On Second Thought: Finishing the Giants
Tomorrow we will look in depth at the Bills, but there were some loose threads from last Sunday’s game I want to finish up.
I gave a fair number of stats for the Giants because they struck me as so unusual for a team on a six-game winning streak. For instance, the number of first downs vs. those of their opponents. Prior to Sunday’s game they had 203 first downs, which was actually 15 less than the 218 by their opponents. The game at Heinz field was no different, as the Giants had 16 first downs, the Steelers 20. Not too surprising in a loss.
But if you look at the play-by-play, half of their first downs came in the fourth quarter, five of the eight in “garbage time”—with less than a minute and a half left in the game. And two of the five were by penalty—a pass interference on Ross Cockrell and an Unnecessary Roughness on Stephon Tuitt. More on the penalties later…
Back to the pre-game stats. The Giants were averaging 21 points per game. The Steelers’ defense held them to 14—actually, to seven, except for the above-mentioned “garbage time.” However, garbage time or not, they all count the same, as the Steelers found out when they foolishly left 42 seconds on the clock for the Dallas offense to work with.
The Giants are not a team who are going to attack you on the ground, but the Steelers again held them to considerably less than their previous average— 79.5 rushing yards. 18 of the 56 yards they managed came on a single run from Paul Perkins.
I said the offensive line of the Giants had given up 14 sacks, but it was actually 13, or an average of about one per game. But since their offensive line was dealing with injuries, the two sacks the Steelers got are perhaps not surprising, although if you’re like me it’s still pretty exciting, sort of like seeing a comet or something. I would love to feel really blasé about it because it happens so frequently, though…
But the issue I’m most interested in looking at is the no-huddle usage, because the Giants run it almost exclusively. Mike Tomlin asked Steeler Nation to make plenty of noise, and the fans delivered. But did it affect Eli? Let’s find out.
Here’s what I said before the game:
If you remove the first play of each drive, which naturally can’t be no-huddle, and kneel-downs at the end of the game or the second quarter, the Giants run the no-huddle most of the time. How much of the time? For these four games, the offense was in the no-huddle for 161 of the 196 snaps (the 196 figure is minus the first play of each drive.) This translates to running a no-huddle on 82% of the snaps. If you take out the Cleveland game, they ran the no-huddle on 86.5% of the snaps. And why not? It’s obviously working for them.
I also did the math for the Cleveland game, which, as noted, was the only away game for the Giants, and despite the fact that I would assume the wounded Browns fans weren’t a really intimidating 12th Man last week, as the team was already 0-11, the percentage of no-huddle was only 66% of the snaps. So Mike Tomlin is obviously correct—if the fans can make a lot of noise, I suspect we will see an even lower percentage of no-huddle on Sunday. Which is probably good.
According to the play-by-play, there was a single offensive play (excluding the first play of a series or a play after a penalty) which was not in the no-huddle. Which indicates two things—the crowd noise didn’t make any difference, and it really didn’t matter anyhow. Interestingly, the single play which could have been in a no-huddle and wasn’t occurred near the end of the third quarter after Eli Apple recovered the Le’Veon Bell fumble. The “drive” began at the PIT 17, and consisted of two plays. The two plays consisted of a Rashad Jennings run for four yards, and, curiously, Manning huddled with his guys. The next play was a screen pass to Jennings, who took it in for a TD. Perhaps Manning needs to considering huddling more often…
I wouldn’t talk about the penalties except that Odell Beckham Jr. goaded me into it. He complained about the officiating after the game. And of course he would see it from the Giants’ standpoint and I would see it from the Steelers’, but I can mention two instances where the refs aided the Giants right off the top of my head.
The first was a non-call—for the first play after the 2-minute warning at the end of the game, Le’Veon Bell gets taken down, and then one of the Giants’ defenders (I believe Kelvin Shepherd) stuffs his hand up in the facemask of Bell and starts twisting his head and bending his neck back. A scrum ensued, but no penalties were handed out. I suppose we should count ourselves lucky that Ramon Foster, who grabbed Shepherd and threw him off of Bell, wasn’t penalized, but I can’t believe the officials didn’t call the after-the-whistle activity on Bell in the first place.
The second instance was right afterwards, during the “garbage time” drive. After a nice return by the Giants’ kick returner (and, perhaps not coincidentally, Shamarko Thomas had been taken off the field with a suspected concussion) the Giants set up shop near mid-field. Manning’s pass was batted down by Stephon Tuitt, but the next thing you see is him shoving one of the offensive linemen to the ground. Not a good idea. But as Tunch Ilkin always likes to say, it’s usually the second guy who gets hit with the penalty, and this was the case, as John Jerry came over and pushed Tuitt after the play was blown dead. Tuitt didn’t appreciate the attention, and consequently the Giants, with 1:26 left on the play clock and no timeouts, got a free first down and 15-yard boost. So take that, OBJ.
In the pre-game coverage I highlighted the matchup between Ben/AB and Eli/OBJ. OBJ certainly had more targets and more yards, but no touchdowns—AB had one. And it was a beauty. Ben had more completions, one less interception, and a much better game than Eli. So I think Ben is winning the competition at this point.
And finally, a shout-out to Randy Bullock, Back-up Kicker Extraordinaire, who did a superb job on very short notice. It looks like he will be kicking again on Sunday, so let’s hope he is as clutch then as he was last week. It would put some really good tape out there. Just sayin’…