Sidelines Notes

Giants defeat Bucs: Film review notes and observations

• If you could bottle the Tampa Bay game up for the Giants offense, it could be used as a model for how they want to play football. Eli Manning dropped back to throw just 22 times, and Saquon Barkley dominated the flow of the game with 142 yards on 27 carries. It was an efficient balance the Giants were able to reach because they got a lead early, played well up front and protected the football.

• The Giants opened the game using Eli Manning under center in a lot of two tight end sets and putting fullback Elijah Penny in the backfield. Four of their first six plays were runs, with their two passes coming off of play action. On the Giants’ second drive, they ran it eight times and passed it just four times. In their first 18 plays, the Giants had just one negative play, a Saquon Barkley run for a four-yard loss. It was Barkley’s only negative run of the afternoon. Eli Manning was sacked four times and the Giants had only one offensive penalty, a Spencer Pulley false start. (Chad Wheeler’s unsportsmanlike conduct was post-play and enforced on special teams, and Eli Manning’s delay of game was intentional) The Giants were constantly in good down and distance.

• The Giants were 4 of 8 on third down in the game, not counting their final 3rd and 7 when they ran Saquon Barkley in an attempt to run out the clock. Three of their four misses were on attempts of eight yards or more, and three of their four makes were on attempts of five yards or less. The Giants had only eight true offensive possessions (not counting when they were kneeling down/running out the clock), and only having eight third down conversion attempts shows how effective they were on early downs, getting first downs without even having to get to third down.

• Here are a few numbers that Pro Football Focus was kind enough to provide in regards to how the Giants approached this game. Of the Giants 53 offensive snaps, only 21 came in 11 personnel. Thirty-two (32) snaps had either multiple tight ends or a fullback on the field. In the first nine games of the season, a much higher percentage (377 of 577) of their snaps came in 11 personnel. Half of Manning’s dropbacks (11) came from under center against Tampa Bay, and all were of the play action variety. In the first nine games of the season, Manning only had 62 dropbacks from under center, less than seven per game. Finally, 13 of Manning’s 22 dropbacks against Tampa Bay came via play action. In the first nine games, only 66 passes came via play action.

• The Giants offensive line (and tight ends and fullback) deserves a lot of credit for allowing the team to play this style of football, which led to the victory. Howard Cross pointed out on the sideline during the radio broadcast that the offensive line used primarily a zone block scheme with quick double teams up front before an offensive lineman tried to get to the second level to pick up a linebacker. The tape showed Howard was absolutely right and it worked to perfection, with very few mistakes up front. 

• Ironically, one of the few times the Giants did show a power look in the run game was on the big 54-yard completion to Evan Engram in the fourth quarter. Left guard Will Hernandez pulled across the formation to pick up defensive end Carl Nassib, who was coming off the left edge. Linebacker Devante Bond, who was watching the play action fake, was one-on-one with Engram. It was a mismatch in favor of the Giants, and Engram beat him on the slant for a big gain that led to the Giants’ final touchdown, extending their lead to 38-28. 

• The success on early downs allowed the team to limit the number of times Manning had to use straight drop backs and sit in the pocket trying to get the ball down field. Two sacks actually came on play action passes, and one came out of shotgun when Spencer Pulley was pushed into Jamon Brown, knocking him down and freeing up Gerald McCoy. The fourth was not the fault of the offensive line when Saquon Barkley accidentally tripped Eli Manning after a play action. The flow of the game and the way Pat Shurmur called it put the Giants offensive line in situations where they could succeed.

• Manning was sharp, accurate and in rhythm, missing on just one of his 18 throws. His one miss was on a wheel route to Saquon Barkley. With the safety coming from the middle of the field, Manning threw it to the running back’s outside shoulder, and Barkley couldn’t make the adjustment to come away with the catch. Eli completed passes to nine different receivers and averaged 12.8 yards per attempt. 

• Saquon Barkley deserves credit for the way he played. He was much more decisive with his runs, and ran with power downhill. He didn’t let that completely negate his creativity either. There were several runs where the point of attack was defended well, but he made one decisive cutback to find open space. He changed direction, but did it quickly and without hesitation. He only had one run of over 20 yards, but he kept the chains moving. There were a couple of runs where he was just a shoestring tackle away from breaking a big gain. He looked more like Emmitt Smith than Barry Sanders. 

• After praising the Giants offense, it wouldn’t be fair to omit that the Bucs defense showed on Sunday exactly what they did on tape all season long. They were missing some of their starters (linebacker LaVonte David, safety Justin Evans, nickel M.J. Stewart, end Vinny Curry) and had trouble stopping anything the Giants threw at them. The Giants will get a truer test this week against a savage Eagles front and banged up secondary.

• The Giants defense managed four interceptions and forced a turnover on downs, which were the difference in the game. The first interception came at their own 13-yard line. Safety Michael Thomas played inside of O.J. Howard on a skinny post, but Fitzpatrick threw the ball anyway and Thomas turned it into a pick. 

• The second interception came on a nice play by Janoris Jenkins, who crashed in on a DeSean Jackson slant and beat him to the spot. Linebacker Alec Ogletree showed good hustle and awareness to come over and grab the ball before it hit the ground, turning Jenkins’ excellent play into seven points. 

• The final two Giants interceptions came on attempted jump balls to 5-10 DeSean Jackson where Curtis Riley went up to get it in the end zone and B.W. Webb did the same on the sideline. 

• The Giants also turned the Bucs over on downs on their first drive of the game. Everyone will talk about Josh Mauro, Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill holding their ground on the quarterback sneak, but Landon Collins deserves credit, too. He crashed around the edge and prevented a second surge from Fitzpatrick after the initial stop. Collins also brought down Cameron Brate on the previous 3rd and 11 play, keeping him out of the end zone. 

• The four interceptions and turnover on downs prevented three Buccaneers scores of some kind. The Giants only won by three. It was the difference between a win and a loss. 

• Despite struggling all season running the football, the Buccaneers rushed for 151 yards on 30 carries. The Giants showed more two-high safety looks than they have in past weeks, which created more running space for the Bucs and they took advantage of it.

• There were breakdowns on the back end, too, most notably the late 41-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans. The Giants came out in a two safety deep look, yet Jameis Winston was able to find Evans between the corner and the safety. The Bucs had one run and eight passes of 20 or more yards. Those are far too many chunk plays for a defense to be successful. 

• The Giants struggled getting off the field on third down. The Bucs converted on six of nine opportunities thanks to distances of 4, 11, 8, 2, 1, 1, 8, 4 and 1 (failed ones in red). The Bucs converted every single second half third down situation they were in. 

• The Giants pass rush also wasn’t consistent enough. According to Pro Football Focus, the Giants had three quarterback hits to go along with Kareem Martin’s one sack. PFF also had them for 22 pressures, but both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston did a good job moving up in the pocket to keep plays alive. 

• It was a good win for the Giants, and next week they will be tested even more when they go against a division opponent in a hostile environment in Philadelphia.

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