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Film Review: Breaking down Giants' loss to Cardinals

Here’s what I saw watching the coaches tape of the Giants’ 27-21 loss to Arizona:

*The Giants’ first drive was short-circuited by an interception. Wide receiver Golden Tate stopped beyond the first down marker on a 3rd and 13, in between linebacker Jordan Hicks and cornerback Tremaine Brock Sr. The window was very small, and quarterback Daniel Jones might have been able to fit the ball in if he has thrown it a little earlier, but he patted the ball an extra time, which gave both defenders a chance to get in front of Tate for the interception. The Cardinals scored a touchdown three plays later.

*The second offensive possession went nowhere after Saquon Barkley lost eight yards while trying to create a play on a short pass. The Giants’ third drive was bolstered by a trio of big plays. Thanks in part to a fine block by fullback Eli Penny, Barkley picked up 20 yards on a run to his left, which was his best run of the game. Two plays later, the Giants ran double shallow crossers against man to man defense, which created a natural rub-route and freed Tate for a catch and run for 20 yards. On the next play, the Giants ran a fake jet sweep to Tate out of 12 personnel. Against a single high defense, Jones fit the ball perfectly over the head of linebacker Haason Reddick and in front of deep safety Budda Baker. It was a small window throw that Jones could not have thrown better as he connected with tight end Rhett Ellison for a 28-yard touchdown.

*The final drive of the first half is one they will at with regrets when they review the film on Monday morning. A holding call on guard Will Hernandez at the point of attack nullified a 32-yard Barkley run that would have advanced the ball to the 17-yard line. Jones was able to overcome that penalty by connecting with Tate on a small window throw in the middle of the Cardinals zone to convert a 3rd and 12. On the very next play, Jones threw a perfect pass to Evan Engram down the right sideline that the tight end dropped. On 2nd and 4 later in the drive, Barkley, again trying to make a play to avoid penetration, lost six yards. On 3rd and 10, Jones couldn’t find anyone open before pressure forced an incomplete pass. Aldrick Rosas could have attempted a 55-yard field goal, but a Mike Remmers’ holding penalty pushed the Giants back to the 47-yard line and out of field goal range. Even three points on that drive could have made a difference at the end of the game.

*The Giants’ second drive of the second half was promising. Jones made some good quick throws against blitzes and pressure to get the ball down to the Cardinals 37-yard line. On 2nd and 8, the Giants tried to set up a screen play for Barkley, but the Cardinals had it covered. Rather than just throwing the ball away, Jones held it waiting for the play to develop. That gave Chandler Jones time to beat Engram, get to Jones, strip sack him, and recover the fumble.

*The Giants moved the ball well on their next possession. A key play in the game was the first run of the drive, when Barkley gained nine yards but seemed to aggravate his right ankle injury. The Giants converted a 4th and 6 on a great tight window throw from Jones between two Cardinals defenders playing zone. After failing to convert a 3rd and 12, Rosas missed a 37-yard field goal attempt as he hit the right upright.

*The Giants scored a touchdown on their next drive as the Cardinals played more zone and pressured less often. Jones hit Darius Slayton on a deep in-cut for 20 yards, and completed a hot route on a corner blitz to wide receiver Cody Latimer for 13 yards. Barkley finished the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run up the middle behind blocks from Engram and Ellison.

*Down by only three points, the Giants struggled with pass protection. On a 1st and 10, there was a miscommunication on a Cardinals blitz. Right tackle Mike Remmers and Barkley moved to block the same player, which allowed Chandler Jones a free run at the quarterback for an easy sack. Barkley couldn’t get more than three yards against a very light box on a draw play on 3rd and 18, setting up a 4th and 15. Pat Shurmur opted to go for it, but Jones was sacked and forced to fumble by Patrick Peterson, who had blitzed from Jones’ blindside. The Cardinals recovered the fumble.

*The Giants still had one more chance, but after a first down completion, linebacker Cassius Marsh forced Jones to flee the pocket. The moment he started to move, he ran into the arms of Terrell Suggs, who left tackle Nate Solder was trying to ride around the quarterback on an outside rush. Suggs stripped the ball, but Solder was able to recover the fumble. Jones was sacked again two plays later by linebacker Brooks Reed, effectively ending the game.

*Overall, Jones continues to have the expected ups and downs of a rookie quarterback. He continues to display tremendous confidence in his arm and accuracy with tight window passes. As a result, he continues to learn to measure the risk vs. reward of such plays. While Jones had very little time on the final two drives, there were plays earlier in the game where he held the ball and allowed pressure to get home. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Jones was pressured on 23 of his 50 dropbacks, and completed 9 of 15 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked eight times.

*The Cardinals dedicated themselves to slowing down the run, and Barkley was forced to run into some heavier boxes. Despite the loaded fronts and his re-taped ankle, he still managed to average four yards per carry and finished with 72 yards.

*The Giants offense moved the ball fairly well in this game. They punted only three times and had only one three and out. They were often their own worst enemies with dropped passes, penalties, turnovers, missed field goals and sacks.

*The Cardinals scored a touchdown on their first possession on a methodical 13-play, 75-yard drive that lasted nearly seven minutes. The Cardinals faced three third downs (of 5, 6, and 7 yards), but Arizona managed to convert the first two. They converted the third by gaining four yards on 4th and 3. The touchdown came on an outside run. Tight end (Maxx Williams) and left tackle (D.J. Humphries) blocked down on Oshane Ximines and Olsen Pierre to gain the edge. The pulling left guard (Justin Pugh) and center (A.Q. Shipley) pushed cornerback DeAndre Baker and safety Michael Thomas outside the numbers to create the rushing lane for a 20-yard scoring run.

*The Cardinals’ next drive started on the Giants 32-yard line following Daniel Jones’ interception. After a pair of runs, including an outside run for 11 yards, the Cardinals ran a delayed handoff for Edmonds up the middle for another 20-yard touchdown run.

*Arizona’s third drive was aided by a Janoris Jenkins defensive pass interference penalty. After Dexter Lawrence went offsides, Kyler Murray had a free play and launched a deep throw to wide receiver Trent Sherfield. There was contact between Jenkins and the wide receiver, which made Sherfield fall down and drew the flag. Pat Shurmur challenged the call on Jenkins because replay seemed to show that Sherfield initiated the contact and fell because the players’ feet got tangled, which is generally not considered a penalty. The play was upheld on review.

*Two penalties put the Cardinals in a 3rd and 14. If Markus Golden did not get pressure from over the right tackle, it is likely Murray would have found wide receiver Damiere Byrd down the field for a touchdown along the numbers on the left side of the field. Instead, Murray scrambled for six yards and the Cardinals kicked the field goal.

*The Giants did a good job throughout the day managing Murray’s ability to scramble and create time with his legs. A good example was their sack that set up a blocked punt. Even after Murray escaped the initial rush of Lorenzo Carter, Markus Golden and the rest of the defense continued to pursue. Grant Haley stepped up from the secondary to prevent Murray from getting to the sideline. Ximines, who was a stand-up rusher and spying Murray on the play, also contained him, which helped Pierre get the sack. Murray finished with 28 yards on 10 rushes.

*The amazing part of the punt block is that it happened on a play where the Giants were setting up a return. Michael Thomas ran up the middle virtually untouched to make the block. The personal punt protector on the play, running back Chase Edmonds, moved to his right to help block Eli Penny. Tight end Maxx Williams looked left to his left and didn’t block anybody. Penny jumped on the ball for the touchdown.

*On the Cardinals’ next possession, corner DeAndre Baker played good technique against Byrd on a deep route with no safety help over the top. Baker got inside position and forced Murray to throw to the outside. Baker got his head around and knocked the pass away. He played it perfectly. A Lorenzo Carter pressure on Murray helped force the punt. The Giants defense didn’t allow Murray to make plays over the top and forced him to move the ball with short passes. According to PFF, Murray was just 1 of 4 on passes that traveled more than 10 yards in the air.

*Arizona became conservative in the second half as the rain worsened. They did manage one more score on their second drive without putting the ball in the air. The drive was aided by an unnecessary roughness penalty on Carter, who dove to tackle Murray from behind just as the quarterback went into his slide on an 11-yard scramble. The Cardinals scored on another outside run to the left on the next play. Carter and Peppers forced Edmonds to cut the ball inside, but the rest of the Giants defense could not make their way over to tackle the ball carrier.

*After that scoring drive, Murray threw only two passes the rest of the game. The Giants slowed down the Cardinals running attack, and sniffed out some of the misdirection passing game near the line of scrimmage. The Cardinals only gained 14 yards the rest of the game. Murray had a couple of opportunities to take shots down the field, but it was obvious that in the rain he had put a priority on protecting the football. It is a luxury that comes with playing with a lead.

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