Like Andy mentioned earlier, this was one of those games that you really don’t want to write or even think about. Remember what Banks said on Monday about the little things? Well the Giants were once again deficient in that regard. A lack of focus on the little things (or as a high school coach of mine constantly said throughout practice, 'ATTENTION TO DETAIL GENTLEMEN!') has led to two big losses to start the Giants season.
I wasn’t really sure what to address first this week but figured it would be fitting if we took a look at the unit that was once the backbone of our team but has been struggling for quite some time now----the pass rush.
There were several things we can try to point to when coming to a reasonable conclusion as to why the Giants’ pass rush was virtually non-existent for the second time in as many weeks.
The players up front did not execute. Plain and simple.
They were only able to produce 6 pressures in 43 Denver pass attempts. In addition, Manning was hit a grand total of 2 times. I am still trying to figure out which of those two statistics is worse.
Anyone who logged even a single pass rush attempt in this game came out of it with a negative grade from PFF with the exception of Cullen Jenkins (0.3).
Jason Pierre-Paul (-2.3), Justin Tuck (-2.2), Mathias Kiwanuka (-1.2) and Linval Joseph (-1.2) combined for 3 hurries on a combined 113 pass rush attempts. Pierre-Paul, who the Giants' so badly need to be an impact player, has not seemed comfortable yet this season.
Quick tangent about JPP---Whether or not he can return to full strength before it is too late for Big Blue has no effect on another issue thatthe fourth year defensive end needs to address----the lack of a pass rush skill set. Watch number 90 closely during a game and notice the lack of pass rush moves by Pierre-Paul after he engages the blocker. No separation of the hands, no swim, rip, club or anything of that sort. Yes he was nearly the NFL defensive player of the year in 2011, but it is also possible he reached those heights relying mainly on his athletic abilities. While JPP was once ripe in the game of football, he is now a fourth year pro and this is something that he should and needs to develop as he gets older and the rigors of playing in the NFL continue to wear on his body. It will be crucial as he looks to return and maintain an all-pro level of play.
There is also one other minor thing that may have played a part in the struggles--
Peyton Manning who is a certified NFL surgeon and if you let him carve you up with short throws, he will not only control the flow of the game but will most likely win it. Is he going to have a bad game here and there? Sure. But this is a four-time NFL MVP who is playing some of the best football of his career. If you let him play his game, it is most likely over from the get go.
You know the famous boxing adage, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth?” Well Petyon seemingly has a plan for each and every time you punch him in the mouth but unfortunately the Giants never even got an opportunity to put any sort of pressure on him.
While the result from the defensive line is inexcusable, we have to at least wonder whether or not the Giants were prepared for the onslaught of quick, underneath, zone busting passes from the Denver offense. After quickly running through each Denver pass attempt with a stop watch (allow for a bit of tolerance because this was done by hand), I was able to discover that Peyton Manning got rid of the ball at an average clip of 2.356 seconds. Equally as nauseating was that he was able to get rid of the ball in less than 2 seconds on 13 of his 42 attempts. There is NO pass rush unit, current or former, in the NFL that can regularly get to a quarterback in that little amount of time.
In his quick hits from Sunday AM, Wonder stressed the need for the Giants to figure out a way to force the Broncos out of their comfort zone and attack down the field. The results:
Passes thrown behind line of scrimmage: 3/4, 25 yards
0-9 yards: 20/25, 159 yards, 1 TD
10-19 yards: 6/11, 89 yards, 1 TD
20+ yards: 1/3, 36 yards
While anyone who “knows that they don’t know” will concede that there is really no way to know for sure what type of game plan, scheme and coverage the Giants used this past Sunday, there is certainly some proof in the stats. They did not play an aggressive enough brand of football to throw the four-time MVP off of his plan.
Like Wonder said--perhaps experiment with some press coverage, some aggressive alignments (maybe show blitz pre-snap) but one way or another you have to at least TRY and knock Manning off of his game. Of course, with the pace of the Broncos offense this task is easier said than done. That is the key that makes all of this work for Manning and his offense, and why many feel that the Broncos will play one more game in MetLife Stadium come February.
While there is no excuse for such poor play from a team (that we presume to be) of this caliber, let’s remember a few things about the Giants’ opponent in week two. The Denver Broncos are the favorite in (albeit a weak) the AFC this season—that was a very good football team with an offense as good as any across the NFL. Sure, you can catch Manning and this group on an off night, but don’t expect it to happen more than a handful of times this season.
Also, the win extended the Broncos’ regular season winning streak to 13 games. Not bad.
Lastly, this team is quarterbacked by Peyton Manning, an all-time great who is in the heart of one of the best stretches of football that we have seen him play and stopping him is a very difficult task for ANY defense, let alone one who is rebounding from a brutal 2012 season.
Keep an eye out for a post tomorrow as we dive into some issues on the other side of the ball for Big Blue.
(Once again a big thanks to the guys at PFF for letting use some of their awesome data!)