Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Giants: Another look back at the Cowboys game

Statistics can be both misleading and instructive. The Giants defense got hammered on big plays last Sunday. In all, they allowed 7 plays of more than 24 yards, with 4 of them being more than 44 yards. The Cowboys gained a total of 427 yards on Sunday, but 286 of those yards came on the 7 plays that were greater than 24 yards. Overall the Cowboys averaged 8.5 yards per snap, which is an astounding number, but if you look at a split between the 7 big plays and the other 43, the numbers are even more interesting. On the 7 big plays, the Cowboys averaged 41 yards per play and on the other 43 plays averaged just 3.2 yards. That amounts to 66% of their yards from 14% of their plays. To me this shows the coaching strategy change that the Cowboys used and how effective it was. Go for big plays, max protect when you do and be careful with the ball and conservative on your other plays. The 71 yard screen pass to Felix Jones was the perfect call, catching the Giants LB in a blitz. While the Giants defense got toasted by these long plays, If the safeties had been a little more careful in preventing the big plays, they could have easily won this game.

By contrast, the Giants had 6 plays greater than 20 yards, with only 2 of them greater than 35 yards (not including a 35 yard pass interference penalty). The Giants had 76 snaps in the game, averaged 28 yards on their 6 longest plays and 4.4 per play on the other 70. These 6 long plays represented 8% of their total plays and 35% of their total yards. That is not a bad ratio, but it illustrates the impact of big plays and the strategy that the Cowboys used. The heavier dosage of zone defenses that the Cowboys used kept the Giants offense from breaking big plays and gave them the opportunity to mess up with turnovers and penalties. The Giants offense obliged itself of this opportunity, by the way.

Everyone has been raving about Fewell's defense, but the truth is that, including the Colts game, this is now the 2nd game where the defense has been out-coached by the opposing offense. The DC has been slow to react to a change in tactic by the offense or an unexpected game plan.

Maybe the Cowboys exposed a flaw in the Giants defense. Take away the Giants pass rush with max protect, use crossing routes and/or play action to freeze the S or get the S to bite up on one of those short crossing routes and hit a speedy WR deep. This is nothing revolutionary - it is Offense 101, but the Giants may be more vulnerable to it because of the aggressiveness of their safeties. The 3-S alignment seems smart and innovative, but it does force the S to think aggressively, because if they sit back deep, they would be vulnerable to a power running game which is what the Colts did to Fewell's defense in game 2. I guess the strategy of 3 safeties has to be used more selectively. The truth is, it might be effective, or even necessary against the Eagles, because they are a team reliant on lots of speed and are not a power running team. Certainly you want speed on the field with Vick running around all over. More on what the Giants chances are against the Eagles in a  later post.

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