The trick play thwarted by the Giants’ defense for a turning point in their Sunday comeback victory at Tennessee was not part of any movie players studied last week.
Nick Williams was acting on instinct when he fought through his block and crashed into the backfield after reading a sweeping pass to Titans third-string tight end Chig Okonkwo. Austin Calitro and Adoree’ Jackson raced for the ball, and Tae Crowder provided the finishing blow to turn a third-and-1 into a fourth-and-5.
Coaches and staff spend long hours preparing, but the awareness and execution the Giants showed in this game is an example of what head coach Brian Daboll means when he says “it’s a player’s game”.
“Two of the biggest plays of the game were those third saves,” Daboll said, including Okonkwo’s loss of 4 yards in two defensive positions in the second half that forced punts and preceded touchdowns. Giants. “These are very good one-on-one plays from our defense. This allowed us to recover the ball. »
All the attention on Saquon Barkley’s revival, Daboll’s aggressive decision-making and a Titans missed field goal overshadowed a strong showing from a defense with more journeyman starters (three) than cumulative Pro Bowl selections ( a). The Giants had the second-highest tackle rating (five missed tackles) among the 32 teams in Pro Football Focus.
Two-time NFL leader Derrick Henry was limited to 3.9 yards per carry, which was his 13th-lowest average in his last 40 games. Only one of his 21 carries (for 82 yards) went for more than seven yards as defensive tackle Leonard Williams and outside linebacker Jihad Ward carried heavy workloads, with 82 and 88 percent of defensive snaps, respectively.
“When you have a target like that – one of the best full-backs in the league – you go to sleep at night thinking, ‘What are we going to do to stop him? ” safety Julian Love said. “We were just running towards the ball and looking for it.”
Henry fumbled a straight snap on a third-and-one early in the third quarter and was tackled by Calitro and Crowder before he could recover. It’s an inside linebacking duo of a six-year veteran who’s changed teams 10 times and the final pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
“Our defense played hard,” Barkley said after the Giants overcame a 13-point deficit. “Especially in the beginning when we were worth nothing. We were in the red all the time.
Crowder also delivered another hit that didn’t stand out in the boxscore (noted as a 3-yard gain), but sent a physical message to his teammates and became impossible to miss on social media: he went down his shoulder and snapped Henry, just like the 247-pound powerback has done to so many would-be tacklers in his career.
“I don’t really pay too much attention to it,” Crowder said of the video and memes shared thousands of times on Twitter. “I just try to prepare in the right way, and it ended up being a good game. Everyone did a good job around me flying to the ball.
The Giants blitzed 17 of 35 dropouts, according to Pro Football Reference, but rarely sent more than one extra rusher in order to avoid getting shorthanded in the second and third tiers if the Titans had a game of race called.
It was a testament to the restraint and opponent-specific game planning shown by defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, who loaded heavy bodies for Henry but recently suggested there might be game plans fully designed with additional defensive backs in place of inside linebackers.
“Part of the plan was to go out there and try to knock out the big, big runs,” Daboll said. “They did a really good job of stopping the run against a very talented player and a good plan. He had a few, but we ended up managing to not give him that 60 yards.
The defensive challenge will take a new turn on Sunday, when the Giants face an equally explosive, but different, style of return in the Panthers’ sneaky Christian McCaffrey. The biggest potential mismatch for the Giants — an elite quarterback against their vulnerable secondary — won’t appear until Week 5 against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in London.
“Obviously it’s going to be very different,” Crowder said of the Week 2 game plan, “but that’s not really what they’re going to do. It’s about what we’re going to do. .
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