Holding the Edge: Giants Offense vs. Patriots Defense

| 5 years ago

Holding the Edge: Giants Offense vs. Patriots Defense

We begin our week of Super Bowl previews with a side-by-side, unit-by-unit look at who has the edge in key facets of play. In this table, PFF Analyst Sam Monson explores how Manning and New York’s O should fare against New England’s D, whichever direction they go and however they try to get there. Make sure you check back in tomorrow, as PFF’s Ben Stockwell will flip the table and look at how things should shake out when the Patriots’ offense is on the field.

And, if you’re up for kicking off the week by subjecting your Super Bowl-crazed brain to numbers-overload, check out the passing game preview PFF Fantasy’s Mike Clay posted. He’s dug deep into the PFF database to assemble the figures and present you with a stat-packed piece that’ll take you the rest of the week to digest!




Giants Offense


Position Group


Patriots Defense

The Giants have a problem on the O-line, and it clearly manifests itself in the performance of their running game, especially up the gut. Poor center play and sub-par work from the guards has left New York averaging only 2.5 yards per carry between the guards and with a long of just 19 yards all year. The NFL average on runs in the same direction is 3.9, and in the Super Bowl, they will find themselves going up against a heavy New England defensive front.

Interior Running

  The Patriots may not be as good as their defensive front looked against Baltimore, and over the course of the season they have been far more average up the middle in run defense. On the season they actually find themselves slightly behind the league average at 4.0 yards per run given up between the guards. In the first meeting between the two teams this year, the Giants only attempted three runs in this area, gaining 7 yards.
Runs to the perimeter is where the strength of the Giants’ run game lies, largely because they are relying less on the in-line blocking of their offensive line and more on the game-breaking ability of their running backs. Ahmad Bradshaw has forced 26 missed tackles this season on his 171 carries, and the Giants average 4.6 yards per carry on runs outside of the guards on the season. The seven rushing touchdowns they have scored on these plays also leads the league, with three other teams in second place with six.  

Outside Running

New England again is merely average in this area of defense. Over the season they are allowing 4.2 yards per carry on runs outside of the guards, which is better than the league average of 4.5, but not enough to make you think they have an advantage in that area. The Patriots struggle especially with runs off tackle, which netted opposing offenses 5.5 yards per carry in the regular season and 474 total rushing yards. The transition back to a 3-4 front has changed some things, but the playoff numbers on outside runs for New England haven’t been impacted much.
New York is able to capitalize on the slick route running of Victor Cruz to gain instant separation on key plays, but in the first meeting between the two sides the Giants were only 11-of-16 on passes thrown under 10 yards.  Manning has been able to make plays on these throws, but over the season he has thrown five interceptions on throws under 10 yards down field. If teams can force pressure quickly, they can anticipate his outlet throws and make plays on them.  

Short Passing

The Patriots have had their troubles in coverage all season, but if there is an area of the field where they can be dangerous, it is in underneath coverage. In the regular season on throws under 10 yards in depth they surrendered twelve touchdowns and over 2,000 yards, but they also picked off 13 passes, three more than on passes beyond 10 yards in depth. With the Giants deploying Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard at the same time, the Patriots are likely to see targets underneath, and will have chances to jump routes.
When Eli Manning throws towards the sidelines this season he has been excellent on intermediate throws. He has just one pick outside the numbers from 93 attempts. Those attempts yielded 884 yards and seven touchdowns and featured some impressive passes in the face of heavy pressure. Manning has more issues when throwing over the middle, perhaps predictably for a player regularly under pressure. He has thrown four picks on intermediate throws over the middle to just four touchdowns and his QB rating over the middle is markedly less than when he aims towards the sldelines.  

Intermediate Passing

The Patriots have surrendered an alarming amount of yardage this season, and intermediate throws are no exception, with 1,520 yards coming on throws 10-19 yards down field alone. None of the Patriots’ linebackers received positive PFF grades for coverage in the regular season, but both Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes have for their postseason play. The Patriots need those two to be at their best and getting their hands on passes over the middle if they are to be able to combat the Giants’ passing game.
Only Tim Tebow, with the aid of option-offense-manufactured opportunities, took deep shots more often than Eli Manning in the regular season. 18.5% of all Manning’s attempts were 20 or more yards down field and he attempted 20 more of those throws than any other QB. The impressive figure, though, is that despite that volume of attempts, Manning still completed 46.8%. That was good for seventh in the league, despite eight drops on deep throws, two more than any other quarterback. Manning will attack deep when he can, and with a healthy stable of receiving options, he is likely to do so when the opportunity presents, but he is also prone to forcing it at times when under pressure. He threw seven of his interceptions on deep balls in the regular season and will present opportunities for the secondary.  

Deep Passing

If there is an area where cycling through a series of bodies is going to hurt in coverage, it is deep. New England coughed up 1,226 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season purely on passes thrown deep (over 20 yards downfield), and they allowed half of all such targets to be completed.  Sterling Moore has made some plays since earning snaps on defense, including a game-saving pass breakup against the Ravens, but the Patriots have hemorrhaged yardage on deep balls all season, and the Giants are one of the most aggressive teams in the league at attacking down field. In the first meeting between the two, New England limited them to only six shots downfield, and three completions for 81 yards.


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| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN and NBCSports.

  • MJMcC

    I’ll repeat a comment I made on the fantasy site, in case someone reading this article has some insight. This analysis, as so much of the commentary on this game, seems to give the Giants the edge, grading the Pats’ defense generally weak. So I was surprised to see in the Premium Stats that the Patriots actually grade rather well on cumulative defense: 50% better than the Giants and #9 overall. Is this perhaps a case of the whole being much less than the parts? That is, do Pats’ individual players grade well but the unit as a whole breaks down? One difference of course is that the defensive rating puts a lot of weight on pass rush, which gets no comment here.

  • http://www.profootballfocus.com Sam Monson

    Pass rush is definitely part of it, the Giants have a much more impressive pass-rush lineup than the Patriots have had all season, but if you look at the breakdown of the grades on the D side of the ball much of the Patriots positive comes from run defense, while I anticipate this being more of an aerial battle, where they fare much less well.

    Another issue is that New England lost in Andre Carter their single highest graded defender, and so would take a hit in any analysis going forward as opposed to the cumulative grade that includes his impact.