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Film Review: Breaking down Giants' loss to Lions

Notes after reviewing the game tape of the Giants’ 31-26 loss in Detroit yesterday:

*The Giants had some trouble stopping the Lions run game on the first drive, with Tra Carson running for 7, 4 and 12 yards. The front seven tightened the rest of the game. The Lions finished with just 59 rushing yards. 38 of which came in the first half.

*Lorenzo Carter got the sack, but B.J. Hill prevented a big play on Detroit’s fifth snap of the game. As Stafford stepped up in the pocket, Marvin Hall opened up on the right side of the field. Stafford was looking in his direction, but it looked like he hesitated letting go of the ball when he saw Hill spinning off the right guard with a chance to hit him as he threw. He ate the ball and Carter cleaned up for the sack.

*Janoris Jenkins ended the Lions first drive with an interception. Stafford was trying to find Marvin Jones deep down the right numbers, but the Giants were in quarters coverage and had him doubled with Jenkins underneath and Jabrill Peppers over the top. Stafford forced it and underthrew the pass. Jenkins got his head around, located the ball and grabbed the first takeaway of the game.

*The Giants caught a couple of breaks on attempted deep passes to running back Ty Johnson. With 10 minutes to play in the second quarter, a rub route from an inside receiver helped Johnson get a step on Peppers on a wheel route down the left sideline. Stafford put it right on him but Johnson couldn’t come up with the catch. At the very least, the catch would have put the ball in the red zone.

*After the Lions final drive of the half was extended on a running into the kicker penalty (when David Mayo’s hand barely touched punter Sam Martin’s ankle after he punted), Stafford missed Johnson down the right sideline. He was wide open for a potential touchdown but Stafford overthrew him.

*The Giants struggled with their third down defense in the first half. The Lions were 6 of 9, with failures on attempts of 17, 17 and 14 yards. They converted on distances of 7, 8, 15, 7, 9 and 2 yards. The Giants did well on early downs to force third and long but could not stop Matthew Stafford in those situations. Danny Amendola was a favorite target, accounting for half of the Lions first half third down conversions. The Lions did not have an official punt attempt in the first half.

*Grant Haley was charged with covering Danny Amendola in the slot, but he was a sound tackler and an effective blitzer during the game. He sacked Stafford on a 2nd and 11 on the Lions final drive of the half, a play that would have resulted in a punt if not for the running into the kicker penalty.

*DeAndre Baker played excellent coverage down the field on a couple of instances, and made a big hit on Amendola after a catch. Two negative plays did stand out. He allowed Ty Johnson to get outside on his side on a running play in the fourth quarter that went for 14 yards. On a 3rd and 15, the Giants appeared to be in a quarters defense, but Baker vacated the deep sideline to come down on an out route near the sticks. Hall dipped behind him for a 49-yard touchdown.

*The Lions drive to start the second half was a gut punch. They went 75 yards on 10 plays in 5:09 for a touchdown that gave them a 24-13 lead. The Giants had trouble with passes in the intermediate level in the middle of the field all game. Amendola had a 15-yard catch over the middle and Golladay had a 25-yard grab over the middle to convert a 3rd and 8. Stafford was able to get it either between or over the shallow zone to find his receivers. The Lions finished the drive with a quick out to Golladay. Baker played good coverage, but Golladay reach up and beat him to the ball for the touchdown. Golladay displayed excellent hands throughout the game.

*Defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson made a couple of notable plays. He tracked down J.D. McKissic on an outside run for a one-yard loss on the Lions second drive of the second half. Tomlinson sacked Stafford late in the fourth quarter, getting by Lions center Frank Ragnow on a quick move to the left.

*The back-breaking play for the Giants came with 12:21 remaining in the game. They ran a pitch right for Johnson, who then threw it back across the field to Stafford. On the pitch, Peppers crashed down in run support, while Bethea took a couple of steps forward before noticing the trick play develop. He was a few steps behind Golladay, which was all that was needed to score a 41-yard touchdown on a perfect pass from Stafford.

*The Giants defense did set up one more scoring opportunity late in the game. Peppers flew in to knock the ball away from Golladay after a short catch, which was called forced a fumble that was recovered by Bethea.

*Knowing the Lions propensity to throw the ball deep downfield, the Giants played quarters defense 44% of the time, according to Pro Football Focus. A 4-deep defense, it is designed to prevent big plays down the field when it is executed properly. The Giants blitzed only eight times, according to PFF, and got pressure on Stafford on 9 of his 36 dropbacks.

*The Giants special teams did not help them in. The Lions forced the Giants to return kicks by putting the ball short of the goal line. The Giants only returned the ball back to the 25-yard line on one of five returns. Aldrick Rosas’ missed extra point proved costly. It forced a chain reaction that forced the Giants to go for two in the third quarter and eventually need two touchdowns rather than a touchdown and field goal at the end of the game to tie or win.

*The Lions played to their profile defensively for much of the game. They played man-to-man, and didn’t get a lot of pressure on Daniel Jones. According to PFF, the Lions blitzed on only 9 of Jones’ 51 dropbacks. They pressured Jones on 18 of his 51 dropbacks. It was a formula that allowed Jones to find the matchups he liked and hit open players down the field.

*The Lions usually porous run defense contained Barkley. There was not a lot of room around the line of scrimmage. Barkley had 19 rushes for 64 yards, with a long rush of 13 yards. It was his only run of 10 or more yards. Barkley managed just 9 rushes for 18 yards in the second half.

*The Jarrad Davis delayed blitz that resulted in a defensive touchdown for Devon Kennard to end the second drive seemed to catch the Giants protection by surprise. It looked like they slid the protection to the left pre-snap in anticipation of linebacker Jahlani Tavai blitzing over Nate Solder. Tavai didn’t come, which left Solder outside with no one to block one on one. With Halapio taking the nose guard and Zeitler blocking the left defensive end, there was no one assigned to take Davis coming up the middle. Barkley took the blame for not picking up the blitzer after the game. Instead, Barkley flared to the right on the play, but before Jones could check down to him, Davis hit him and his pass went backwards. Barkley was slow getting to the ball, and Kennard scooped up the backwards pass and ran it in for the touchdown.

*It might not have looked pretty, but Wayne Gallman had an effective blitz pickup on Davis on the Giants’ third drive. Davis blitzed up the middle once again, but this time Gallman was there to meet him. Davis attempted to run right through Gallman, but both players went to the ground with him, which bought Jones enough time to find Evan Engram over the middle.

*Jones had a couple of key throws on the drive. After an offensive pass interference penalty on Bennie Fowler put the offense in a 1st and 20 hole, Jones got 16 back on consecutive passes to Golden Tate and Evan Engram. On 3rd and 4, the Lions played man defense and blitzed five against a five man protection. The line held up long enough for Tate to beat cornerback Justin Coleman inside on a slant just enough for Jones to zip a pass into a tight window. Tate broke Coleman’s tackle and gained 18 yards.

*Three plays later, Jones got cornerback Rashaan Melvin, who was starting for the injured Darius Slay, lined up on wide receiver Darius Slayton. Melvin was on top of Slayton, but Jones threw a back shoulder ball that his receiver adjusted to and caught in front of the defender for the touchdown. It was a perfect example of something Jones did throughout the day, find a matchup and trust his receiver to make a play.

*Barkley just missed breaking a long run in the second quarter. On an outside run to the left, everyone picked up their blocks and center Jon Halapio got to the second level on Jarrad Davis. Engram was lined up for a block on safety Tavon Wilson in front of Barkley with a lot of open real estate. Devon Kennard managed to peel off a Kevin Zeitler block at the last moment and trip up Barkley from behind to prevent a big play.

*Four plays later, Jones targeted Slayton on Melvin again. This time, Slayton ran past Melvin, and Jones put it high for Slayton to go up and get. Melvin did not get his head around, and Slayton came down with the 28-yard touchdown reception with Melvin in his face. Like the previous touchdown to Slayton, Jones was able to quickly identify the matchup he liked and got rid of the ball quickly.

*In the third quarter, Barkley caught an angle route over the middle and probably would have run for a touchdown if he didn’t stumble. Instead, the play gained 38 yards. The Giants still got in the end zone after the drive was extended on a Justin Coleman defensive holding penalty on Golden Tate on a 3rd and 9. On a 3rd and goal from the two-yard line, Fowler helped free Engram for a two-yard touchdown catch. Fowler’s play was legal because it occurred at the line of scrimmage.

*The Giants attempted the two-point conversion to cut the lead to three. They ran Barkley in a jet sweep motion across the field to the left, which drew three defenders. Jones faked the handoff and rolled right. Slayton was open on a quick out, but the pass was low and fell incomplete.

*The Giants’ next drive was a critical one. Down 24-19 with 3:08 remaining in the third quarter, they had a chance to take the lead. A defensive holding penalty on Melvin on third down gave the Giants a fresh set of downs. On the subsequent first down, Jones found Golden Tate for a 14-yard gain down the left sideline. On the run fake to sell to the flea flicker, Nate Solder was called for holding as end Trey Flowers made a run at Jones. On 3rd and 11, the Lions brought six men, including two defensive backs, on a blitz. It was not picked up well, and Jones had to throw a short dump-off to Engram that was knocked down at the line of scrimmage.

*When the Giants offense got the ball back, they were down 12 with 12:04 remaining in the game. The Giants got three first downs, including two on great effort plays from Barkley. After a five-yard catch on a 2nd and 11, Barkley broke three tackles (including tossing safety Will Harris to the ground with a stiff arm) to gain 17 yards. On the very next play, Flowers came off the left edge and hit an unsuspecting Jones from behind and forced a fumble. Jones recovered it, but it put the Giants in a 2nd and 20. Jones tried to find Engram on the next play, but linebacker Jahlani Tavai dropped perfectly into his passing lane. Jones tripped over Solder’s foot and was sacked again. Jones managed to get 20 yards on 3rd and 26 to set up a manageable 4th down from the Lions 39-yard line. The Lions blitzed seven, played zero coverage, and forced Jones to get rid of the ball quickly. He tried to hit a Golden Tate on a quick out at the sticks out of the left slot against Coleman, who played inside technique, but anticipated the route and cut in front of Tate to knock it away. It was picture perfect defense.

*Cody Latimer made a tremendous one-handed catch on the Giants’ next to last drive of the game, tipping it back to himself with one hand and dragging his back foot to stay in-bounds. On a 3rd and 11 from the 14-yard line, Jones tried to hit Slayton, who was working against rookie Mike Ford in the end zone. There was a lot of contact from the cornerback that forced the incompletion. Jones tried to go for Slayton again on the next play, but the receiver did not get his head around quickly enough to pick up the ball in the air and it fell incomplete over his head.

*The Giants scored a touchdown on their final drive but failed to recover the onside kick with 1:19 left in the game and not timeouts.

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