The 0-2 Atlanta Falcons, who allowed 80 points through the first two games, came into MetLife Stadium and defeated the now 0-3 Giants 17-14.
What especially hurts about this loss is that for the second week in a row, the Giants statistically won the football game, outgaining Atlanta in time of possession (31:51 to 28:09); third-down conversion rate (50 percent to 38 percent); and outgaining the Falcons in rushing (100 to 69 yards) and passing (277 to 246).
But the missed opportunities like the two dropped interceptions and some more conservative (and head-scratching) play-calling and coaching decisions all contributed to a disappointing loss and on Eli Manning Day, of all times.
It was a game the Giants should have won, plain and simple. But we all know that saying, "Woulda, coulda, shoulda, didn't." If the Giants don't start turning things around this season, that's going to be the story of their 2021 season, a year that began with such hope that things might finally get back on the right track.
Before we get into the snap counts and what they tell us about the game, let's talk about the defense.
The Giants weren't that bad, despite the missed opportunities, which will continue to loom large. New York forced several punts, had a turnover, and put their offense in a position to win the football game. When a team only allows 17 points, that should be enough to win a game if the offense does its job.
That said, the Giants defense had its moments. It allowed a 15-play 72-yard drive that consumed over eight minutes of the clock in the fourth quarter. The defense also couldn't stop Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan from getting into field goal range with less than two minutes in the game.
So while we say the defense wasn't bad, we must also say that it didn't come through when needed most.
There were 70 offensive snaps in the game for the Giants. For the second straight week, offensive tackle Matt Peart failed to log an offensive snap. There was discussion about Peart practicing at guard last week, but that hasn’t translated to snaps on the field, suggesting that the Giants and Peart are very early in this conversion process, and we might not see Peart on offense at guard for a few weeks yet. For a third-round pick of whom a lot was expected this year, that's not a promising development.
The first half injuries to receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton opened playing time for other receivers on the roster. Kenny Golladay played 48 of the 70 total (69 percent) offensive snaps, while first-round pick Kadarius Toney played in 46 snaps. Waiver wire pickup Collin Johnson played on 34 snaps, and C.J. Board received 22.
Johnson brings a lot of physicality to the position. He’s long, uses his body well, and is fluid for someone who is 6’6" and 220 pounds. We think Johnson has more upside than Board, but Board is a solid route runner who knows the offense well and contributes to special teams. That said, as Johnson becomes more comfortable in this offense, don't be surprised if his snaps start to rise, especially if Shepard and Slayton end up missing significant time.
Fullback Eli Penny played in a season-high eight offensive snaps. When the Giants announced that Devontae Booker was a healthy scratch before the game, we expected Penny to see a rise in his offensive snaps. Penny and rookie Gary Brightwell (two snaps, one carry) split the snaps in relief of Saquon Barkley, who played in 60 snaps.
Speaking of Barkley, the increase in workload and confidence the coaches are showing in him is great to see from a medical standpoint. Barkley is still significantly struggling to find holes in the rushing game--he averaged 3.2 yards-per-carry. Although he scored on a straight-ahead run, his inefficient rushing style and marginal offensive line play continue to put the Giants' offense into 3rd-and-long situations.
Tight end Evan Engram led the tight end group with 39 snaps. Kyle Rudolph played in 29 snaps and Kaden Smith in 28. Engram was targeted six times and caught two passes for 21 yards but added a costly fumble. He was booed every time he entered the game and cheered off the field when he was subbed out.
It’s not a great situation for Engram, who, unfortunately, continues to make mistakes. But what's even more head-scratching is that Rudolph, a proven red-zone target, hasn't received any opportunities in the red zone in the last two games. We're curious to see if that changes.
The Giants defense played in 62 snaps, and as previously noted, while they played well to allow just 17 points when they were needed to step up, they came up short.
Outside of James Bradberry's interception of a Taylor Heinicke pass in Week 2, the defense has yet to stop a two-minute offense, which is a growing concern.
Star middle linebacker Blake Martinez tore his ACL five plays into the game, which is a huge blow. To replace Martinez, the Giants used three players, Tae Crowder61 (61 snaps), Reggie Ragland: (40 snaps), and Carter Coughlin (5 snaps). All three of those snap counts were the highest for each respective player this season.
The Giants find themselves in a very tough position without Martinez, arguably their best defensive player. If he’s not the pure best, he’s arguably the most important.
Crowder is a fine player but a significant step down from Martinez. This defense struggled with Martinez through the first two games, and this torn ACL is the last bit of news the defense needed. We wouldn't be surprised if the Giants bring back Devante Downs to the practice squad, but moving forward, it will be interesting to see if Carter Coughlin’s role expands.
Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham uses a lot of nickel and dime sub-packages, and that will continue without Martinez on the field. Worth noting is that safety Xavier McKinney (61 snaps) played more snaps than Jabrill Peppers (43) in this game, while Logan Ryan led the safeties with 62 snaps.
Julian Love played 20 snaps, and Rodarius Williams played a career-high 17 snaps. Darnay Holmes only played one defensive snap in the game, yet played on seven special teams snaps. Has confidence waned on Holmes?
Austin Johnson had 39 snaps to Danny Shelton's 21. On the edge, Lorenzo Carter had 32 snaps, and Azeez Ojulari had 31. Meanwhile, Oshane Ximines’ snaps were dialed back to 17, and Raymond Johnson III’s were increased to 12. Quincy Roche, who had been inactive the first two games, saw the field for three snaps as well.
The defense has underwhelmed through three games. Graham is determined to fix the issues, but the loss of Martinez is a concern. The Giants will need all the help they can get as they travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints in Week 4.
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