There's quite a bit to take out of this game both from the positive as well as the negative side. It's easy simply to say that the Giants were flat defensively in the first half and allowed the Jaguars to push them around and run on them. If you just look at the plays and their results in that first half, this appeared to be true. Especially if you consider what the papers have been writing about all week - Tuck's fiery half time speech that awoke the slumbering defense from its emotionless state. If they needed a half time speech to spark them, they must have been flat before then. However, there's more to it than that; there's also some game planning, technique and adjustments involved that made them ineffective in the first half and much better later on. This is the first game the entire year that I saw the Giants get pushed around on the ground and particularly the DTs, who have been so good this year, were moved and punished by the opposing OL. Most of the successful Jaguar runs started inside, between the G and C or between the G and T, which means they controlled the interior of the DL in that first half. The Giants, inexplicably, came out with a frequent 3-safety look, played a lot of zone in the first half and did not drop an extra safety in the box to handle the running game. Furthermore, for some reason, the DEs were rushing up field often in passing plays and even on running plays. It looked like they expected Jaguars to pass more than they actually did and that they expected them to run outside, so they wanted to control the perimeter with DEs coming up field. Jaguars instead often got effective double team blocks on the DTs, and ran underneath the rushing DEs. When the DEs stayed home, they did a good job securing the edge and not letting runs get outside of them, particularly Osi, who has had a good year rushing the passer and has been defending the run as well. In the 2nd half, the DEs stayed in their lane more, the Giants did more twists in the line, stayed with 3-safeties, but moved the S in the box to combat the interior running. By doing this they also managed to keep Garrard in the pocket and prevented him from running. You recall that the sacks in the last Jaguar series that ended in the forced fumble came from blitzes with the DB coming inside the DE, not a wide blitz on the outside. These worked very well. Overall there was a lot more pressure on the passer in the 2nd half and the defensive adjustments really worked. I don't know if we should applaud Fewell for making the adjustments that worked or castigate him for coming in with a flawed game plan. Maybe both?!? Jaguars have one excellent play maker in Jones-Drew and the Giants defense should have looked to stop him rather than expect a passing attack from the Jaguars. When they did pass in the first half, Jaguars used a lot of 3 step drops and max protect to blunt the Giants pass rush, a page out of the Cowboys playbook of a few weeks ago. In the second half, with more blitzes and more line twists and stunts, the Giants got to Garrard and put a lot of pressure on him. If you're looking for one statistic that defines the effectiveness of the passing game, it is yards-per-pass-attempt. It takes into account completion percentage and whether the QB is dumping off little short high percentages passes to the RBs or is throwing the ball down the field. A very good number is in the 8 yards per pass attempt range. Garrard ended the day at about 4.6 yards per pass attempt, which is a really feeble number. Actually, the 4.6 yards per pass attempt does not account for the sacks, which makes the numbers even more meager. It kind of makes you wonder why the Jaguars even attempted a pass Sunday, when they were averaging 6.1 yards per rush attempt, better than their passing numbers. More than that, they were successful with short, safe passes in the first half mixed in with the running game and then seemed to change their strategy in the 2nd half. They passed and got intercepted on their first play of the second half. Then, on their second possession, they got one first down, and then proceeded to hoist up two long balls which had absolutely no chance of being completed. That series seemed to change the momentum of the game. If was the first punt of the game by the Jaguars and gave the Giants defense some added juice. Poor tactics by Del Rio and Jags, if you ask me.
Giants offense was pretty good in the first half, moving the ball effectively on 2 of their 3 drives. The problem, however, was that they got stopped for FGs instead of going in for TDs. Giants have been effective in the red zone this year, so I put this failure on the absence of the top offensive players rather than any failure in execution or play calling. Notice that the two second half TDs came on big plays from outside of the red zone, which may be the case for the Giants offense (easier to score from outside the 20 than inside it) until Nicks and Smith get back. I think Boss is an outstanding pass receiving threat and the Giants should take advantage of him more, especially with Nicks/Smith out. His TD grab was a simple route and easy catch, but required an excellent read and a good move on the safety to give him the TD run. The play that showed his pass receiving skills off more was a gorgeous throw and catch right at the end of the 3rd quarter. Giants were pinned deep on their own 12 still behind 17-9. Boss ran an out pattern and was blanketed by a S with LB in front of him. Eli made a gorgeous throw right over the LB leading Boss perfectly. He caught the ball and secured it with the S wrapping him up and knocking him to the ground immediately. Beautiful throw and catch. Boss made another catch for 25 yards on that drive and the Giants scored quickly, going 88 yards on only 5 plays.Boss beat a safety on the first pass and a LB on the second. He really can create match up problems for a defense and the Giants should exploit it more.
Speaking of that drive, it is worthwhile to break down the TD pass to Manningham that ended the drive and understand how and why it worked. Giants had two TEs in the game, with Boss lined up tight on the right side and Derek Hagan lined up wide to his right. On the left, Manningham was lined up wide and Beckum was lined up in the slot. The Jaguars were playing a zone with 2 safeties deep and because the Giants had two TEs in the game, they were not in nickel, keeping 3 LBs in the game. On the right side of the offense, Hagan ran a straight go route occupying the DB and S on his half of the field. Boss stayed in to block and increase the pass protection, so in effect there were three Jaguar defenders: DB, LB and S on the right side of the offense, defending only one player, Hagan, running deep. On the play side of the field, Manningham ran a deep sideline route and Beckum, who was covered by a LB ran a deep post pattern. Eli took the snap and faked a hand-off to Jacobs. Beckum was covered by LB who he easily outran, especially with the play fake to Jacobs that froze the LB for an instant. The LB had deep safety help and this S had to decide whether to give deep help to Beckum or Manningham. After the fake hand-off, Jacobs continued out into the pass pattern on the left side of the offense. This drew the attention of the CB who had zone responsibility to stay with Manningham on the sideline. The CB slowed slightly when Eli faked the hand-off to Jacobs and bit hard when Jacobs flashed in front of him in the pass pattern. This left Beckum and Manningham streaming down the field; putting pressure on the S. Beckum was on a post towards the middle of the field and Manningham was deep down the sideline, both had easily beaten their underneath coverage and both were wide open with only the deep S to cover both of them. Eli chose to throw to Manningham who easily sidestepped the S and went in for TD. It was beautiful play design, and perfect execution.