Three keys to victory for the Giants on Monday night against the 49ers:
1. Start fast. The Giants have scored 32 points in the final two minutes of the second half, the most in the NFL this season. Combined with the first half, they have scored 51 points in the final two minutes of both halves, tied with the Saints for the most in the NFL. There is no rule, however, against getting things going in the first 28 minutes on either side of the break as the Giants are averaging just 18.8 points for the entire game.
But how do they do that? If there were one solution – or even just two or three – the coaching staff would have made the changes well before the bye week. Winning at the line of scrimmage would be a good start, especially against a 49ers defense that recorded eight sacks last week in a 34-3 victory over the Raiders. The Giants also need to generate their own pressure on defense. Quarterback Nick Mullens, who had the highest passer rating (151.9) in a debut since the 1970 merger, was not sacked once and hit only twice.
2. Capitalize on chances. The numbers didn’t get any better over the break. The Giants are 31st in the NFL in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on just 40.0 percent of their trips inside the 20. If you break it down by successful plays -- anytime the offense gains 40 percent of the yardage necessary for a first down on first down, 50 percent of the yardage necessary for a first down on second down, or gains the first down on third or fourth down – they are last at 32.5 percent. On the other side of the ball, the red zone is where the Giants should excel. They are fourth in the NFL on defense (42.9) while San Francisco’s offense is 27th (46.4).
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“It comes down to points,” coach Pat Shurmur said in his first press conference after the bye week. “When you look at it, if we score one more touchdown a game, then for the people that crunch numbers, that’s a good thing, and for the people that crunch numbers, that puts us in a position to win half those games we played. Scoring in the red zone is an important thing when we get down there, and there’s tactical things that we need to do better. Then there’s certainly things that players can do better. Those are the things you look at, you think of the situations in the games, the players you have in the games available, how you’re trying to get the ball to certain people, so you go back and revisit that and do it at a pace where it’s much slower than if you were getting ready to play a game.”
3. Run, Saquon, run. No team in the NFL throws more frequently than the Giants, who have a 30-70 run-pass split. And this is with second overall pick Saquon Barkley, who ranks third in the NFL with 1,016 yards from scrimmage. The Giants have a major problem on first down with an average distance of 9.03 yards to go on second down, the most in the NFL. They are in second-and-7 or longer 73.4 percent of the time. Digging into those numbers, they have run 88 times on first down, the second-fewest in the league, and average just 3.97 yards, good for 25th. If they can increase production on first down, it will alleviate pressure on second, third, and even fourth down when the situation arises. On the other side, San Francisco is one of the most run-heavy teams – losing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo three games into the season with a torn ACL might have something to do with it – and average 134.7 yards per game on the ground.