ReFo: Giants @ Lions, Week 16
At times this felt like a game that refused to end. Despite numerous advantageous positions for either side as the 4th quarter wound down the game went to over time. The teasing didn’t stop then however, with the Giants breaking off a big return on the opening kickoff to the fifth period only to fumble the ball away two snaps later on a vaguely dubious official review.
In the end the Giants were the team that was able to mount a final drive, executing a couple of clutch plays in sequence to give their kicker the chance to end the game and take victory. Josh Brown obliged, hitting a 45-yard game-winner to seal the game 23-20.
Who stood out in all the miscues?
New York: Three Performances of Note
It’s fair to say that the move of Mathias Kiwanuka back to DE has not been a successful one. His overall grade this season is a pretty disastrous -26.0 and he has been anything but a fearsome pass rusher, but this game was a rare bright spot in his season. He notched a +3.2 grade thanks to generating two sacks, two knockdowns and two hurries as well as racking up a few defensive stops in the run game. It’s certainly true to say he was helped in one of his sacks by Stafford holding the ball too long, but he made big plays in this game, something that can’t often be said about him this season. He also chipped in with a forced fumble of Reggie Bush to cause a turnover. This game was by far the best of Kiwanuka’s disappointing season and represents only his second green-graded game of the season.
The Giants often got themselves into pretty good spots on defense only to squander the position with missed tackles. They tallied 11 in total on D with Ryan Mundy accounting for four of those all by himself. That helped Mundy get his way to a -4.3 grade despite getting in a good position to make a lot of plays. Those missed tackles came at bad times as well, and one led directly to a touchdown on a play that instead should have been a tackle for loss. To be fair to the safety, he wasn’t the only culprit: Jon Beason and Trumaine McBride both missed a pair of tackles, but the bottom line is the Giants defense left a lot of plays out on the field due to simple mistakes and not being able to secure a routine tackle.
Rolle’s Tale of Two Seasons
I have never been the biggest Antrel Rolle fan. He has often been vastly overrated and living off a reputation inherited from who knows where, but it’s only fair to point out when he’s actually playing very well. Up until week six this season he had amassed a -7.2 grade with some truly ugly games. Since the Vikings game however he has totaled +15.7 in positive grades, a figure that would place him 2nd in the NFL among safeties had he not had such a poor start to the year. As it is, he has now climbed into the top 10, and is finally justifying the hype that has often surrounded his play, deserved or otherwise. In this game he made a couple of defensive stops but was impressive in coverage limiting the three catches he surrendered to just 11 yards with the longest reception he was beaten for just 6 yards in total.
Detroit: Three Performances of Note
The pairing of Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh should be the league’s best defensive tackle pairing, and when they play like this they are. The pair combined to post a +10.2 grade and proved too much for the Giants to handle all day long. They were aided by the Lions running a double-stunt up front a lot throughout the game, and pretty much every time they did, both defensive tackles won outside and brought pressure. You can see a perfect example of the play on the safety, with Fairley just beating Suh to the play. The Lions in the past during their Wide-9 ethos rarely used this kind of combination rushing up front, and the fact that they are now can only maximize the production of these two interior rushers. Both Fairley and Suh were also a nuisance in the run game, controlling Giants’ linemen and stuffing points of attack regularly.
There is more chance of me being named the new Pope than this actually happening, but I can’t see a more deserving candidate for offensive rookie of the year than Larry Warford. His +3.9 grade for this game is another high point in a fine rookie season that sees him sitting 4th in our guard rankings heading into the final week of the season. He has only had two games graded in the red this season and his second half of the year has been better than the first, powering through the rookie wall rather than running up against it. In this game he was too powerful for the Giants on the inside and at one point even blocked Jon Beason inside on a screen after Beason barreled into him with a head of steam. Warford was late seeing the hit coming but still regained enough leverage to execute a successful block.
For Whom the Bell Tolls
People were wild on the impact that Reggie Bush would have on this Lions offense, and while it’s certainly true he fits this offense more than perhaps any other he has been in, I still believe Joique Bell is a significantly better player. This game certainly backs that up, even if it is an extreme example. Bush rushed a dozen times but could only generate 34 yards at 2.8 per carry. Bell on the other hand rushed 20 times for 91 yards (4.6 per carry) and avoided the crucial fumble that Bush had. While Bush could evade only one tackler in his touches, Bell made five guys miss and chipped in with another ten catches for 63 yards in the pass game. I’ve long said that Reggie Bush is a slot receiver playing running back, and I certainly think he can do things in the pass game that Bell would struggle more with, but as a conventional running back, even one in a pass-happy offense, Joique Bell is the superior option.
– Eli Manning’s passer rating under pressure was more than 40 points better than when he was kept clean in the pocket (95.2 vs 54.8)
– Matthew Stafford completed just four passes that traveled over 10 yards in the air.
– The Lions’ front-4 starters combined for 22 total pressures on the day. Devin Taylor added another two off the bench.
PFF Game Ball
It came in a losing effort, but Nick Fairley was the best player on the field in this game, deserving the Game Ball.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam