ReFo: Giants @ Chargers, Week 14
The Giants struggled in a trip to San Diego with the Chargers keeping in touch with the AFC playoff race with a three score victory. Which performances stood out?
ReFo: Giants @ Chargers, Week 14
With the false dawn of their four game winning streak firmly in the rear view mirror the New York Giants headed to San Diego yesterday for a reminder of the sort of performance that led to their 0-6 start to the season. In his second visit to San Diego as a New York Giant, Eli Manning struggled badly, with a couple of lucky bounces sparing his stat line from a much worse look. At 5-8 the Giants are now firmly looking to the future and just trying to gather positives from the last month of the season, but there were few to find in the post-Thanksgiving run out.
On the opposite sideline the three score win for the Chargers keeps them within a game of the final playoff spot in the AFC, knowing full well that they must use the positive momentum from this victory to steal a win away from the Broncos in Denver on a short week. The defense showed up as a unit in all three phases of the game and the offense got key performances to extend the lead over the slow starting Giants before they could even remotely wake up.
Thursday’s crucial matchup in the Mile High City can wait, for now here are the key performances that sent the Chargers to a comfortable victory over the Giants yesterday.
New York – Three Performances of Note
Strong Days up Front for Tuck and Joseph
Not the best day for the Giants on the back end, but down in the trenches two of their defensive linemen had strong days to continue strong seasons. On the inside Linval Joseph had an impressive day against the run notching four defensive stops which will see him among the league leaders for the week. Working predominantly against Jeromey Clary and Nick Hardwick, Joseph came out on top more often than not to help slow the Chargers’ ground game, though he never came up with a stop to take yards away from the offense. Working off the left edge Justin Tuck earned his 10th positive game grade of the season tying his season high with four stops and adding a pair of sacks to take his season total to nine, one of which forced a fumble from Chargers’ QB Philip Rivers on the opening play of the third quarter. After an inconsistent 2012 season that raised questions as to whether Tuck was slowing down, he has rebounded with a far more consistent season this year removing the lows that pitted his performance last season.
Rough “Return” for Eli
Making his second visit to play the team that drafted him Eli Manning came up with one of his worst performances of the season. His two interceptions see him now tied with fellow New York quarterback Geno Smith with 20 interceptions for the most in the league and the Chargers had the opportunities to snag at least a couple more that would have left Eli out in front on his own. On the positive side of the ledger for Eli’s performance you have his deep pass to Hakeem Nicks early in the game for 51 yards and his touchdown pass to Brandon Myers to open the fourth quarter, both quality throws that remind us of good Eli. For almost the rest of the game you had throws to remind you of the bad Eli that has reared his head too often this season. Forced passes, poor throw location and some baffling decisions all played their part in stalling the Giants’ passing game. Midway through the fourth quarter Manning’s fortuity on the stat sheet was highlighted by back to back throws which should have been intercepted. Instead one was completed after Shareece Wright popped the ball into the air, Nicks snagging the loose ball for a 28 yard gain, and the other ruled incomplete as Donald Butler just failed to hold onto the ball as he laid out for the pass. The stat sheet may not show it to its fullest extent, but this was a poor showing for Eli at the helm of the Giants’ passing game.
Rivers the Lone Light at Linebacker
The Giants rolled through four different linebackers on defense (Mark Herzlich played only three snaps) and aside from California native Keith Rivers (+1.3) they all earned an overall grade of -2.0 or worse. Of the trio of Jon Beason, Jacquain Williams and Spencer Paysinger only Beason earned a positive grade in run defense with all three, even coverage specialist Williams, earning a negative grade in coverage. Rivers’ snap split played to his advantage with 21 of his 23 snaps coming in run defense while the other three combined to allow 74 yards in primary coverage on seven receptions while missing two tackles. Adding to their travails in coverage Williams struggled to shed blocks in run defense on only 12 snaps in run defense, while Paysinger won’t look back fondly on a play early in the third quarter when he was knocked to ground on a pull block by King Dunlap to help open up an 11 yard gain. For the season the only Giant linebacker with a positive grade is Dan Connor who only played 22 snaps in Week 1 before hitting injured reserve and eventually heading back to Carolina after an injury settlement in early November.
San Diego – Three Performances of Note
Minimal Receptions, Maximum Impact
Continuing his run of positive grades as a receiver (no negative grade since Week 3) rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen made his mark on this encounter by impact rather than volume of receptions. Only targeted three times, Allen caught all three and left a big impact on the Giants’ defense with each of them. On the first he got past Terrell Thomas working deep outside the numbers from a slot alignment and showing that his perceived lack of speed doesn’t stop him making plays down the field. Having pulled in the catch Allen resisted Thomas’ attempts to get back in on the play to get the ball inside the pylon for the Chargers’ opening score. On his second target he collected a first down on 2nd-and-5 laying a stiff arm on Prince Amukamara to collect yardage after the catch to extend the play further. After missing some time for a shoulder injury picked up on that grab Allen returned to the field to take advantage of a coverage bust involving Amukamara for a four yard score on an out route. That was it for Allen’s day as a receiver but those three grabs played their part in establishing an early three score lead which the Giants never looked like overhauling.
One Game Blip or Late Season Turn Around?
After impressing in fits and starts as a pass rusher last season Kendall Reyes hasn’t really kicked on in his second season coming up with an ineffective season as both a run defender and pass rusher entering this week. Reyes turned that around this week with the highest single game grade of his career notching five pressures (1 Sk, 1 Ht, 3 Hu) to earn a +2.4 pass rush grade and earning his first positive run defense grade of the season with a stop and some solid work against a number of New York offensive linemen. The optimistic view point for San Diego fans to take from this complete performance would be that Reyes has flipped the switch and is ready for a strong close to the season that he will use as the spring board for a breakout third season, often cited as the crucial year in a young player’s development. For this week at least they can cling to that optimism if they so choose. We’ll see in just a few days if this was just a flash in the pan or whether Reyes shows any signs of sustaining this sort of form.
Strong Return for Dunlap
When he has been on the field this season King Dunlap has put in some big performances especially as a run blocker, but unfortunately he has missed more snaps than you would like to see from your starting left tackle. Back in the fold for the first time since Week 10 Dunlap was solid in pass protection (two hurries surrendered) but immediately got back to work as a run blocker currently re-establishing himself as our highest graded tackle as a run blocker (+11.7) in spite of his low snap count. Bested a couple of times, Dunlap spent most of the game winning his encounters at the line of scrimmage, at the second level and most emphatically on a pull block to deliver a devastating block to Paysinger. On rushes outside left guard, the Chargers gained 4.3 yards per carry with 2.4 of those yards coming before first contact with Dunlap consistently getting the better Mathias Kiwanuka in particular on the right edge of the Giants’ offense. With D.J. Fluker struggling at left tackle in Dunlap’s absence but strong on the right side before he was disrupted by being asked to switch sides the Chargers will be eager to see Dunlap stay on the field for the rest of the season.
– The Giants sat off of Philip Rivers, only blitzing on seven of the Chargers’ 30 dropbacks. On the 23 dropbacks he faced a base coverage (one sack) Rivers went 17-of-22 for 219 yards and his three scores.
– Though he has earned a negative grade as a pass blocker in every start this season David Diehl earned his third straight positive run block grade this week. His +1.6 grade this week backing up a +1.1 in Washington and a +3.6 at home to the Cowboys.
– Manti Te’o registered his third straight game with a positive coverage grade surrendering only one completion on three targets for 4 yards with a pass defense.
PFF Game Ball
A strong return for King Dunlap this week keeping the Giants’ pass rushers at bay and re-establishing the control he showed as a run blocker earlier in the season.
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Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.