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Film Study: Breaking down Week 14 vs. Cardinals


The Giants lost to the Cardinals, 26-7, on Sunday. All advanced statistics below are via Pro Football Focus.

* There wasn't much that went right for the Giants' offense. A combination of poor ball protection, pressure on the quarterback and lack of execution on third downs ultimately led to only 159 yards of total offense. The Giants ran the ball fairly efficiently (17 carries, 78 yards) but it was difficult to remain committed to the running game once they were down, 20-0, early in the third quarter.

* The Giants struggled to generate chunk plays. They had no runs of 20 or more yards in the game and only had two pass plays of 20+ yards. Their longest play in the first half was only 13 yards. Their only 30+ yard pass play was this deep pass to Golden Tate. Daniel Jones saw the deep safety come down on a crossing route across the field, leaving Tate one-on-one with slot cornerback Byron Murphy. Earlier in the game, Murphy knocked a similar throw away from Tate, but this time Tate came up with the contested catch:

* The Giants' struggles on third downs led to their inability to sustain drives, move field position and eventually score points. In the first half, they were only 1-of-5 on some very reasonable third-down opportunities of 3, 5, 7, 4, and 7 yards, to go with a third-and-21. It is impossible to commit to a run game and develop any momentum or rhythm if an offense cannot convert third downs. The reasons for those failures vary play to play from pass protection to the inability to get separation and connections.

The two biggest plays of the game were third-down opportunities in the second half that the Giants' offense failed to convert:

1. Trailing 20-7 with 53 seconds left in the third, the Giants had it third-and-1 at their own 16. After making pre-snap adjustments at the line, Jones read there was no deep safety on the right side of the field. He tried to make a big play to Sterling Shepard over the top to his outside shoulder, but Dre Kirkpatrick covered well and the pass fell incomplete. Kaden Smith was open for an easy first-down on a designed rub route from Evan Engram against man coverage on the left side of the field, but the offense opted to try for a chunk play.

2. The Cardinals kicked a field goal on the subsequent drive, but the Giants could still stay close if they scored on their next drive. On third-and-4 from their own 32, the Cardinals rushed five and played man-to-man defense. Haason Reddick won off the edge against Andrew Thomas, and Matt Peart and Kevin Zeitler failed to pass off a stunt on the right side of the line, which led to a sack.

* The Giants' offensive line had trouble with protection, especially during a two-score game in the fourth quarter. They struggled passing off several tackle-end twists, especially on the right side of the line. The Cardinals used stunts at the second-highest rate in the league on Sunday. Thomas allowed two sacks and five hurries, struggling with speed rushes around the edge after initial feints that they were rushing inside. Reddick had five of Arizona's eight sacks, which came from every direction. Markus Golden added a sack and five hurries while being consistently disruptive. The Cardinals got pressure on the quarterback on 75% of the Giants' passing plays, which led the league in Week 15.

* The Giants' inability to move the football, and their three turnovers, resulted in Arizona dominating field position. The Giants' average starting field position was their own 16, and they never started a drive past their own 30. The Cardinals, meanwhile, averaged a starting field position their own 47.

* Three of the Cardinals' first five drives started inside the plus-40, yet they only came away with 10 points on those possessions. The Giants' red zone defense held Arizona, which had the best red zone offense in the league heading into the game, to only two touchdowns on seven red zone trips.

* Losing the turnover battle, 3-0, proved to be fatal for the Giants. On just the fifth play of the day, the Cardinals sent out a 4-4-3 defensive alignment (four DL's, four LB's, three DB's) to combat the Giants deploying three tight ends. On a play-action pass, no one blocked Markus Golden off the edge, leaving him free for a strip-sack on Daniel Jones.

* The Giants' ensuing goal-line stand was impressive. On second down, Blake Martinez made a great solo tackle on an end around to save a touchdown. On third-and-goal Jabrill Peppers and Julian Love combined to fill a rushing hole before James Bradberry knocked away a fourth-down throw, during which Tae Crowder did an excellent job preventing QB Kyler Murray from running it into the end zone.

* While the defense played well and kept the Giants in it, they failed to create any takeaways, which they had done 10 times during the team's winning streak. They also did not force any three-and-outs, spare the three Kyler Murray kneel downs to end the game.

* A big reason for those issues was a lack of impactful negative plays. The Giants had only one sack and three other plays that went for a bigger loss than one yard before the Cardinals' last two possessions (after the game was already decided).

* The Giants allowed four plays of 20+ yards, but were victims of smaller plays that turned into long scoring drives. The Cardinals started the second half with their lone long touchdown drive, featuring third-down conversions of 1, 3, and 3 yards. Combined with a 36-yard run from Kenyan Drake, it gave the Cardinals what turned out to be their decisive score. The Cardinals are a team that excels at taking small gains and they had too many of those.

* The Giants had a chance to create to takeaways in the second half, forcing Kenyan Drake to fumble twice at the start of the fourth quarter, but they could come up with the ball.

* The Giants could not create consistent pressure on the quarterback – their 20% pressure rate ranked 25th in the NFL in Week 14. The Giants blitzed nine times in the game. Only seven teams blitzed fewer times on Sunday. Dalvin Tomlinson led the team with a sack and four quarterback hurries. The team only managed four quarterback hits.

* Jabrill Peppers played another active game, with 13 tackles, a pair of tackles for loss and a forced fumble. We already showed his goal line stop with Julian Love. Here is a nice play of him shooting the gap from his deep safety position to force a 1-yard loss, which eventually helped hold Arizona to a field goal in the red zone.

* Carter Coughlin played 64 defensive snaps, which was second to only Blake Martinez at linebacker and more than any of the team's edge players. His best play of the game was his tackle for a 4-yard loss on Kenyan Drake in the first quarter. The Cardinals had to settle for a field goal on the drive.

* The Giants' special teams struggled again. Dion Lewis fumbled on a kickoff return, which set up a touchdown. Christian Kirk had punt returns of 24, 6, 8, 17, 8 and 18 yards.

View photos from the Week 14 matchup between the Giants and Cardinals at MetLife Stadium.



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