IN DEFENSE OF THE LIONS LONG BALL
By Chris Pflum
In the run-up to the New York Giants game against the Detroit Lions, there was a definite worry about how the Giants’ secondary would cope with the Lions’ ability to beat teams deep.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has been playing some of the best football of his career in 2019, and it is showing up all over the field.
The Lions came into this week on a three-game skid following losses to the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.
But while they were sporting a 2-3-1 record, Stafford and the Lions’ passing game were playing well above their win-loss total.
Despite playing two of the best pass defenses in the NFL, the Lions were able to air the ball out and come up with significant gains through the air.
Considering the Giants came into this week giving up the second-most passing plays of 20 (or more) yards and third-most of 40 or more yards, that had to be a concern.
The Giants came in with a plan against the Lions’ passing game, though its success is debatable.
At first blush—and it’s difficult to say more without having access to the All-22 tape yet—the Giants decided to call more zone pressure than usual, trying and disrupt Stafford while putting players in place to capitalize on any mistakes.
The Giants also found themselves in the spot of having to match smaller corners in Janoris Jenkins, DeAndre Baker, and Grant Haley up on bigger receivers like Kenny Golladay and Marvin Hall.
The decision to run more zone looks might have been to try and avoid having their players bullied by the Lions’ receivers.
There was also the question of how the Giants would work new moneybacker Deone Bucannon into the defense. The answer turned out to be “sparingly”.
The Giants didn’t play Bucannon until the second quarter, sprinkling him on first and second downs and letting him play downhill.
While it was hoped that he would help their coverage over the middle, Bucannon was primarily used as a run defender, matching up on the running back.
We should probably expect to see more from him in the coming weeks, but he wasn’t used on third downs or when the Giants were in their defensive two-minute drill.
Considering that while Bucannon knows the defensive scheme but he is still new to the team, that makes sense.
The Giants did have success with their defensive scheme, holding their running game to a paltry 59 total yards, winning the turnover battle 2 to 1, and sacking Stafford four times.
The Giants routinely put the Lions behind the chains and forced them into uncomfortable downs and distances.
While the Giants couldn’t play to their strength on defense, they were able to come up with positive plays on defense and put themselves in a position to get off the field after first and second down.
Unfortunately, they weren’t able to slow the Lions’ passing game down by much.
Stafford still had passes of 25, 49 (touchdown), 25, 18, and 41 (touchdown) yards.
As of this writing, Stafford threw further down the field than any quarterback in the NFL by Sunday afternoon.
Per NextGen Stats, his average pass attempt traveled 11.7 yards in the air and was second in the league with an average completion of 9.5 yards in the air.
The Lions did a good job of scheming him completions, with an expected completion percentage from NextGen Stats of 64 percent despite all the deep passing.
But between a combination of poor play from the Giants’ secondary and some great throws by Stafford, he outperformed his expected percentage by 14 points to complete 78 percent of his passes.
Ultimately, the Giants’ decision to play more zone coverage worked out on early downs. They were able to force Stafford to hold the ball and generate some pressure with their defensive front and with blitzes.
But between their usual struggles playing in zone and off-man coverages and the aptitude of the Lions’ receivers, they found themselves unable to get off the field.
That’s a risk a team takes when it is forced to play against its strengths, and Stafford’s uncanny ability to deliver the deep ball this year meant that even if the Giants were able to stay ahead of the chains, the Lions still had a chance even on third and very long.
The Giants played well enough on offense and defense to give themselves a chance and stay in the game despite falling behind early.
There were certain things in this game on which they can build going forward, but they need to figure out how to finish and come up with the big play instead of giving them up to the other team.
Daniel Jones: After his struggles of late, it was good to see Jones’ game take a big-time uptick with his 28 of 41 for 322 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions performance.
Two of his touchdowns went to intriguing rookie receiver Darius Slayton, he completed eight balls each to Golden Tate and Saquon Barkley, but we were most impressed with how Jones ran the offense, got the ball out of his hand on time, and moved around so smartly.
The coaches also put a couple of semi-rolls into the game plan for him to execute, which he did sublimely, but they still need to do a better job of exploiting his under-rated mobility.
Jones did run with the ball four times, his longest a scramble of 9 yards, and he drew a big second half personal foul on a slide at the end of one of his runs.
But it was Jones’ ability to handle situations that impacted this game.
He read blitzes and went to his correct hot read consistently, and he seemed to be calling out his protections smartly.
He looked off the safety on both touchdown-throws to Slayton, while hitting both of his short red-zone touchdown throws decisively and accurately.
We have zero issues with Jones’ throwing talent; he’s always on the money. Accuracy will be one of his calling cards when it’s all said and done.
The growth process of a rookie quarterback includes reading what the defense is doing and making them pay. To date, it’s been a lot of one step forward, two steps back.
Against a mediocre defense like Detroit’s this week, Jones had a better chance to show off what he can do and start building on an offensive group that will hopefully and eventually scare opposing defenses.
People talking about trading Barkley and Engram are crazy; they need to be part of the solution, as does Sterling Shepard and others.
This offense needs a better skill group and more speed on the outside, but in the meantime, Jones can spread the ball around, as he did this week, and continue to find the best match-ups, as he did this week.
On the negative side, Jones put his team in a big hole early on when he reacted late to an unblocked blitzer (he did NOT set this protection correctly).
He also once again held onto the ball too long, turning what should have been an incomplete pass in the general direction of Barkley in the flat to a backward pass that was returned for a touchdown, giving the Lions a cheap 7-0 early lead.
That one was all on Jones, but as he always does, he put it behind him and responded with a very positive performance, which he did without much of a running game.
If Jones ever does get himself a running game, we’re not sure he’ll know what to do with it. For now, all he can do is continue to drop back, stand tall in that ever-collapsing pocket of his, and make plays.
No matter what Jones did, his defense was never going to win him this game. The defense is that bad.
The good news is that the Giants rookie quarterback took a step in the right direction, he looked more like an NFL quarterback, and after that early turnover, he took excellent care of the ball.
His only other fumble came on a blindside hit on his arm that no quarterback in the league could have prevented (he alertly fell onto the ball to avoid the turnover).
It’s comical to hear people criticize Jones’ ball security. It’s gotten better, including his awareness when his pocket is crumbling.
Also, note the big ZERO in the interception column.
Mark this week as another positive check on the rookie’s development curve.
At 2-6, this team is going nowhere. It’s a season about developing young talent, none of whom are more important than young Mr. Jones.
Saquon Barkley: This week was also another step forward in Barkley’s return from a high ankle sprain and toward 100% health.
We’d say he’s at about 90%. His ankle looks healthy, but we’re talking about what he sees out there and how he’s reacting to it.
There were a half dozen runs where we thought Barkley missed open space, and that’s not happening very often with this group blocking for him, so he can’t pass up these chances.
He’s got to take better advantage of opportunities when they occur.
His longest run out of 19 touches was a mere 13 yards. That’s just not good enough.
The knee-jerk reaction is to blame the offensive line for this lack of production, but it’s never that simple. Barkley was part of that problem this week.
Even in the passing game (8 catches for 79 yards, one touchdown), we thought plays were left on the field.
What the coaches were waiting for on his third-quarter, 38-yard catch-and-run, easily beating a plodding Detroit linebacker in the middle of the field for what should have been a 76-yard catch-and-score, we’re not sure.
They should have been isolating Barkley on these linebackers every chance they got.
Barkley should have scored, as he had wide-open spaces in front of him, but after catching the ball and turning upfield, he inexplicably stumbled, robbing him of his chance to go all the way.
That stumble is a lost opportunity – not only missing on the score but missing on the chance to put a dagger into the heart of Detroit’s defense and creating doubt, perhaps force them out of their game plan to an alternate scheme.
It could have opened things up, but Barkley stumbled. We loved how well Barkley caught the ball out of the backfield and made plays in space, which is why he needs to be used like that much more often.
Barkley’s sub-par blocking came to bear on successive fourth-quarter snaps, when he got himself bowled over by an inside linebacker right back into his quarterback’s lap and then failing miserably on an edge block of a blitzing corner that became a sack.
Barkley was bailed out on this one by a flag in the secondary, but if his blocking continues to be sub-par, the coaches simply cannot ask him to do it, until he decides to work at it and improve at it. It’s a big black stain on his game.
Wayne Gallman: The more we see Gallman in the game, the more we want to see him in the game.
On a big completion, it was Gallman who stepped up and took on a blitzing inside linebacker that Barkley failed to do.
How Gallman shows more stoutness than Barkley is a bit of a mystery as Barkley is sure built low enough to hold his ground, but Gallman is the better blocker and needs to be on the field more often.
His one touch resulted in an impressive 20-yard catch-and-run out of the backfield that gave his offense a chance on 4th down.
All Gallman does is do good things when he’s in the game. The offense seems to take on a whole different dimension when he’s on the field and Barkley’s off it, though that doesn’t mean that we think this offense is better when Barkley is off the field—far from it!
The offense somehow becomes less predictable. We wouldn’t go to sleep on getting both backs into the game at the same time, splitting out Barkley wide and lining up Gallman in the backfield.
These coaches have to be more creative out there and utilize all their resources.
Elijhaa Penny: Another under-utilized resource is this solid fullback who, like Gallman, does good things every time he’s on the field.
On his dozen snaps this week, his lead blocking was as clean as we’ve seen from the position.
He’s not a dominator out there, but Penny is as efficient and as reliable as can be.
Why the coaches don’t get him more involved in the passing game seems like another case of not using all of your resources.
All the smart coaches get their complementary players (like Penny) a touch or two every game.
You need to be unpredictable and multi-dimensional in this week’s NFL. We wish we could say that about this team.
Evan Engram: Talking about not utilizing your talent to the best of their abilities, we were stunned at how often Engram was used this week as a blocker.
The more he was asked to block, the less successful his blocking became.
He seemed to wear down from all the mixing it up, while his opportunities to make plays in space were criminally limited.
Nobody should be more upset than Daniel Jones, simply because nobody comes back to the ball better than Engram, and nobody is more explosive after catching the ball than Engram.
Getting him only seven targets, and completing only 4 of them, is just not good enough. It’s not like this offense is overloaded with playmakers. Getting Engram more involved should be a weekly mantra in the offensive playbook room.
His longest catch was 18 yards; his 4 catches totaling a measly 40 yards against a suspect Lions pass defense. That should never happen.
If these coaches can’t get Engram the ball, then it’s time to either get new coaches or get rid of Engram. This offense needs to be more wide-open; it needs to be getting Barkley and Engram the ball in space.
Neither should be getting swallowed up between the tackles this many times.
Rhett Ellison: Most of Ellison’s snaps were of the blocking variety this week. He was kept in to chip and help on a bunch of early snaps and performed well.
His blocking overall wasn’t quite as sharp as it’s been, and in the passing game, he caught one pass for minus-1 yards.
We have no problem Ellison not being part of the game plan, but when both your tight ends are underused, it’s just not smart resource allocation.
We don’t know if it’s Daniel Jones looking downfield so often or not, but this offense’s short-passing game is nowhere to be found, and we think that’s wrong.
Cody Latimer: On the first play from scrimmage, the Giants came out in a three-wide receiver set, and Daniel Jones hit Latimer on an out pattern for the first down.
On a sideline pass to Latimer late in the first quarter, there was a space between the cornerback and the safety, but that space closed quickly as defensive back Tracy Walker came up and almost came down with the interception.
After being quiet for most of the game, Latimer made a very nice grab on the sideline late in the game. The ball was initially bobbled, but he did a nice job securing it and keeping both feet in bounds.
Bennie Fowler: Fowler made a catch on the last play of the first quarter but pushed off on the play, resulting in an offensive pass interference call, a costly call for a team that can ill-afford self-inflicted wounds.
Midway through the second quarter, Fowler grabbed an out route for a first down.
With the Giants backed up deep in their own zone, Fowler did an excellent job finding the soft spot in the zone to come up with a nine-yard reception.
Golden Tate: Tate was targeted for the first time and made his first catch of the day on the first play of the second quarter on an underneath route for a five-yard gain.
He followed this up with a catch on a short in route and then picked up significant yardage after the catch for a 19-yard gain.
Tate then had a 13-yard reception in the middle of the third quarter. He was not initially open but then did a good job coming back to the quarterback to make the catch.
Tate came back to the ball against Justin Coleman late in the second quarter and did a nice job putting his body in between the ball and the defender, which enabled him to come up with the catch.
On 4th-and-7 midway through the fourth quarter, the Giants had to go for it as they were down by two scores.
On this play, Coleman got the best of Tate as he stepped in front of him and knocked the ball away, causing the Giants to lose the football on downs.
Tate had a busy afternoon as he made yet another catch over the middle on the Giants’ last possession of the game.
Darius Slayton: The rookie scored his second touchdown of the season as he came back to the ball and beat cornerback Rashaan Melvin for the catch and then score.
On this play, Slayton did a good job recognizing where the pass was and adjusting his route for the score.
He then followed this up with another jump ball play where Slayton outleap Melvin for a very tough catch and score, doing a nice job of making the catch and, just as importantly, being able to come down with the ball.
Slayton ran an out pattern on cornerback Mike Ford late in the fourth quarter. He ran a nice out pattern and seemed to be hit early.
On the very next play, there was again contact between Ford and Slayton. This time a flag was thrown, but it was picked up.
We thought at first that the first was pass interference, and the second one was not, but the Giants didn’t bother to challenge either, perhaps having learned their lesson that pass interference calls or lack thereof are rarely, if ever overturned.
Nate Solder: Watching Solder given a lot of first-half passing down chips and help-blocking from both the offense’s tight ends, we immediately deduced that Solder must be harboring an injury.
The coaches gave Mike Remmers no help blocking while Solder continued to get that help throughout that half.
Come the second half, the help went away and, boy, did Solder’s pass-blocking game crumble.
Solder was making bad decisions and blocking no one out there at times, while his engaged blocking was breaking down.
Two of Detroit’s three sacks were on Solder, and they came on successive fourth-quarter snaps.
Defensive end Trey Flowers shrugged Solder aside like a sack of potatoes on the first one; he walked Solder back into Jones’ lap on the second.
These were just the rushes that got home. We have no idea what’s happening on his edge, but Solder is committing as many mental gaffes as physical ones.
His stunt pickups with Will Hernandez were rarely the cleanest out there. When he had to do it alone, Solder was beaten to the punch most of the day. It could have been his worst game of the year.
Mike Remmers: Getting none of the help that the (injured?) Solder got this week, Remmers held up very well all with the pass block; few of the pressures came through him as he handled former Giant Devon Kennard, and others, without much of a problem.
After last week’s very tough matchup against Chandler Jones, Remmers had a much easier time of it going against Detroit’s plodding power rushers.
Remmers held up reasonably well to all that power, giving up ground at times but never cleanly beaten.
His run blocking was less positive, as it typically is. Getting him to hit a man square in the chest is just asking too much.
His balance is inferior, which is why he can’t sustain contact to save himself.
Remmers had to leave the game late when he got banged up, but he walked off the field under his own power and was back one play later.
Kevin Zeitler: Utilized on about a score or so pulls this week, we were as surprised as anybody to see Zeitler used this way as we hadn’t seen it yet all season long.
Half of them turned out to be successful in the way that getting stalled in the middle of an intersection can hold up traffic; eventually, he just got pushed aside, and traffic went around him, but he got in the way just enough.
Other times, Zeitler failed to sustain contact and/or wall his man to the outside. He had no trouble moving in space, which may portend to more similar duties in the future.
It was good to see the coaches at least showed some creativity with their blocking schemes, even if they never did achieve maximum results.
Zeitler’s pass-blocking was, as always, the best part of his game. His interior run-blocking lacked punch and movement and sustenance, but he kept his man out of his quarterback’s lap, and that’s Priority One to us.
Will Hernandez: We thought Hernandez had a rare choppy game out there this week.
People were shedding his blocks in the run game on a semi-regular basis, which tells us how tough Detroit is upfront.
Hernandez’s pass-blocking was better on the whole, but his coordination with Nate Solder was just not up-to-par.
Every week it’s another chink in this offensive line’s armor. One week they’re going to do it all, but at 2-6, it doesn’t much matter right now.
This team is going nowhere this year, and this offensive line will not look the same next year.
Jon Halapio: The Giants’ big center had a positive overall game this week, holding his point solidly and mucking up the middle of his quarterback’s pocket, giving him more than enough space to step into most of the time.
Halapio’s run-blocking was less successful, but we expected that as the Lions are so big and physical up front. Running outside is the way to hurt them, but this team’s coaches don’t much believe in going east-west, so they go north-south right into the strength of Detroit’s defense, the running game not doing nearly enough damage to make a difference.
Halapio wasn’t a negative this week, and that’s a good step in the right direction.
Nick Gates: Getting one early-game, short-yardage snap, and then coming in for Mike Remmers when the starting right tackle went down late, Gates executed simple, power, north-south run blocks on each of his snaps and he finished them a little past the whistle, as is his wont.
B.J. Hill: Hill played his most proactive game of the year this week. Perhaps he just liked the match-up, but Hill was getting upfield on both run and pass downs, he was getting the best of his man on numerous occasions and holding his point and gap against the run.
Hill was not only doing the dirty work this week, but he was also making plays, and that’s something we hadn’t seen in Hill’s game all year.
Somehow, Hill only scratched the stat sheet for one single tackle this week, but his impact was far more significant in nearly every way. A good sign that this big bear has awakened from his season-long hibernation.
Dalvin Tomlinson: One of the defensive highlights this week was seeing Tomlinson swim his way through the block of the Detroit’s center, crash the pocket, and sling down Matthew Stafford for a resounding sack. It increased Tomlinson’s career sack total to 2.5 (he had the 0.5 earlier this year vs. Washington).
All of which means that Tomlinson has achieved a career-high sack total season through just eight games.
Yes, we make light of Tomlinson’s lack of ability to push the pocket, so when it happens—and rather spectacularly as it did this week—it’s noteworthy.
Tomlinson has been playing well this year, his third in the league.
Also of note, he hasn’t missed a single start in those three years as he’s been a quiet stalwart inside who’s starting to make more plays out there.
He finished with three total tackles—another one of his tackles came in pursuit in the backfield— while continuing to do so much of the disciplined, tough stuff inside.
Tomlinson’s been one of the few positive performers on this defense and needs to be appreciated for all he does.
Dexter Lawrence: The big rookie has come back down to earth the last couple of weeks, failing to find the ball much and not quite looking as light on his feet.
He may be suffering from all that playing time the coaches have been doling out to him; we don’t need to see a talented rookie being brought down by a too-heavy workload.
With talented alternatives in reserve, we would hope that the coaches have noticed the down-tick in Lawrence’s production and ease up on the over-reliance they have placed on him.
After all, the kid’s still just a rookie playing in the toughest place on the field to make an impact. He’s done well to date, but two quiet tackles this week is a bit of a red flag that he needs to have his time better managed.
Olsen Pierre: Getting about 10-12 snaps this week, Pierre hustled his way to the ball on a couple of occasions and got credit for one of the gang tackles in the second half.
The run defense was not the problem this week; the pass defense continues to be one of the weakest units in the league.
Pierre played his reads well this week and threw his body around out there, as is his wont.
He remains a solid rotation piece very much at defensive end who fits pretty well into this scheme, mostly on passing downs.
R.J. McIntosh: After getting shut out last week, McIntosh got back on the field, but for just a couple of snaps.
To these eyes, this kid played tough and reliably. We think McIntosh is one player who we would give some of Dexter Lawrence’s snaps to. We think he’s got untapped talent. He needs to play.
Markus Golden: Continuing his extremely solid season, we like how he plays the outside linebacker position in this defense.
Once again, he was physical at the point of attack, never shying away from contact and throwing his body around with consistently positive results.
He got a cheap late sack when he hustled himself to tap down a fallen quarterback, but his seven total tackles were no joke.
He was a problem for the Lions all day long, playing perhaps his best game as a Giant.
Golden is not quite the explosive edge-turner that somebody like Chandler Jones or Shaq Barrett is, but he’s a consistent power player who can run, and who combines those skills with a mad-dog style that every good defense needs at this position.
We would like to see how much this defense would improve if it could keep Golden and match him with somebody like Barrett on the other edge.
We think Barrett will be too expensive, which is why we would prefer an explosive rookie added to the mix. We’d sure like to see Golden play another 4-5 years on this defense. His style of play will never get old.
Lorenzo Carter: Playing his best game of the year, Carter played his best pass rush game of the year, throwing spin moves and aggressive edge attacks at his man all game long.
Not all of them were successful, but early on, Carter was causing some havoc, which we haven’t seen much from him on the pass rush this year.
He drew one hold from the offensive tackle blocking him (the tackle was also lined up a good five yards off the line of scrimmage at times and yet was never once flagged).
Carter was active all game long, as he’s showing himself to be far more than a pass rusher in training.
He was very alert to Detroit’s run game and short-passing game and was more assertive and tough at the point than we’ve seen him.
He accumulated five total tackles and liked how he flew around out there. He was one of the defense’s positive performers this week for sure.
Oshane Ximines: One of the positives coming out of this week’s game was the coaches limited Ximines’ snaps at outside linebacker.
The rookie only had a couple of them, and still looked like he was surprised on every one of them.
The kid also got a handful of snaps at defensive tackle on passing downs, where we liked his battle level, but he was unable to finish any plays.
The learning curve for this small school kid has been rather steep and painful. It’s good for the coaches to limit his snaps at this point so he can step back a little, catch his breath, and figure out a few things.
He has to learn the strengths of his game, how to play to them, and how to cover up his weaknesses.
Alec Ogletree: The more we see Ogletree play this game, the less we like what we see.
When he’s not attacking the pocket on the blitz (his very best talent), he’s as far from a difference-maker as any linebacker on this team.
He seems more interested in making a big hit on the sideline on 3rd-and-25 than playing smart team defense on a down-to-down basis.
Ogletree is much more into the big hit than the smart, consistent, or team play.
Watching Deone Bucannon out there this week sacrificing his body to force a block so someone else could make the play, is the type of play that Ogletree doesn’t always make.
We see a guy who is free-lancing out there, playing his “instinct” game that has made him the leader of one of the worst defenses in the league.
He showed little interest in playing coverage this week and was seen jogging towards the ball on a handful of snap.
His five tackles this week despite never leaving the field is a testament to his athleticism and physicality.
Yes, Ogletree is an athlete, and he is physical, but we don’t always see discipline and sacrifice in his game.
Deone Bucannon: Getting perhaps two series in his debut with the Giants, this veteran inside linebacker lined up alongside this defense’s most recent “money backer,” Jabrill Peppers, on a couple of snaps.
The coaches went with Peppers at inside linebacker recently when the injuries at the position forced them to turn to Peppers.
Why the coaches choose to use Bucannon/Peppers the way they did is anybody’s guess, but we sure liked what we saw from Bucannon from this week’s smattering of snaps.
Against the run, he was swift to diagnose and attack at the proper angle and gap to force the runner into pursuit; it was the classic under control attack of the line of scrimmage that rookie Ryan Connelly displayed so well before his season-ending injury.
A tackling machine in his previous life with Arizona, Bucannon eventually lost his position to another scheme.
He appears healthy, and he also seems to be undersized for playing inside linebacker. He fell off of one tackle attempt, but he also finished off another tackle.
He played perhaps a dozen snaps. We liked how he played the team concept of defense. This defense needs more of that.
David Mayo: Getting the bulk of the snaps at inside linebacker alongside Alec Ogletree, Mayo had some solid contains and forces but was more often a step late to the party and only finished with one tackle.
He was brutalized in coverage on a couple of occasions and looked like a liability in space.
When he made a quick, good read, he was able to get to the point of attack on time and looked positive, but these snaps were too few and far between.
Jabrill Peppers: Peppers came up on run defense on the first two defensive plays of the game.
In the first play, he was completely blocked out of it. On the second, he came up and attacked the running back but was knocked back on contact, and the Lions picked up the first down.
Early in the second quarter, tight end T.J. Hockenson made a catch in front of Peppers, who was too slow closing in on the play for an easy first down.
Peppers did deliver a nice hit against receiver Kenny Golladay midway through the fourth quarter. He put his helmet right on the football and forced a turnover.
DeAndre Baker: On the first possession, Baker read the play correctly and came up and laid a big hit on Danny Amendola.
On the same possession, he was solid covering Kenny Golladay down the sideline.
On a sideline route to Golladay early in the third quarter, Baker was right there in coverage, but Golladay took the ball away from him and was able to keep both feet in bounds for the touchdown.
Baker did a poor job coming up on running back Ty Johnson as he came off tackle. The rookie corner took a wrong angle, which allowed Johnson to bounce to the outside for a nice gain.
A couple of plays later, Golladay went across the middle against Baker and made the grab. The coverage wasn’t bad here but give credit to the receiver for making an impressive catch.
Grant Haley: Haley was no match against Danny Amendola as Amendola easily caught a slant pass working from the slot.
Haley gave too much cushion at the line of scrimmage, which provides him with very little chance.
Amendola had a busy first quarter as he again beat Haley in a seam route for a first down. Peppers came on a delayed blitz from deep in the safety position on this play—a curious play call.
There was no way he was going to get to the quarterback, and instead, they lost a man in coverage.
Haley came up with his first career sack late in the second quarter after applying good coverage on the play that resulted in the sack.
On an out pattern to J.D. McKissic late in the second quarter, Haley knifed in and made the tackle for a short gain.
He followed this up with another nice open-field tackle on McKissic to force a three and out.
Janoris Jenkins: Jenkins came up with another interception early in the first quarter on a play on which he had underneath coverage and came up with the underthrown pass.
Jenkins came up quickly and stopped wide receiver Marvin Jones on an underneath route late in the second quarter.
It was pretty quiet the rest of the day for Jenkins as the Lions generally stayed away from him.
Michael Thomas: Late in the first quarter, wide receiver Marvin Hall ran a deep in and out route and went right by Thomas for an easy touchdown.
Hall streaked by Thomas and made the easy catch in the end zone.
Late in the second quarter, Golladay made the catch in front of Thomas for an easy first down.
Antoine Bethea: On a deep in route to Golladay early in the third quarter, Bethea was forced to go deep as a receiver streaked toward him. This resulted in a considerable gap over the middle of the field, giving the Lions a first down and the score.
Early in the fourth quarter, Golladay was the recipient of flea-flicker, which left him wide open in the end zone.
As the free safety, Bethea must be as deep as the deepest receiver and cannot be faked out by anything that occurs in front of him. This was a poor job that led to a touchdown.
Aldrick Rosas: It’s been a difficult season for most every placekicker throughout the league, and Rosas sure has been suffering from a severe lack of kicking opportunities.
But that’s no excuse for him pulling an extra point attempt to the left this week, setting up a chain of events that found the Giants chasing that point, and failing, and perhaps affecting the outcome of this week’s game.
We’re not saying that if Rosas makes that extra point, the Giants win this game. The team’s defense is so bad that there’s nothing the offense or special teams can do to make it go away.
Rosas could kick ten field goals, and the offense can score ten touchdowns, and the defense would give up twenty of each. So we’re not blaming Rosas.
But he’s got to be held accountable for missing another crucial kick—this team’s margin of error is so small that any possible glitch in the proceedings gets magnified well beyond proportion.
Simply put, Rosas has not been near-spectacular like he was last year. He’s been good, just not great.
None of his four kickoffs were returnable, and his one onside kick skittered out of bounds without a single Giant getting a finger on it, so that was a failure too.
All in all, Rosas came up short this week, and it hurt.
Riley Dixon: Dixon had a light punting load this week. Predictably on this day of bad defenses and good offenses, the Giants only punted three times, the Lions twice. So it was a quiet day for Dixon, which is usually and accurately, a good thing.
Dixon was more than solid in every aspect and continued on his 2019 path with another positive punting and holding day.
Dixon nailed unreturnable punts of 50 and 48 yards, and a 37-yard pooch punt that was fielded inside the 20 and returned for four yards. That’s a very good game.
Zak DeOssie: The veteran snapper had a positive game this week and got credit for the punt coverage team’s lone tackle this week.
Jabrill Peppers: Getting the punt return duties this week (Golden Tate was relegated to receiving-only duties), Peppers had one opportunity for a return, but it was covered well. He gained two yards.
He also fair-caught his only other return opportunity.
Darius Slayton: Getting the kickoff return job for the second week in a row, it became apparent after his fifth return that this impressive, speedy rookie (who has never done this job before) is not the man for the job.
His five returns were tackled on the 19, 14, 22, 34, and 22. That’s a whole bunch of bad field position.
The Lions purposely forced Slayton to return each kick by mortaring these five kicks to come down right at the goal line, leaving Slayton no choice but to return each one.
His inexperience showed on his inability to find any sliver of a crease or space, and finally showing little feel for the job.
The good news was his ball security, holding onto the pigskin despite some heavy hits.
On the Giants’ sixth return, the coaches replaced Slayton, who actually started on offense and was needed there more, with Cody Latimer, who did not have any more success.
Rhett Ellison: Ellison had a forgettable time blocking on kickoffs this week and was the poster boy for the kickoff return team’s miserable game.
Ellison missed on every single one of his blocks (as well as getting called for a block in the back when he was chasing his man whom he had whiffed).
As mentioned elsewhere, the Lions kickoff coverage team beat up the Giants return kickoff team all game long.
It seemed every big tackle that the Lions made on coverage energized their defense, just like you draw it up on the chalkboard. That’s a big kudo to the Lions special teams.
Cody Latimer: Latimer replaced Darius Slayton on kickoff returns late in the game. On his only return, he was tackled at the Giants 20, continuing the trend that Slayton’s performances had started.
David Mayo: One of the turning points of this week’s game was the running-into-the-kicker flag thrown that turned a 4th-and-4 at the first half’s two-minute warning into a Lions first down.
On this play, Mayo rushed right up the gut, was cut-blocked down, and fell at the feet of the punter, barely brushing the punter’s leg after the punt was gone.
The punter did the right thing by falling to the ground, and the flag was thrown. The Lions, given new life, ended up kicking a field goal, taking a 17-13 lead into the locker room.
Mayo may have been a bit out of control on this play, so it’s his mistake. Shame on the veteran Mayo for hurting his team with this boneheaded play.
I ON STRATEGY
By Mike Iannaconi
New week, same results. The Giants’ defense once again struggled to stop an offense.
And this week against the Lions, the passing game did a number against New York.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford completed 25 of the 31 pass attempts thrown, and his receivers were more often than not wide open down the field.
What happened? Well, for starters, the Giants’ zone coverage continued to be very loose, and the space between the underneath defenders and the safeties remains too significant.
We continue to be frustrated by Antoine Bethea at free safety, as he is either too deep in coverage or incorrectly reading his offensive keys.
Failure to read his offensive keys was evident early in the fourth quarter when Kenny Golladay caught a flea-flicker for a touchdown.
Bethea looked back into the backfield, which had him make a move toward the line of scrimmage as Golladay ran right by him.
A safety must read the offensive lineman who will lead him to exactly what type of play is coming. This was a poor play by the veteran defender.
Adding to the frustration of the pass defense was that the Lions are not an effective team at running the football.
In this one, the running backs combined for less than 60 yards, so the Giants did not have to pay a lot of attention to the running game.
Even when they were up by two scores, the Lions failed to run the ball with any consistency.
This should have made it easier on the linebackers in pass defense, and the defensive line should have been able to pin their ears back and try and put pressure on the quarterback.
The Giants did not blitz Stafford much this week, instead deciding to put more defenders back in coverage.
Even with having more defenders back in coverage, the Giants still were unable to apply pressure to the receivers down the field.
On the offensive end, since the Giants were working from behind in the second half, Saquon Barkley only carried the ball 19 times for 64 yards. This is just not enough for a runner of Barkley’s caliber.
He continues to break or bounce off tacklers and pick up additional yardage.
The Giants did try and get him more involved in the passing attack this week. He was targeted ten times and caught eight receptions.
What we liked this week was on two occasions they tried to throw him passes down the field.
The first was a wheel route down the sideline that fell incomplete, and the second was a downfield slant route that resulted in a nice gain down the field.
The receivers continue to improve. Darius Slayton, Cody Latimer, and Bennie Fowler all contributed.
Slayton has been the most impressive as he came down with two touchdowns. We like the way he is running his routes, and he is playing with extreme confidence.
He also seems to have an excellent rapport with quarterback Daniel Jones as the touchdown passes he threw him were not of the easy variety.
All these receivers are getting a lot of reps, which will continue to help them grow and mature as players.
The Lions blitzed the Giants often, especially in the second half. The offensive line did a pretty good job picking it up, but what it did was force the Giants to keep their tight ends in to block on many occasions.
The problem with this is it took away one of the better receivers, Evan Engram, from running pass routes down the field.
Engram was targeted seven times but was able to come down with four receptions.
Engram is a very explosive offensive player, and the Giants need to get him the ball as much as possible.
ASK THE OFFICIAL
Let’s run down the three items in this week’s game that generated the most inquiry.
By rule, the running into the kicker penalty called against David Mayo was the right call.
Unless Mayo was fouled, which he was not, it is the responsibility of the defensive player to avoid contact and allow the kicker to get both feet on the ground.
Although the contact was slight, with the kicker falling down (perhaps some acting), that call will be made most of the time.
The first pass into the end zone could have been called DPI as the defensive back arrived early. It might have been worth a challenge, though thus far, very few of those challenges have resulted in an overturned call.
The second pass into the end zone was not DPI because the pass was not catchable. This is likely what the back judge told the side judge and why they picked up the flag.
The biggest question I had all day (and which I could not determine from the views shown) was if Daniel Jones’ backward pass met any of the following criteria:
Item 1. Forward Movement of Hand. When a player is in control of the ball and is attempting to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his hand starts a forward pass.
(a) If, after an intentional forward movement of his hand, contact by an opponent materially affects the passer, causing the ball to go backward, it is a forward pass, regardless of where the ball strikes the ground, a player, an official, or anything else.
It can be argued whether contact occurred before or after the forward movement of Jones’ hand occurred, but it was very close.
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