this matchup. This was vital to their success as 17 of Rodgers 25 completions were caught within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage and 10 behind it. That is a common component to this offense, but even more so because of the defense the Giants employed. Quality tackling is, undoubtedly, game-altering.
2. Where to go and what to do with the middle of the offensive line? Will Shane Lemieux make that big of a difference when he comes back, and can he even stay on the field? Can Nick Gates finish off the comeback story and return to his level of play pre-injury? I have a hard time putting money on either. Rookie Joshua Ezeudu has not shown enough to instill confidence for 2022. As I said above, chemistry does have value and I think NYG has to roll with what they have. It will limit them, maybe even more so than it has already, but the coaching staff will need to try and stay a step ahead of opponents because it has the potential to get ugly.
3. When the NFL started the international series of games in London, teams always had a bye after playing abroad. Thanks to the Colts requesting otherwise in 2016 because they did not want a bye week so early in the season, that rule has changed. NYG comes back with three more games before their mid-season bye. They have another home game up first against BAL. That means they will go a league-high 6 weeks between true away games at the opponent’s home stadium. Another solid advantage for their friendly schedule. Two of their next three opponents have very forgiving defenses (BAL and SEA) and then the two games following the bye are HOU and DET (a combined record of 2-7-1 and 29th/31st in yards allowed) at home. This win against GB and the win against TEN week one were huge when looking at the 2022 season as a whole and the hope for a postseason birth. Up first, the Ravens. Think Wink will be up for this one?