The Giants won their first home game of the season on Sunday, thanks to a strong performance on all three levels of the defense. Here are five factors that led to the victory:
1. The Giants were able to get consistent pressure up front without having to bring extra rushers. They continued the struggles that the Panthers' offensive line were having coming into the game. According to Pro Football Focus, the Giants blitzed on only 16.7% of their snaps (18th of 24 teams) but managed to get a pressure on 54% of the Panthers' snaps, which was the NFL's highest rate in Week 7.
Dexter Lawrence was the most consistent pass rushing force for all four quarters. He had only one sack, but forced two offensive holding penalties, and had four quarterback hurries. He won with power and was consistently pushing the opposing guard into the laps of the quarterback. In the second half, he executed several twists with Azeez Ojulari against the right side of the Carolina line.
Ojulari owned the fourth quarter. He was moved to right end on the Panthers' final two drives and dominated his matchup with rookie third-round pick Brady Christensen. He consistently won around the edge with speed and had two fourth quarter sacks to give him 2.5 on the afternoon. He also finished with four quarterback hits.
Leonard Williams had 1.5 sacks, two quarterback hits and two hurries. The front did their job and gave the secondary the help they needed to be successful in coverage.
2. The Giants' secondary played strong coverage all afternoon. There weren't any Panthers receivers open down the field. The Giants allowed only two passes of more than 15 yards during the game, which was the second-fewest in the league. Logan Ryan and the rest of the safeties disguised what they were doing, which made the opponent hold the football a few beats longer.
The Giants played almost exclusively zone defense, with two-thirds of their coverage snaps featuring "Cover-3", and another 28% featuring "Cover-4." According to PFF, the Giants played only one snap of man defense the entire game. Giants linebackers and safeties flooded the middle of the field, leaving few passing lanes available for the Panthers, and were quick to close on receivers when they were trying to make the catch.
3. The Giants' run defense set up their pass rush and secondary in a lot of second- and third-and-longs. The Panthers finished with only 56 rushing yards, 23 of which came on the game's opening drive. The Giants were able to slow down the running game without bringing a safety into the box. According to PFF, the Giants had eight or more players in the box just four times in the game.
The defensive line played well holding up at the point of attack between the tackles. Lorenzo Carter made a couple of strong plays setting the edge, as did Ojulari. Quincy Roche tackled receiver Shi Smith on an end-around on the Panthers' first drive for a three-yard loss that helped keep Carolina out of the end zone. Benardrick McKinney looked strong in limited action, while Tae Crowder and Reggie Ragland were a bit more consistent attacking of scrimmage than they had been in past weeks.
View photos from the New York Giants' 25-3 victory over the Carolina Panthers at MetLife Stadium.
4. Given how well the defense played in this game, the Giants did what they had to do to help secure the win. They did not turn over the ball, only had two three-and-outs and helped win the battle of field position.
Jason Garrett deserves a lot of credit for the game plan he put together to try to slow down the Panthers' pass rush. He used a combination of RPO's, play-action passes, moving pockets, screens, chip blocks and quick game to slow down the pass rush. The Panthers only got pressure on Jones on 24% of his dropbacks, which was the 7th-best rate in the league this week, according to PFF.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Giants only had six dropbacks the entire game where they did not use play-action, move the pocket, or have Jones hold the ball for more than two seconds. On those six dropbacks, Jones completed two passes for 14 yards and was sacked twice. Half of Jones' passes were play-action and 13 featured a moving pocket. No team ran play-action passes more frequently than the Giants this weekend.
Matt Peart had the best performance of the offensive linemen, not allowing a pressure, according to Pro Football Focus. He received some help from chip blocks and Giants were often rolling the pocket towards the right side of the formation.
The Giants used a lot of quick inward breaking routes against the Panther cornerbacks, who were playing a lot of outside leverage in their zone defenses. Darius Slayton was Jones' most reliable target at wide receiver and finished with five catches for 63 yards. Evan Engram chipped in with six catches for 44 yards.
One other tendency we are seeing from the offense is that when they are facing dynamic speed rushers who like to get up the field, Jones is utilized more on quarterback keepers on read-option plays to take advantage of that over-aggression. We saw it early in the year against Washington and saw it again this week. It is another effective way to slow down the rush just for a few moments.
The Giants only attempted one pass more than 20 yards down the field. They managed eight passes of 15 yards or more to four different receivers, including the one to Jones. Jones had 28 rushing yards and 16 receiving yards to go along with his 203 passing yards. He put a large part of the offense on his shoulders in this game.
5. Devontae Booker played 82% of the snaps for the Giants, but no other offensive skill position player had more than 61%. The Giants used either two running backs or two or tight ends on more than half of their offensive plays. Eli Penny played a season high 22 offensive snaps while all three tight ends played more than 35% of the Giants offensive snaps. Collin Johnson, David Sills, Dante Pettis and John Ross each played between 29% and 51% of the snaps, with Ross and Pettis were togetehr on the field for about half the offensive snaps.
On defense, Tae Crowder, Xavier McKinney and James Bradberry did not leave the field, while Logan Ryan played all but one snap. Leonard Williams played 84% of all snaps while Dexter Lawrence logged 70%, likely dictated by how well they played. With an ankle injury to Lorenzo Carter keeping him on the bench for parts of the game, Azeez Ojulari played 67% of the snaps to lead all edge rushers. Newcomer Bernardrick McKinney logged 11 defensive snaps.