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Film Review: Analyzing key plays, snap counts


The Giants (4-1) returned from London as 27-22 victors against the Green Bay Packers. It was another team victory with contributions on both sides of the ball leading to the team's fourth win in one-score games this season.

Here's what I saw on the game film:

1. Heading into this game, the Packers were the best third-down defense in the NFL (10-42 conversions), but they were particularly strong on third downs of more than six yards. They were only allowing their opponents to convert on an absurd 4% of their attempts in those situations, the top mark in the NFL. No team had converted a third down of 9+ yards against the Packers this season in 18 attempts. On the Giants' first drive, they converted third down attempts of nine and 13 yards in a span of four plays to help set-up Daniel Bellinger's touchdown.

On 3rd-and-13 from the Green Bay 31, the Giants were in 11 personnel with no one lined up next to Daniel Jones. Saquon Barkley and the tight end were offset just behind the offensive line and were used to help chip the Packers edge rushers, giving the Giants seven players to block four rushers. The Packers had six men in coverage to cover only three, but Richie James ran an in-cut and managed to catch the ball in front of the defender for the first down.

The completion helped overcome a Daniel Jones sack two plays earlier that could have stalled the drive.

On the second conversion (3rd-and-9 from the Green Bay 15), the Giants held in six to protect Jones, who managed to find Darius Slayton. Slayton did a good job creating just enough separation on an inside breaking route to position his body in front of Eric Stokes for a 10-yard gain on a tough contested catch.

Slayton finished with six catches for 79 yards to lead the team.

The Giants finished 6-10 on third down (not including the final kneel down), going 4-5 on third downs of four yards or less. They converted two of three of their third downs of nine or more yards, not including the final kneel down.

Two plays later the Giants ran it into the end zone, when Daniel Bellinger wisely chose not pass on an a variation of the "Philly-special" play when he had a defender his face after he initially received the ball on the reverse. If there was no pressure, there was room to get the pass to Jones or Tanner Hudson for a potential passing touchdown.

2. Saquon Barkley had the only two Giants plays to go for more than 26 yards, both of which came on drives that ended up in touchdowns. Prior to the above three plays, Barkley ran for 40 yards on a direct snap. If you look at the offensive line you will see it is unbalanced with Andrew Thomas and Evan Neal on the right side of the line, and only Daniel Bellinger and David Sills line up off Ben Bredeson at left guard. But the play ran away from the strength of the unbalanced line and behind the skill position players. Blocks from a pulling Jon Feliciano, Matt Breida as a lead blocker, and Sills and Bellinger helped spring Barkley for the big gain.

Later in the game, the Giants were in a nearly identical formation in the red zone, but Barkley ran behind Neal and Thomas to keep their tendencies variable.

Barkley's 41-yard catch was the second play of the Giants' final scoring drive. He was split out as a receiver with Matt Breida in the backfield. He ran a shallow cross, and a miscommunication between De'Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker (Campbell tries to pass Barkley off to Walker, who does not seem to notice his teammate make that hand signal) left Barkley wide open in space. He turned the short catch into a long gain, making Darnell Savage miss in the open field.

The play put the Giants in the red zone, and scored a touchdown by running it four of the next five plays to get it into the end zone for what became the game-winning score.

3. The Giants other scoring drive spanned 15 plays and went 91 yards, taking 8:07 off the clock. The Giants only had one play of 15+ yards on the drive, a 16-yard completion to Marcus Johnson after a Daniel Jones rollout to avoid a pass-rusher.

The drive featured only two plays that went for negative yards (one run and one pass that lost one yard each), and the Giants committed no penalties on the drive. Jones threw just one incomplete pass, going 7-of-8 for 55 yards. He also ran twice on the drive for 17 yards. It's important to note Saquon Barkley was injured on the first play of this drive, but the Giants managed to move the ball and score the game-tying touchdown, anyway, by being efficient and avoiding significant negative plays to put them behind the sticks. The Giants faced only two third downs on the drive of three and four yards.

4. The Giants' defense made some important stops in the third and fourth quarters. Dexter Lawrence's sack of Aaron Rodgers on a 3rd-and-8 with 4:09 left in the third was a big play where Lawrence once again showed off his power in an impressive bull rush. On the previous play, where Fabian Moureau and Nick McCloud played man-to-man defense in Cover-1 on a play-action pass with only a single-high deep safety (Xavier McKinney) there to help on a two-man route. There was not a lot of room for Aaron Rodgers to fit the ball into and he had to airmail it over Romeo Doubs head. McKinney's discipline to stay with the deeper over route prevents a potential big play.

On the Packers' next drive, the Giants forced three straight incompletions and the three-and-out. On 2nd- and 3rd-and-10, the Giants' secondary once again played great coverage with McCloud breaking up a pass over the middle to Randall Cobb and Fabian Moureau preventing Allen Lazard from catching an underthrown deep ball down the left sideline.

The Packers failed to score on their four fourth-quarter drives (including final Hail Mary attempt) and finished the half with only 98 net yards and eight first downs. They had only one play go for more than 15 yards in the half, and no plays go for more than 20 yards.

5. On the Giants' final goal-line stand, Wink Martindale brought out his signature blitz packages to close out the game. The Packers had the ball 2nd-and-3 on the Giants 8. After Nicholas Williams staying strong at the point of attack gave Kayvon Thibodeau time to tackle Aaron Jones from behind to prevent a first down, the Packers chose to pass on 3rd-and 4th-and-1.

On the first play, Wink Martindale sends six on the pressure, with Thibodeaux getting his hand up to bat Rodgers' pass into the air for a near interception. On 4th-and-1, Martindale brings eight in a Cover-0 look, and it is McKinney who gets his hand on the football at the line of scrimmage to end the game.

Martindale's blitzes do not just result in sacks. They force the opposing quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly, and if the pass rushers are aware they can be presented with opportunities to knock down passes before they reach their intended targets.

According to PFF, the Giants had the seventh-highest blitz rate in Week 5 (44%) and managed a 23% pressure rate (23rd in Week 5). Dexter Lawrence and Oshane Ximines both had sacks, while Nicholas Williams, Dane Belton and Jihad Ward had quarterback hits. PFF tracked Kayvon Thibodeaux and Ward with four pressures each.

Other notes:

* Before he left with a knee injury, Adoree' Jackson was excellent in run support on the perimeter.

* Richie James drew two defensive holding penalties, one of which turned a Daniel Jones sack and fumble into an automatic first down. Darius Slayton also forced a defensive holding penalty on the first play of the third quarter that negated a Daniel Jones sack.

* The Giants used a combination of play-action passes, a lot of chips on the edge and quick passes out of empty formations to keep the Packers' pass rush at bay. The Packers finished with only one sack and four quarterback hits. Pro Football Focus tracked them for only eight pressures despite the fact Green Bay blitzed on 41% of the passing snaps. According to PFF, the Giants allowed pressure on 29% of their passes, which was the 14th-best rate in the NFL.

* Daniel Jones was efficient throughout the game, completing 21 of 27 passes for 217 yards. He only attempted one pass that traveled 20 or more yards in the air and completed one pass that traveled 15 yards down the field.

* Marcus Johnson led Giants' receivers in offensive snaps with 47. Darius Slayton and Richie James each played 33, with David Sills playing 26.

* Julian Love and Xavier McKinney both played every defensive snaps (63), with Dexter Lawrence playing the third most snaps (57). Kayvon Thibodeaux played his highest snap percentage of the season (81%). Cornerbacks Nick McCloud and Justin Layne had to play a lot, givein injuries to Adoree' Jackson and Fabian Moureau. McCloud played 26 snaps on defense, while Layne played 11. Jaylon Smith is establishing himself as the inside linebacker next to Tae Crowder and played 65% of the snaps.