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Cover 4

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Cover 4: What we learned about the Giants


The crew reacts to Sunday night in Buffalo, where the game went down to the final play:

John Schmeelk: After some games, it is easy to dissect why a team lost the game. The disparities show up in the box score, and it is clear one team outplayed the other. The Giants' game against the Bills was something different. It was the type of game that came down to individual moments where one team made plays in critical situations, and the other team didn't.

If you look at some of the key winning metrics, it would be easy to walk away thinking the Giants won the game. They won the turnover battle by two. The Bills missed two field goals, and the Giants made all three of theirs. The Giants had four plays of 20+ yards (including two of 30+), while the Bills had only one play of 20+ yards. These are critical metrics that often determine wins and losses, but that was not the case for the Giants on Sunday night.

The Bills scored their first touchdown on a well-designed motion play on a third-and-goal, while the Giants failed on two goal-to-go opportunities from one yard out. The Giants failed on two other third-and-one plays in the game that ended drives, even though they finished an impressive 10 of 19 on third downs.

These were the games the Giants won last year, whether it was against the Titans, Packers, Ravens, Jaguars or Commanders. Those games all came down to a play here or there where the Giants won by succeeding in critical situations. The Giants will need to start making those plays if they want to walk away with a win next week when they host the 3-3 Commanders.

Dan Salomone: As Schmeelk said, the 2022 Giants won games like Sunday night. The 2023 Giants showed that was still in their DNA in Buffalo, but in the end, the odds were ultimately insurmountable. In a twist of fate, no player better exemplified that gumption, which was the team's hallmark a year ago, than Justin Pugh, who in his own words during the NBC intros came from "straight off the couch."

Already down their franchise quarterback, the Giants played without three offensive linemen due to injuries. Pugh, a former first-round draft choice by the Giants in 2013, was signed to the practice squad on Oct. 3, elevated to the active roster on Oct. 14, and started at left guard on Oct 15. Since asking him to make his first start since tearing his ACL a year ago wasn't enough, Joshua Ezeudu, who started his fifth consecutive game at left tackle, left in the first quarter with a toe injury. He did not return, forcing Pugh to move to left tackle, Glowinski to left guard, and Marcus McKethan to right guard.

Then it was time to settle in against a Buffalo defense that led the NFL in takeaways and sacks through the first five weeks. To their credit, the Giants, propelled by a savvy Tyrod Taylor and a Saquon Barkley that got stronger as the game went on, drove within one yard of shocking Highmark Stadium, where the Bills had won 12 of their previous 13 regular-season games. What that means for the team moving forward, we'll see. But the Giants had every excuse to suffer another lopsided loss. They chose not to make any.

Lance Medow: When you hold an opponent to 14 points on any level of football, you have to like your chances of winning that game as you're only asking your offense to score 15 points. But the latter proved to be an issue for the Giants Sunday night as they only managed three field goals. That's why the biggest takeaway and most telling statistic was in the red zone. Five times the Giants put the ball inside the Bills' 20-yard line, and in all five situations, they failed to punch it in for a touchdown. Three possessions resulted in a field goal, and the other two yielded no points as a result of the end of the half and end of the game. On their first two trips that produced three points, the common issue was negative plays and penalties. They had a first-and-goal, but Tyrod Taylor was sacked and Justin Pugh was called for a false start. On the second, they faced a fresh set of downs at the Bills' 19-yard line, but Saquon Barkley lost two yards on a run and then the offense was called for an illegal shift. The third red-zone possession that finished with a field goal didn't have a negative play, but the team couldn't convert a third-and-short.

The drive right before the end of the first half was the real backbreaker, as they walked away with no points because Taylor checked to a run play based on the defensive look. The Giants had no timeouts left to stop the clock once Barkley was stopped short of the goal line. While it's easy to point the finger at just one facet of the team, the reality of the NFL is that you're not going to win many games when scoring in the single digits. In each of the Giants' five losses, they've scored 16 points or fewer and 10 or fewer in three of them with just one offensive touchdown. That's not a coincidence. In comparison to the Giants, the Bills finished both of their red-zone possessions with touchdowns. Yes, the defense played well enough to keep them in the game and put the Giants in a position to win, but with the offensive limitations, that unit needs to be essentially perfect. That's not a reasonable ask.

Matt Citak: The Bills went into this matchup with one of the most high-powered offenses in the NFL, ranking third in points and fourth in yards. Quarterback Josh Allen was leading the league with a 73.1 completion percentage to go with his 281.4 passing yards per game and 105.6 passer rating, and the Buffalo offense had averaged 35.8 points in its previous four outings.

The Giants flipped the script and held the Bills to just 14 points and 297 total yards of offense, while Allen completed just 63.3 percent of his passes for a season-low 169 yards. Despite the reputation of having a blitz-heavy defensive scheme, Martindale blitzed Allen just six times in an effort to keep him inside the pocket, and it worked. While wide receiver Stefon Diggs finished with 10 receptions for 100 yards, only one of those catches went for 20+ yards. The defense did not give up explosive plays and put the Giants in a position to win the game. The Giants have now put together two games in the last three weeks in which they held the opponent to under 300 total yards of offense, and have also forced five turnovers in their last two outings. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the performance of Bobby Okereke. The veteran linebacker led the team with 11 total tackles (eight solo) and two tackles for loss, and also played a crucial role in both of the team's turnovers. First, he punched the ball out of wide receiver Gabe Davis' hands, which fellow linebacker Micah McFadden recovered. Then in the second half, he tipped an Allen pass up in the air, which landed right in the hands of McFadden for the team's second turnover.

After facing opponents with a winning record in five of the first six weeks of the season (and a combined record of 21-13), the Giants' schedule eases – at least on paper. Only one of the team's next eight opponents (Dallas Cowboys) has a winning record. If the defense can play like they did Sunday night, the Giants will be in every game.

View photos from the Giants' Week 6 matchup against the Buffalo Bills.


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