Giants-Lions: 5 plays that led to New York’s loss

The New York Giants were humbled on Sunday by the now 4-6 Detroit Lions at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. The Lions controlled the game and defeated New York, 31-18, in the swirling winds of East Rutherford, NJ

Big Blue’s formula to victory in this surprisingly successful season isn’t overly complicated. They’ve earned seven wins by playing mistake-free efficient football on offense while establishing the run and working the play-action passing attack.

The defense is an opportunistic unit with sound tacklers who get after the quarterback. The Giants deviated from their preferred method of play because the Lions took away the rushing attack. Saquon Barkley ran for only 22 yards on 15 carries throughout the game; his longest rush was 4 yards.

Despite starting the game hot, completing seven of eight passes (penalties excluded), Daniel Jones failed to recognize Aidan Hutchinson in a throwing lane, resulting in Jones’ first interception since Week 3 when David Sills fell out of his break. The Giants led 6-3 when the interception was thrown.

Three plays later, Jamaal Williams had the first of his three rushing touchdowns. Jones would throw another interception on an overthrow on fourth down, and Isaiah Hodgins fumbled the football as well.

The Giants – and most other football teams – are not built to win games with three turnovers, especially when they can’t run the football, and their defense surrendered four rushing touchdowns.

Sloppy undisciplined football finally caught up to the Giants, and they were exploited by a hungry – well-coached – team. Here are the five plays, or sequence of plays, that led to the Giants’ 31-18 loss.

Play(s) 1: Not one, not two, not three, but four rushing TDs

The Lions did an excellent job matriculating the football down the field and positioning their offense in striking distance. The Lions finished with 160 total rushing yards on 37 carries, an average of 4.3 yards per carry.

Justin Jackson was the leading rusher with 66 yards on nine carries, but league-leading touchdown specialist, Jamaal Williams, had three touchdowns on the ground. Talented but slightly dinged up D’Andre Swift added another touchdown in the second-half.

Much was made about the battle of the trenches before the game. The Lions were the most formidable test for a defensive line that is playing excellent football. It was Detroit that won the battle. When the Giants’ defensive line was in position, it was their second-level defenders that struggled to leverage their gaps.

Surrendering 160 rushing yards at home, with four touchdowns on the ground, is unacceptable. The Giants will look to go to the drawing board on a short week, with Dallas upcoming on Thanksgiving.

Play(s) 2: Careless with football

New York wins because they’re cautious with the football, but a -3 turnover rate is hard to overcome in the NFL. The Giants’ defense stiffened the Lions on Detroit’s third drive. Detroit went three-and-out to force the punt. After a 4-yard rush by Saquon Barkley – the longest of the game – Daniel Jones throws the first interception on second-and-six.

Hutchinson does a great job sinking underneath Darius Slayton’s slant route, and Jones did not account for the rookie defender. Great individual play by Hutchinson off the play-action pass. The second interception was an overthrow to end a drive on fourth-and-5, which can be seen above.

New York’s third turnover was a fumble with the Giants down by twelve, 24-12, with 8:04 left in the fourth quarter. Hodgins caught a drag route and couldn’t hang onto the football through contact. Winning football games with these types of mistakes are infrequent, especially against well-prepared opponents like the Lions.

Play(s) 3: Before halftime

The Giants were shaking off the rust of Daniel Jones’ interception that led to Williams’ first rushing touchdown. On the ensuing drive, with 4:38 left in the second quarter, Jones led a six-play, 37-yard drive where Jones found Wan’Dale Robinson for 19 yards and Lawrence Cager for 13 yards.

The Giants positioned themselves in a third-and-5 situation, where Jones narrowly missed Robinson on this quick slant route:

I don’t believe this is an egregious no-call. The contact on Robinson’s hip was mild; however, the referees in this game were quite flag-happy up until this point in the game, and Giants’ linebacker Micah McFadden was flagged on a similar play that I would deem dubious. Seemed a bit inconsistent to me at the time, but it’s far from the reason why the Giants lost this football game.

New York punted the ball back to Detroit, who went on a seven-play, 68-yard drive that ended in a touchdown with 2:19 left in the first half.

Jared Goff (16) found Amon’Ra St. Brown (14) on a 32-yard strike off the play action that set up Williams’ second touchdown. The Giants’ inability to protect the intermediate parts of the field – between the linebackers and safeties – proved to be an issue in crucial parts of this game.

On the very next play, Williams (30) picks up 13 yards on an off-tackle rush where Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) pinched inside (block down/step down rules) and was sealed, while Micah McFadden (41) failed to contain the outside of the pin-pull concept. Jaylon Smith (54) was located at the second level, and St. Brown removed Darnay Holmes (30) from the initial part of the play.

The Lions ended the half strongly with authority, and they received the football at the beginning of the second half. They proceeded to go on a nine-play, 56-yard drive to take a 24-6 lead, effectively demoralizing the MetLife crowd.

Play 4: Tom Kennedy

The Lions ran a designed pass to fullback Jason Cabinda to start the second half, and the FB just couldn’t haul it in, despite being wide open. On the second-and-10 play, Darnay Holmes made an excellent open-field tackle in pursuit of St. Brown for a gain of only one yard, which set up the third-and-9 above.

New York floods the B-Gap with two blitzers while dropping two players into coverage; this isolated Tom Kennedy (85), a backup wide receiver, against Jihad Ward (55). Goff hits Kennedy, who outruns Ward for the first down. The Lions would go on to score a touchdown, Williams’ third of the game.

his third down conversion by Detroit was a crucial part of the game. A defensive stop here may have provided the Giants’ offense with the opportunity to make this a close one-score game, but that did not materialize.

Play(s) 5: Penalties on penalties

The Giants committed eight penalties that cost them 63 yards. Six of those penalties happened in the first half, and there were two other penalties during that span of time that were declined by Detroit.

The Giants almost had a three-and-out forced on Detroits’ first offensive drive, but Oshane Ximines hit Jared Goff around his face mask, causing a roughing the passer penalty. The Lions went on to kick a field goal at the end of that drive.

Lawrence Cager denied a 16-yard catch and run to Isaiah Hodgins on a mesh concept. The penalty was offensive pass interference, and Cager could have attempted to “avoid” the defender instead of lowering his shoulder into him.

Mark Glowinski was flagged on a third-and-three conversion for an ineligible man downfield. The Giants had a nine-yard completion on that play and had to punt after an incomplete pass on third-and-eight. It’s tough for offensive linemen on the RPO when the ball isn’t thrown immediately; Jones hung onto the football too long before finding Hodgins.

Micah McFadden was called for defensive pass interference on the Giants’ seven-yard line against Cabinda. It was pretty ticky-tacky. Nick McCloud took an illegal block above the waist penalty on a kickoff that moved the Giants back to their own 6-yard line.

Cam Brown took an unsportsmanlike conduct call at the end of the half on the extra point that allowed the Lions to pouch kick it to Gary Brightwell, forcing a return that is disadvantageous for the Giants’ special teams. A holding penalty by Nick Gates and an illegal formation flag were declined by Dan Campbell.

This was an undisciplined football game to forget for the Giants. Let’s see if they can learn from the experience and be prepared for a short week against a Dallas Cowboys team who just beat the previous 8-1 Vikings in Minnesota, 40-3.

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