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Anatomy of a Play

Anatomy of a Play: Stifling defense, clutch offense


I picked two plays for this week's breakdown. The second is Sterling Shepard's touchdown, which put the game away for the Giants. The first is a quick look at how pass pressure from the defense, even if it doesn't get home, can save a defense.

PLAY 1: It is first-and-10 with 43 seconds left in the second quarter, and the Texans are trying to cut into the Giants' 20-3 lead.


The Texans are in 11 personnel with two receivers to the right of the formation with the tight end and DeAndre Hopkins isolated against Janoris Jenkins to the left. B.W. Webb is in press man against Will Fuller at the top of the picture with only a single-high safety as help.


Deshaun Watson is looking left, trying to find Hopkins in a one-on-one opportunity, but Jenkins plays soft coverage and takes away the first option of getting it to Hopkins down the field on the sideline. At this point, there is good coverage across the board, and Connor Barwin is screaming around the edge after beating left tackle Martinas Rankin.


If Barwin did not beat his man off the edge and force Watson to step up in the pocket and scramble, he could have reset his feet, looked right and hit Fuller, who had a couple yards of separation on Webb for a potential touchdown. Instead, Watson is avoiding pressure (and subsequently stopped looking downfield) and ends up scrambling for a modest gain. Barwin gets no stat for this play, but his pressure off the edge could have saved a touchdown.


PLAY 2: The Giants have a 20-15 lead with 2:13 to play in the fourth quarter. It is third-and-seven and it is critical to score a touchdown to make it a two-score game.


The Giants come out in three-by-one 11 personnel with Odell Beckham Jr. by himself at the top of the formation. Rhett Ellison, Sterling Shepard, and Cody Latimer are lined up to the right. The Texans are in nickel personnel with five defensive back and two linebackers in the middle of the field.


The Texans settle into a zone defense. The key to the play is Rhett Ellison's route. He runs right at MIKE linebacker Benardrick McKinney, attempting to draw him into coverage and pull him out of the middle of the field, where Shepard will wind up. You can see both Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt with outside speed rushes here.


Eli Manning has stepped up in the pocket as tackles Nate Solder and Chad Wheeler have ridden the Texans' pass rushers out of the play. You can see that McKinney has taken the bait at least for a few steps and followed Ellison into the end zone. Shepard is executing his in-cut underneath McKinney, right into his vacated zone.


McKinney recovered but not before Shepard has caught Manning's pass in the end zone for the game sealing touchdown. Excellent play design and execution led to an open receiver against the Texans' zone.


Watch as NFL Network's Brian Baldinger breaks down the New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning in Week 3 matchup against the Houston Texans: