Inside the Numbers: Midseason review

Posted Nov 1, 2012 takes a closer look at the statistics for the first half of the 2012 season

In his nine years as the Giants head coach, Tom Coughlin has stressed the importance of winning the turnover battle and avoiding costly penalties. This season, the players are heeding those commands, and it’s a big reason the Giants are 6-2 and hold a 2.5-game lead in the NFC East at midseason.

Last Sunday in Dallas, the Giants forced six Cowboys turnovers while giving away the ball just twice. The plus-four advantage left them with a turnover differential of plus-13, which ties them with New England for the NFL’s best. The differential ties the 2005 Giants for the best midseason mark of the Coughlin era. That team also started 6-2 and went on to win the division with an 11-5 record. Last year at this time, the Giants were plus-7.

The Giants lead the NFL with 24 takeaways. They are tied with Chicago with a league-high 16 interceptions and second to the Patriots with eight fumble recoveries. The Giants and Bears are the only teams that have forced more than 20 turnovers.

The Giants have not hurt themselves with excessive penalties. They have been flagged 36 times for 299 yards. The 36 infractions tie them with Miami for the league’s second-lowest figure (Atlanta has 24) and only the Falcons and Dolphins have fewer penalty yards (192 and 285, respectively).

The 36 penalties are the Giants’ lowest total after eight games under Coughlin, easily beating the 41 penalties for 367 yards in 2007. It is also 15 fewer penalties than both the 2010 and 2011 midseason totals. Their opponents have been penalized 52 times for 381 yards.

Another factor in the Giants’ success is their ability to protect Eli Manning. He’s been sacked only six times (and David Carr once); the seven sacks are an NFL low, one less than Buffalo and Houston. After eight games a year ago, the Giants had allowed more than twice as many sacks, 15.

Here are some other notable numbers from our annual midseason statistical review:

*The Giants are 6-2 for the sixth time in Coughlin’s nine seasons. They were 5-3 twice and 7-1 in 2008 at midseason. The Giants are a combined 53-19 (.736) in the first eight games since Coughlin arrived in 2004.

*The Giants have scored 234 points, or 29.3 a game. They are on pace to score 468 points, which would shatter the franchise record of 448 points, set in a 14-game season in 1963. The highest point total in the Coughlin era was 427 points in 2008. The Giants were averaging 24.6 points a game at midseason a year ago.

*Despite the high point total, the Giants have scored two fewer touchdowns than they did through eight games a year ago (23-25). But they have kicked 17 more field goals (24-7). The previous eight-game high under Coughlin was 18 field goals in 2008.

*The Giants are ranked fourth in the NFL in total offense (396.8 yards a game) and 24th on defense (386.5). Last year at this time, they were 11th and 19th, respectively.

*Good news: The Giants are second in the league with an average gain of 6.2 yards per play, easily the best of the Coughlin era. Not-so-good news: The Giants are 30th in the league by allowing an average gain of 6.2 yards per play.

*The Giants are averaging 282.1 passing yards a game. In 2011, when they set the franchise record with 4,734 passing yards, they averaged 282.9 yards a game at midseason.

*Manning has completed 62.5 percent of his passes. After eight games last year he was at 62.9 percent.
*The Giants’ third-down conversion percentage has improved considerably. At this time last year it was 34.0 percent, the second-lowest midseason figure under Coughlin. Now it’s at 39.2 percent (40/102), the highest since 2009.

*The Giants have work to do in the green zone. They have scored 16 touchdowns on 36 trips inside their opponents’ 20-yard line. That’s 44.4 percent, the third-lowest midseason figure in Coughlin’s nine seasons. In 2011, they had more touchdowns (17) in nine fewer opportunities, a 63.0 percent touchdown rate.

*Defensively, the Giants have posted some contradictory numbers. They are 24th in the league, allowing 386.5 yards a game. That is easily the midseason high in Coughlin’s tenure, topping the 365.6 yards after eight games a year ago – and far outdistancing the low of 250.6, set in 2010. But despite allowing 21 more yards a game, the Giants are giving up about three fewer points (20.1-23.0).

*Most of the damage has been through the air. The Giants are allowing 273.5 passing yards a game, a midseason high under Coughlin. The 2011 midseason figure was exactly 35 yards less. At the same time, opponents have had a tougher time running the ball. They are averaging 113.0 yards a game compared to last year’s 127.1.

*The Giants have six more interceptions (16-10), but seven fewer sacks (21-28). The 16 picks are five more than the Giants’ previous midseason high under Coughlin.

*Lawrence Tynes is having his finest season. He leads the NFL in field goal attempts (26), field goals (24) and points (94). He is on pace to score 188 points. The Giants’ single-season record is 148, set by Jay Feely in 2005. Of course, Coughlin would prefer the Giants convert more of those green zone opportunities and call on Tynes less frequently.

*Last year at this time, Steve Weatherford had punted 44 times for a 45.8-yard gross average and a 39.3-yard net average. This season, he has booted 28 punts for a 45.9-yard gross average and a 39.5-yard net average. That’s consistency.

*The Giants’ kickoff return average has improved to 25.8 yards on 31 runbacks from 22.3 yards on 24 returns. But their punt return average has dipped to 6.7 yards from 8.2.

A look at the Giants’ midseason statistics under Coughlin:

Some leftovers from the Dallas game: *The Giants led the Cowboys, 23-0, fell behind, 24-23, and rallied to win, 29-24. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time in their history the Giants blew a regular-season lead of at least 23 points. They led the 2002 NFC Wild Card Game in San Francisco, 38-14, before the 49ers rallied for a 39-38 victory. The Giants were only the fifth team since 1950 to lead by at least 23 points, fall behind, and come back to win:
*Dallas’ Jason Witten caught 18 passes, the most ever by a Giants opponent. The previous best was 16 catches by Sonny Randle of the St. Louis Cardinals on Nov. 4, 1962. *Witten (167 yards), Miles Austin (nine catches for 133 yards) and Dez Bryant (5-110) became the first trio of Giants opponents with at least 100 yards in the same game since Oct. 19, 1980, when San Diego’s Charlie Joiner (10-171), John Jefferson (5-107) and Kellen Winslow (6-102) did it. The last NFL threesome to accomplish the feat was Arizona’s Steve Breaston (9-122), Larry Fitzgerald (8-122) and Anquan Bolden (10-119) at the Jets. *Stevie Brown returned an interception 37 yards and Corey Webster had a 38-yard runback in Dallas. It was the first time the Giants had two interception returns that long in the same game since Nov. 30, 1997, when Phillippi Sparks brought one back 68 yards and Tito Wooten had a 53-yard return.

Game Rewind: New York Giants