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Film Review: Breaking down Giants vs. Vikings

Here's what I saw on the coaches tape from the Giants' 28-10 loss to Minnesota on Sunday:

* When Daniel Jones looks back at this game, he will lament some missed opportunities. On a second and seven on the Giants first drive, he had Sterling Shepard wide open running deep on the right side of the field, but Jones put it a few inches too far in front of him and it fell incomplete. Shepard beat cornerback Trae Waynes on a nasty double move to create the separation. Anthony Barr put a nice hit on Jones immediately after he released the ball. Jones and Shepard both took responsibility for the miss after the game.

* Jones' other miss came in the red zone on a slant to Shepard, who found a hole in the zone between the cornerback and safety. Jones' throw sailed too high for Shepard to come down with two feet in-bounds. It was a fabulous effort by Shepard to catch the pass, but he couldn't complete the catch in-bounds. A great defense like Minnesota's is not going to give you many opportunities to score touchdowns, and missing on those chances can be the difference between a win and a loss.

* Jones made many good throws throughout the game. His 35-yard touchdown pass to Darius Slayton was perfectly placed for Slayton to run under. His throw to Shepard on a deep in-cut between the linebackers and safeties in a cover-two zone to convert a 3rd and 10 was another strike. Later in that same drive, Jones hit Slayton with a laser on a 16-yard out-route to convert a 3rd and 14. Jones felt the pressure around the edge on a Vikings blitz and stepped up in the pocket to complete the throw.

* Jones was at his best when running play action. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), on play action passes, he was 7 of 10 for 72 yards and a touchdown. With Wayne Gallman suffering a concussion, the run game could not get going. Jon Hilliman and Eli Penny combined for 12 carries for 25 yards. The lack of a running game was especially harmful in the red zone, where the Giants ran only three times (one of which was an end-around) in 12 plays, which resulted in no touchdowns.

* Jones faced pressure throughout the game. The Vikings mixed up blitzes (15 times, according to PFF) and rushing only four. According to PFF, Jones was pressured on 17 of his dropbacks and went 3 of 12 for 17 yards with one touchdown, an interception, one scramble, and four sacks. Defensive ends Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen combined for three sacks and eight hurries. Griffen's inside spin move gave left tackle Nate Solder a lot of trouble. Often, Jones had no room to step up inside the outside rush because the Vikings defensive tackles were pushing the middle of the pocket. Anthony Barr was an effective blitzer with two quarterback hurries and one hit. There were times Jones did hold the ball a little too long waiting for something to open downfield, which gave the Vikings time to get home. Minnesota's rush was disciplined. They kept Jones from using his legs to gain yards on scrambles. He only had three rushes for 12 yards.

* There were a handful of incompletions that hit the hands of the receivers. Shepard could not come up with a contested catch in the end zone when he had position on cornerback Mike Hughes. Evan Engram had a couple of contested throws he did not catch. In general, the Vikings played good coverage downfield and were quick to close on and hit Giants players after they touched the ball. Harrison Smith played like the Pro Bowler he is and almost had an interception coming over to help on a deep pass to Slayton.

* The Giants did not block well when the Vikings forced a safety in the second quarter. Trapped on the one-yard line after a recovering a fumble, the Giants allowed Barr to shoot the gap between right guard Kevin Zeitler and center Jon Halapio. Harrison Smith came in untouched off the right edge, and Ben Gedeon got inside of Evan Engram. Hilliman did not have a chance before he was tackled in the end zone.

* Slayton played another solid game. He showed the ability to win with his speed down the field, and he continues to impress with his hands and route running.

* The Giants defense struggled. The Vikings were not forced to punt until the fourth quarter. Minnesota's first five drives were at least 49 yards and no fewer than six plays. Kirk Cousins completed 19 of 23 passes in the first half for 278 yards and a touchdown. The Vikings only possession in the third quarter went five plays for 57 yards and a touchdown. The Giants' saving grace was their red zone defense, holding the Vikings to only two touchdowns in five trips.

* The Vikings had nine rushes of 10 or more yards (most in the NFL this week). Minnesota was able to get its offensive linemen to the second level to block up the Giants linebackers to break some of those big runs. On other plays, Giants second level defenders were slow to fill the hole, perhaps concerned with Vikings play-action pass and other misdirection. Dalvin Cook's ability to break tackles had a lot to do with their production, too.

* The Vikings had success with their play action pass and screen game. According to PFF, Cousins was 8 of 10 on play action dropbacks for 131 yards and a touchdown. Six of the Vikings' first 10 passes came off play action, which kept the Giants defense guessing. The Vikings connected frequently on crossers in the intermediate and deep levels of the defense after play fakes. Cousins was 4 of 4 for 65 yards on screen passes.

* According to PFF, the Vikings managed to pick up 15 or more yards on 37% of their pass attempts (10 of 27), which was the highest percentage in the league this week. They managed those big plays despite attempting only three passes that traveled 20 or more yards in the air. They dominated the game with yards after the catch. The Giants allowed an average of 9.1 yards after the catch, the second highest total in the league this week. PFF had the Giants defense with 16 missed tackles, the most in the NFL in Week 5.

* According to PFF, the Giants managed only eight pressures, which was the 6th fewest in the league. They blitzed just six times. On those blitzes, Cousins completed all five of his passes for 63 yards. When the Giants did generate pressure, Cousins struggled. He was only 3 of 5 for 12 yards, and was sacked three times when pressured. They didn't get to him often enough.

*Dexter Lawrence's sack was the result of excellent coverage in the end zone that forced Cousins to hold the ball. Lawrence had a more impressive sack taken off the board in the second quarter due to a penalty. He marched right guard Josh Kline into the lap of Cousins before bringing the quarterback down with the help of Markus Golden, who sacked Cousins later in the game when he beat tight end Kyle Rudolph off the edge. RJ McIntosh got his sack when he beat left guard Pat Elflein on a three-man rush.

* Jabrill Peppers was all over the field. He had a missed tackle, but was otherwise very aggressive getting after ballcarriers. His tackle and strip of Dalvin Cook probably saved a touchdown and forced the only takeaway of the game for the Giants defense. On the third play of the Vikings' first drive of the game, Cook ran wide left. Wide receiver Adam Thielen tried to block Peppers, but the Giants safety obliterated him and helped take down Cook. Peppers is starting to feel more comfortable in the defense and it is showing in his aggressive play.

* Rookie corner DeAndre Baker was in coverage on one of Thielen's touchdowns, but it took a great pass from Cousins to do it. Baker forced Thielen inside where Janoris Jenkins was in zone coverage, but Cousins got it over his head and in the perfect spot for Thielen to get his knee inbounds for the touchdown. Baker came up and made a nice play on Dalvin Cook on an inside run but was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for taunting.


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