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Film Review: Valiant effort by Giants defense

The Giants fell to the Patriots, 35-14, on Thursday night football. Here's what I saw watching the coaches tape:

*The biggest play of this game might have been on special teams. With 1:48 remaining in the first quarter, the game was scoreless when Riley Dixon lined up to punt at his own 19-yard line. Patriots running back Brandon Bolden drove linebacker Nate Stupar, who was in the up-back position, into Riley's punt. Chase Winovich caught the deflected boot and ran it in for a touchdown.

*The Giants defense put forth a valiant effort to give the team a chance to win the game. The Patriots finished the game with 427 yards of offense, but the Giants employed an effective bend but don't break defensive strategy that helped keep points off the board. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher continued his strategy of playing zone defense and opted for fewer blitzes (only eight, according to Pro Football Focus). They made Tom Brady methodically drive down the field, and the defense made key plays deep in their own territory to keep points off the board.

*The Patriots went 53 yards on their opening drive but turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert in short yardage situations. Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence stymied Sony Michel on a 2nd and 3 run. Linebacker Alec Ogletree's penetration and a Dalvin Tomlinson tackle resulted in a stop on the 3rd and 1. On 4th and 1, safety Jabrill Peppers set the edge, linemen B.J. Hill and Davlin Tomlinson penetrated and pursued from behind, and linebacker David Mayo filled the hole for the stop. Tomlinson was active throughout the game. Mayo was solid with his run fits and tackling.

*Linebacker Markus Golden short-circuited the Patriots' next drive on a 1st and 10 sack. He got off the line quickly and beat left tackle Marshall Newhouse inside for the sack to make it 2nd and 17. The Giants had three sacks, but according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), they only managed to pressure Brady on eight of his 44 dropbacks.

*The Giants took the ball away from Brady on New England's third drive. The Giants were in zone coverage, and wide receiver Julian Edelman was open down the middle of the field between Antoine Bethea and Janoris Jenkins. Brady threw it outside of Edelman rather than leading him down the middle, and it went right to Jenkins for the interception.

*The Giants forced punts on the Patriots' next two possessions, making it five straight drives for the Patriots without scoring. Their sixth drive started at the Giants 25 after a Daniel Jones interception. Rookie wide receiver Jakobi Meyers caught a back shoulder throw on Grant Haley, who played good coverage on the sideline. The play moved the ball to the two-yard line to set up a rushing touchdown.

*Give the Giants secondary and Lorenzo Carter credit for sacking and forcing a fumble on Brady in the second quarter. The Patriots ran a play action pass, but the secondary wasn't fooled and played sound zone coverage. Carter was being blocked by tight end Ryan Izzo on Brady's blindside. Carter continued to work the edge and Brady was forced to hold the ball, giving Carter time to get home for the strip sack. Golden picked it up and showed his running back skills to reach the ball out for the touchdown after the 42-yard return.

*The Patriots had their lone long scoring drive in the first half on their final possession before halftime. The key play was a 3rd and 6 before the two-minute warning. Brady hit running James White on a quick-out three yards short of the first down marker, but Jabrill Peppers couldn't bring him down. White got past him and Michael Thomas for the first down. On the next play, Brady hit Meyers, who had a step of separation on Grant Haley, on a deep cross for a 23-yard gain. Brady snuck it in four plays later for a touchdown.

*The Giants defense struggled to get the Patriots off the field in the second half. Even though New England didn't score on its only third quarter drive, the Patriots held the ball for 9:25 on a 16-play, 60-yard trek. Alec Ogletree made a few good solo tackles early in the drive, but also committed a defensive holding penalty to give the Patriots a first down. Janoris Jenkins committed a holding penalty trying to cover Julian Edelman in the slot on a 4th and 7 to keep the drive alive. Ogletree made a big tackle for loss on a shovel pass to James White on third down to force the Patriots to attempt a field goal, which Mike Nugent missed.

*On the Patriots next drive, Lorenzo Carter got penetration that allowed Jabrill Peppers to tackle White for a two-yard loss on a 3rd and 3 pitch play. The Patriots went for it on 4th down, and Bettcher dialed up a blitz. Pressure from Golden made Brady hesitate a moment and move in the pocket, forcing an incomplete pass to Edelman, who had gotten separation on DeAndre Baker on a crossing route.

*The Patriots had their longest play of the game on their final drive. Edelman ran a stop and go, which froze Jenkins and gave Brady room to complete the pass to Edelman at the Giants three-yard line on a 36-yard completion. Brady sneaked it in to give the Patriots their 35-14 win.

*The Giants entered the game against New England's top-ranked defense without Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and Wayne Gallman. The Patriots stuck to their season-long tendencies, playing man to man defense more than 50% of the time and blitzing just under 40%. Giants receivers had trouble getting separation against the Patriots secondary, which is one of the best in the league.

*According to PFF, 16 of Jones' throws were into tight windows. He completed seven of them for 108 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, it was the most tight window throws any quarterback has attempted in a single game in the past two seasons.

View the best images from the Giants' Thursday night game against the New England Patriots

*Even with the absence of the playmakers mentioned above, if the Giants offense had avoided some critical mistakes, it may have had a chance for a win at the end of the game. Jones' first interception was thrown behind Golden Tate on a slant. The ball was deflected into the air by Stephon Gilmore and intercepted by defensive lineman John Simon, who had dropped into coverage.

*Jones' second interception was a product of holding the ball too long. On a play action pass to the right, Jones looked back to the left side of the field, where Tate and Darius Slayton were running deep routes that the Patriots covered well. Rather than just throwing the ball away, he held it until defensive lineman Danny Shelton was close enough to hit his throwing arm as he released the ball. The ball fluttered right to safety Duron Harmon for the interception.

*On Jones' third interception, tight end Rhett Ellison ran a corner route that took him right into the lap of Gilmore. Jones threw the pass and Gilmore was able to get the interception. Just four plays earlier, the Giants ran the same play and Ellison was wide open in the same spot. The difference in the two plays was the coverage. The first time the Giants ran it, the Patriots were in two-deep, but Gilmore followed Cody Core, who ran a shallow in-cut in front of Ellison. The second time the Giants ran the play, Gilmore dropped into zone coverage and left Latimer, who ran the shallow in-cut, to be covered by the inside linebacker. Both coverages looked the same at the start but ended up being different post-snap. It is a good lesson for Jones.

*Jones' best throw of the day was his deep ball to Golden Tate in the second quarter. Tate was being covered man to man by cornerback Jonathan Jones. Tate barely had any separation but Jones led him perfectly. Tate maintained his balance to run in for the 64-yard touchdown. Tate had a productive night with six receptions on nine targets for 102 yards and a touchdown.

*Overall, as head coach Pat Shurmur said in his postgame press conference, Jones needs to protect the ball better. Interceptions will happen to any quarterback, but the second and third picks could have been avoided with better decisions. According to PFF, when under pressure, Jones completed six of 16 throws for 68 yards and one interception. The offensive line protected well and only allowed one sack to the team that led the league coming into the game with 24.

*The Giants running game never got going. Rookie Jon Hilliman, filling in for Barkley and Gallman, had only 38 yards on 11 carries, and his fumble on a screen that was returned for a touchdown gave the Patriots a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. Kevin Zeitler was out in front on the screen, but he was unable to get a block on linebacker Jamie Collins, who put his helmet on the ball and forced the fumble. Kyle Van Noy picked it up and ran for a touchdown.


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