By the Numbers: Stats and Figures Behind the Giants' Week 1 Loss to the Steelers
The Giants opened up the 2020 season by losing a hard-fought game to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. We saw some positive things out of the Giants in this matchup, but they also have plenty of work to do on both sides of the ball.
Here of five of the most significant numbers from the Giants’ 26-16 Week 1 loss to the Steelers.
1. 29 total rushing yards
Saying that the Giants had a tough night on the ground against the Steelers would be putting it nicely. Saquon Barkley could not get anything going against Pittsburgh’s solid front seven.
Barkley carried the ball 15 times for a total of just six yards. His longest play of the night was a 38-yard catch-and-run. With the running game nonexistent, Jones was forced to throw the ball 41 times in this matchup.
Of the 20 first downs that the Giants picked up against the Steelers, only two were on rushing plays. It was Daniel Jones, not Barkley, who got both of those first downs on runs.
Once the game started getting out of hand in the second half, Jason Garrett had to essentially abandon the running game. Bud Dupree, Tyson Alualu, and the rest of the Steelers’ front seven were prepared for Barkley, and they bottled him up all night.
2. Points off turnovers- Steelers: 10, Giants: 3
The Giants had a golden opportunity to jump out to a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter following a muffed punt by Diontae Johnson inside his 10-yard line. However, the Giants had to settle for a field goal following a short run by Barkley and two Jones incompletions.
That muffed punt was the only time Pittsburgh turned the ball over all night. Early in the second quarter, Jones was picked off by T.J. Watt. The Steelers’ offense capitalized on the good field position, as Ben Roethlisberger capped off a six-play drive by finding his No. 1 receiver Juju Smith-Schuster for a 10-yard touchdown pass.
Late in the third quarter, Jones and the Giants had one of their best drives of the game going. However, the 19-play drive ended when Cameron Heyward picked off Jones on the goal line.
Following that interception, Pittsburgh drove deep into Giants’ territory before settling for a Chris Boswell 36-yard field goal, extending their lead to nine points. The Steelers’ ability to capitalize on the turnovers they forced was one reason they came out on top.
3. Roethlisberger’s completion percentage: 65.6 percent
In his first game in nearly a year, Roethlisberger completed 21 passes on 32 attempts, making his completion percentage just under 66 percent.
What stood out about his performance was his completion rate when throwing to his four primary receivers. Smith-Schuster caught six passes on six targets for 69 yards (including two touchdowns). Johnson caught six passes on ten targets, while James Washington had two receptions on three looks from Roethlisberger. Chase Claypool, the rookie out of Notre Dame Chase, reeled in two passes on two targets.
This means that Roethlisberger was 16/21 when targeting his four top receivers. He also did not turn the ball over once during the game. Going forward, players in the Giants’ secondary need to be more physical with receivers.
Although James Bradberry had a decent Giants’ debut, he was beaten by Smith-Schuster for a touchdown late in the game. Big Ben’s ability to consistently connect with his weapons was one of the significant difference-makers in this matchup.
4. Time Of Possession: Steelers - 31:44, Giants - 28:16
The Steelers did not exactly dominate the time of possession in this game. They possessed the ball for nearly three-and-a-half more minutes than the Giants did.
However, this is significant because their offense was much more efficient during their drives. Their four longest drives of the game all resulted in points. Contrast that with the Giants, who could not capitalize on their 19-play, 8:50 second drive in the third quarter.
Part of the reason that the Giants lost the time of possession battle was their difficulties running the ball. This is an offense that will flow a lot better when the offensive line can open up holes for Barkley.
Even though James Conner left Monday night’s game early with an ankle injury, the Steelers still rushed for 141 yards. Benny Snell’s 113-yard rushing performance helped his team continue to move the ball and ultimately win the time of possession battle.
5. Third-Down defense: 7 stops on 15 attempts
The Giants’ defense allowed the Steelers to convert on eight of their 15 third-down attempts. This 53.3 percent efficiency rate on third down was one factor in Pittsburgh’s big offensive night.
The Giants made a couple of big stops on third down, particularly in the first half. However, Roethlisberger had an easier time sustaining drives as the game went on.
In the future, the Giants’ third-down defense will need to improve. They cannot continue to let their opponents convert over 50 percent of the time in these situations. Pittsburgh was struggling on third down early against the Giants, but Roethlisberger was eventually able to find his rhythm.
On their second-to-last drive of the game, the Steelers had three successful third-down conversions. By that point, it was clear that they had tired out the Giants’ defense.
The Giants were competitive in their 26-16 opening night loss to the Steelers, but there are plenty of areas that they need to improve in. To come away with a road victory against the Chicago Bears in Week 2, they will need to flip the script on some of these numbers.