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Cover 3: Takeaways from Giants vs. Vikings

JONES-COVER3

Three Giants.com writers give their biggest takeaways from the Week 5 loss to the Vikings.

John Schmeelk: For things to change meaningfully for the Giants this season, they have to defend the pass better.

For the fourth time in five games this season, the Giants did not slow down the opposing passing attack in the first half. Kirk Cousins was 19 of 23 for 378 and a touchdown. He only attempted four passes in the second half. In first halves so far this season, opposing quarterbacks have completed 76 of 106 passes (72% comp) for 1,059 yards (212 per game), eight touchdowns and one interception. The Giants have six first half sacks in five games.

After the first 10 quarters of the season, defensive coordinator James Bettcher shifted his strategy to blitzing less frequently and playing less man to man in the secondary. It worked in the second half of the Buccaneers game and in the Redskins game. Against the Vikings, the strategy did succeed in keeping plays in front of them. Cousins only attempted three passes that traveled 20 or more yards in the air.

However, the Giants were victimized by their own poor tackling. According to Pro Football Focus, they had 16 missed tackles against the Vikings, which led the league in Week 5. The Giants allowed an average of 9.1 yards after the catch, the second highest number in the NFL last week. The result? Minnesota had 10 pass plays of 15 yards or more, second most in the league.

According to PFF, the Giants have 56 pressures this season, which ranks 23rd in the league. The Giants have blitzed 11 times in their past two games, which is less than any other team in the league that didn’t have a bye week. They’ve gotten some sacks, six in the past two weeks, but there isn’t consistent pressure play in, play out.

Bettcher and his staff will continue to try to get the secondary and linebackers to cover and tackle better. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 37 of 50 passes against the blitz for 570 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Blitzing Tom Brady certainly isn’t part of the solution.

The execution has to improve, and fast, with the Giants traveling to Foxboro to take on the Patriots on Thursday night.

Dan Salomone: Pat Shurmur described the Vikings as an “old-school team” with a “progressive mindset.” Having coached under Mike Zimmer for two seasons in Minnesota, Shurmur knows the ins and outs of their approach. He has adopted parts of it. “A lot of what they do there, we try to do here in terms of building our team,” Shurmur said in his Wednesday press conference leading up to the matchup against his former team. Sunday was an example of the work still to be done.

After the Giants surrendered just six points in their past six quarters, they gave up 18 in the first half to the Vikings. Big Blue has now been outscored, 62-24, in the second quarter and has won the time of possession just once this season. Instead of claiming their first three-game winning streak since 2016, the 2-3 Giants head to Foxborough on a short week.

“Number one, you can’t get discouraged,” Shurmur said. “I’m looking for guys who get discouraged, those are the guys we’re going to get out of here—the ones that get discouraged. You can’t get discouraged.”

Simply put, the Giants didn’t make enough plays on Sunday. They created opportunities but didn’t convert on them, which is always a losing formula against a seasoned team like the Vikings. Daniel Jones took his lumps in his first loss as a starter, but it is becoming clear around the league that he is here to stay.

“I want to give a shout out to the rook,” said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who recorded one of the four sacks of Jones. “He's doing really good. He's shown courage. He's a good player, so I see good things happening for him in the future.”

Lance Medow: The team stats from Sunday’s game spell out a noticeable disparity. The Vikings outgained the Giants, 490-211, in total yards and 211-64 in rushing yards. Despite those sizeable differences, the Giants had several opportunities to make the game close. A telling stat from the game is the fact the Giants went 0-2 in the red zone.

The first golden opportunity came on the opening drive of the third quarter. The Vikings led, 18-7, and the Giants had a chance to put a dent in that deficit with a touchdown. Minnesota did everything in its power to aid the cause. A horse collar tackle against cornerback Xavier Rhodes handed the Giants 15 yards. Later in the drive, when it looked like Big Blue would have to settle for an Aldrick Rosas 28-yard field goal, former Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph was called for unnecessary roughness on the field goal attempt, giving the Giants a fresh set of downs. 

The Giants had three opportunities to punch it in from the five-yard line. But Daniel Jones was sacked and lost 10 yards. Jon Halapio was called for being an illegal player down the field, backing them up an additional five yards, and then Jones’ throw to a wide open Sterling Shepard in the back of the end zone was high, which forced Shepard to land out of bounds. The Giants went from a first and goal at the five to a third and goal at the 20 and settled for a 32-yard field goal, four yards longer than Rosas’ initial attempt. Self-inflicted wounds cost the Giants an opportunity at a touchdown and a chance to pull within a field goal. The point is games are sometimes won and lost by a play here or there.

On the Giants’ next possession, it was déjà vu all over again as similar issues came to the forefront with the Vikings now up by 15.  Three Minnesota penalties, including a 37-yard pass interference against corner Trae Waynes, helped the Giants advance to a first and ten at the Minnesota 11. The offense gained eight yards on the first two plays, but an incomplete pass to Evan Engram forced the Giants to go for it on fourth and two from the three-yard line. They didn’t even need a touchdown here because a two-yard gain would have given them a fresh set of downs. Instead, the Giants lost 12 yards as Danielle Hunter sacked Jones and Big Blue walked away with no points. When you play a stingy defense like Minnesota’s, you have to take full advantage of opportunities in the red zone because they are few. Penalties, sacks and the lack of execution contributed to those missed opportunities, which could have changed the momentum of the game.

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