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Film Review: Big plays spark Giants in comeback victory


The Giants got their first opening-day victory since 2016, defeating the Tennessee Titans, 21-20, as Randy Bullock missed a field goal as time expired. Here's what stood out:

1. Saquon Barkley dominated the game for the Giants. Barkley accounted for just under half of the Giants yards (194 of 394 total yards) in the game. Of the 126 yards not gained by Barkley, 65 came on Sterling Shepard's deep post for a touchdown. Barkley had three plays of 15 yards or more, scored one of the team's three touchdowns, and had the game-winning 2-point conversion.

The 2-point conversion is a great place to start - it encapsulates the truth behind the old cliché that "it's not about the X's and O's, it's about the Jimmies and the Joes." There was penetration by two different Titans players on the attempt, but Barkley used his immense physical gifts to make them miss and get into the end zone. Linebacker Dylan Cole came in untouched and should have had Barkley dead-to-rights, but Barkley was better on the play. The video tells the whole story of how a healthy elite player can win a game.

Pro Football Focus tracked Barkley with four forced missed tackles on his runs, and 123 of his 164 rushing yards came after contact.

Barkley's speed is back two years removed from his torn ACL. On his 68-yard run, watch Colts safety Malik Hooker come down from his safety position. He thinks he has the angle on Saquon Barkley to either tackle him or push him out of bounds… until Barkley turns on the burners and not only gets by him, but stays in-bounds. The burst is easy to see and should remind fans of what he did in his rookie season.

2. When you watch the above run, be sure to appreciate the blocking ahead of Barkley. Center Jon Feliciano and rookie left guard Josh Ezeudu get in front of Barkley. Ezeudu's presence forces cornerback Kristian Fulton outside and upfield enough to give Barkley a pathway into the second level. Feliciano seals linebacker Zach Cunningham, getting Barkley isolated against safety Amani Hooker. Feliciano, Ezeudu, Bellinger and Glowinski each had key blocks on Barkley's 33-yard run in the fourth quarter.

According to PFF, Ezeudu had an 86.4 pass block efficiency rate, but his presence was felt more in the run game. On Barkley's touchdown, Ezeudu clears out defensive lineman Kevin Strong for the touchdown. The video shows the strength the lineman brings to the ground attack.

According to PFF, Saquon Barkley had just two runs go for zero or negative yards.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Giants allowed a 45% pressure rate, ranking them 25th of 30 teams. Andrew Thomas only allowed one pressure in the game, while rookie Evan Neal only allowed two. The Titans blitzed on 14 of the Giants 31 pass snaps, which was the ninth-highest rate in the league.

3. The Giants made some adjustments at halftime after allowing four sacks in the first half. After 11 of the Giants' 17 dropbacks in the first half featured no play-action or a RPO, only seven of the team's 14 dropbacks in the second half came without play-action or a RPO. Of those seven straight dropbacks, one was the shovel pass to Saquon Barkley on the game-winning 2-point conversion. Barkley accounted for 135 of the Giants' 261 yards in the second half.

Running RPO's and play-action gives some protection to the offensive line, which along with the run game, helped the Giants move the ball more consistently. In the second half, the Giants ran it 19 times versus only 14 passes despite trailing at the half, 13-0.

4. Maybe of most importance, the Giants finished the games with eight plays of 15+ yards and three plays that went for 30+ yards. Every one of the Giants scoring drives featured one of those 30+ yard plays. The Giants also scored touchdowns on two of their three red zone appearances, with their only failure coming on the possession where Jones threw an interception intended for Barkley. Explosive plays and red zone success win football games. The Giants did both.

5. The defense held Derrick Henry to 82 rushing yards on 21 carries. According to PFF, Henry forced only three missed tackles in the game and had just one rush go for more than 10 yards. Jihad Ward was second on the team with six tackles and set the edge, often against a tight end.

According to PFF, the Giants' pass rush managed only five pressures on 39 dropbacks. They played to Wink Martindale's reputation, blitzing on 53.8% of their snaps. Oshane Ximines and Dexter Lawrence each had two quarterback hits. Rookie Tomon Fox had his first career sack. According to PFF, The Giants only ran Cover-0 twice, but had the fourth highest percentage (29%) of snaps running Cover-1 (man-to-man with a single high safety). The Giants also played 34% of their snaps in Cover-3 (zone with a single high safety).

Other Notes:

* After Wan'Dale Robinson's early knee injury, Richie James became Daniel Jones' go-to receiver out of the slot, catching five passes on six targets to lead receivers in both categories.

* Dexter Lawrence played the run well. His ability to get down the line to force Henry toward the sideline prevented a first down on 2nd-and-3 early in the third quarter. The Titans punted to plays later to end their first drive of the second half, setting a tone for the rest of the game.

* The Giants had four defensive penalties on pass plays that led to automatic first downs: three defensive holding penalties and a defensive pass interference penalty.

* Kadarius Toney only had two touches for 23 yards, but looked very elusive. He also pulled back a pass-option with a defender in his face and ran for four yards.

* Ben Bredeson and Josh Ezeudu split snaps at left tackle, with Bredeson playing 32 snaps to Ezeudu's 28.

* Austin Calitro played the majority of the defensive snaps next to Tae Crowder, who played all 65 along with Adoree' Jackson, Julian Love and Xavier McKinney.

View photos from the Giants' Week 1 win over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.