All year long, teams have been trying to figure out how to spoil what the Chef—Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson—cooks up each week.
The Giants defense finally figured it out, making the MVP candidate look like an ordinary mortal who at times had no idea what was unfolding before him, given the Giants complex defensive looks that were so well-disguised.
How bad was it for Wilson? His 62.5% completion rate was his second-lowest mark of the season, he threw his first interception in three games, and he missed out on throws he’d otherwise make on any other given Sunday.
But perhaps the most telling stat of what the Giants did to Wilson was how long he held onto the ball—3.24 seconds, according to PFF. That’s well over Wilson’s season average of 2.79 seconds, a strong indicator that the Giants were successful in confusing him with their various looks, and a significant reason why Wilson absorbed five sacks for minus-47 yards.
So what is it that the Giants did to slow down Wilson? Part of it was to take away the deep ball—that much was evident on tape, and it showed up in the stat sheet as Wilson only had three passes over 20 yards, the longest a 28-yard touchdown pass to running back Chris Carson.
And part of it was getting after Wilson, who was pressured on 20 out of 54 of his dropbacks. But the most significant thing the Giants did, according to head coach Joe Judge, was something he’s been preaching since Day 1.
“I think our guys did a good job playing with good fundamentals. I think all the good plays ultimately come down to good fundamentals,” he said.
“You talk about hands, eyes, and feet--we did a good job of really stressing that this week. We do every week, but our guys did a great job of really carrying it over to the game. You talk about playing with your hands, disengaging off of blocks. That helps us get some pressure on him at different times, and it helped with the pass rush. It helped us scrape off and get to the runs.
“You talk about eyes and feet, one thing that showed up on the tape was we had really good depth in our coverage, both on the deep coverage and the underneath coverage. It really allowed us to play with good eyes and zone vision, put our feet in the ground, break on it, get to the ball. We had multiple hats to the ball on almost every play. The guys broke with good angles, we tackled well in space. To me, it all ties into fundamentals.”
By the way, if the 2020 season were to end today, the Giants would be the NFC East division champions and the No. 4 seed in the playoff picture, and their first opponent in the Wild Card round would be none other than the Seahawks, who would visit the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
Right on Schedule
The Giants sudden turnaround from going 0-5 to start the season and on a trajectory toward yet another top-10 draft pick to a 5-7 team that’s knocking on the postseason tournament door has been nothing short of remarkable, not to mention something no one probably saw coming.
But while people have marveled over how quickly the Giants have turned things around, Judge is just happy to see all the hard work the players and coaches have put into the program start to pay off.
“I think each team’s expectations and progress are unique,” he said when asked if the team was about where he thought it would be at this point in the season. “I didn’t really have a definite timetable in terms of where they needed to be at certain points.”
In typical fashion, Judge spoke like a coach whose team still has a long way to go yet.
“There are still things we have to have a lot of improvement on and consistency going forward,” he said. “We’re far from where we need to be or want to be as a team. There’s a lot of work ahead of us. But I was pleased with the constant progress I saw.”
Judge didn’t go into specifics a to what work still needs to be done, and the notion of a team every stringing together consecutive “perfect” games is more of a pipe dream than it is a reality.
But the simple fact that the Giants have been able to string together victories that now includes a promising start against a four-game streak of teams with .500 or better records is certainly a promising step forward that they’ll look to build on in the rest of the season.
Has Hernandez Been Supplanted as the Starter?
So what exactly is the deal with left guard Will Hernandez, who, before testing positive for COVID-19, was entrenched as the starter? Has he been supplanted by Shane Lemieux, who has now made five starts in a row?
Not necessarily, according to Judge.
“I may be screwed up, but I don’t really look at any of our players as starters or backups. I look at them as players for our team,” Judge said.
“Will is doing a good job when he goes in there. He’s making a solid contribution. We kind of just rotate everyone through on the offensive line especially.”
Judge didn’t say if Hernandez is still trying to get his stamina back after dealing with COVID, but since returning from his two-game absence, he’s played in 12, 26, and 16 snaps over the last three games, while Lemieux has played in 71, 57 and 42 snaps.
Judge insists that it’s all part of the offensive line rotation that also includes the tackles.
“Really the focus for us on the offensive line right now is really just to rotate these guys, keep them fresh, give us a chance to develop as many players as we can, and give us a chance of playing as fresh as we can through this stretch with the importance of winning the fourth quarter,” Judge said.
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