After a long time, the New York Giants finally took the offseason to the football field for a long time. Perhaps appropriately, was made to wait until the second-to-last game of Week 1, but we finally got to see the Giants play while hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The result of the game was, unknowingly, a 26–16 loss to the Giants, but given that we had not seen them in action before Monday night, there was still much to learn.
So what are some early takeaways from the first game of the Giants season?
Defensive front came to play
If there is one main takeaway for Giants fans from the opening game, it is that the defensive line has the potential to be really good. While we should keep in mind that the Steelers had to work to overcome an injured and offensive line, the Giants gave them the most stalemate for the game.
The Giants ‘front did a good job of maintaining their inter-integrity for most of the game, disappointing the Steelers’ running game for the opening three quarters. Dalvin Tomlinson, Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence II, and BJ Hill all ran behind the line of Scramges, and such disruptions need to see the Giants from their front.
The Steelers were heading towards the end of the game, and Benny Snell (whose mouth guard almost made this list on his own. Yes, I’m easily pleased), finished with 113 yards on just 19 carries. Ben Roethlisberger also got more time in the second half and was able to find his rhythm after a two-minute drill to end the first half.
There is going to be a process as the Giants seek their groove on either side of the ball, but if the defensive line can work hard, it will be a solid base.
Patrick Graham keeps his promise
When Patrick Graham spoke to the media during training camp, he was asked if he would defend 3-4, 4-3 or any other form, and his answer was “yes.”
While Big Ben tightened his back on the final drive of the first half, the Steelers offense went badly out of sync for the first 28 minutes of the game. Part of this was certainly due to the time missed by Rothlisberger, complicated by the unique nature of the 2020 off-season.
But there was another part of it whose length went to confuse Graham Steelers offense. We saw 2, 3 and 4-man defensive fronts, we saw stunts and games along the defensive line. We saw a variety of coverage, with James Bradberry being moved around the secondary in addition to the free agent, also lining up in multiple time slots.
And perhaps the most lucrative addition to the scheme, the Giants used “radar” defense on some third down passing situations. All 11 defenders have been seen standing before the snap defending Radar, often milling around to hide evidence of their intentions. Steeler eventually tells some veterans that they could have picked up some completions against the Radar defense, but it was very effective in the game.
The Steelers blockers often looked confused and found themselves stopping the wind a few times as the Giants pass rushers pressured Roethlisberger.
No running room found
The Giants’ defensive front was impressive, the Steelers front was downright scary.
At the very least they were a nightmare for Sakon Barclay. The Giants’ star was running back, a non-factor on the field, as the Steelers were behind the scrimmage’s line on almost every play. Whether they were shooting gaps, hitting blockers in their places, or simply bending the Giants’ lineman backwards, it was rare that the Giants had a running game that was interrupted before they were interrupted. Was not interrupted. Daniel Jones was the Giants leading crowd with 22 yards on 4 carries, while Barclay had just 6 yards on 15 carries and a negative yardage for most of the night – although he did 6 receptions for 61 yards. And with a longer duration of 38.
It was always going to be a tough match for an offensive line with three freshman starters who had never played a game together. And we must recognize that Rekha works hard throughout the game. He felt some traction began on the Giants ‘long 19-play drive, which was taken in the third quarter, but the Steelers’ defense was able to rebound after rest.
Keep it fast
Pittsburgh’s defense was higher than the Giants’ offense in the first quarter and more in the first half. His defense lived in the Giants’ backfield in race games, and he had no answer for the Steelers who arrived early. Bud Dupree had 8 quarterback pressures by himself (19.4 percent pressure rate NextGenats) while TJ Watt and Stephen Tit added 5 pressures (15.2 percent and 14.3 percent pressure rates, respectively).
And Pittsburgh wasn’t shy about being “blitzburg” either.
According to NFL NextGenStats, he bombed Daniel Jones’ 61 percent of the dropbacks of the most strikes of any defense by this weekend. They were also effective blitzes, completing only 58 percent of their passes for only 177 yards with Jones and throwing a pair of interceptions.
As the game wore on, it became clear that Jason Garrett had to make an adjustment. Deep dropbacks and multi-read passes put too much on the offensive line and Daniel Jones. The Giants therefore adopted a more familiar broadcast method to ease the pressure on their young players. The Giants helped him play fast, using more formations with quick, one and two-read throws, as well as an empty backfield. This allowed him to stretch the Steelers’ defense and make quick, easy completions.
Once those completions started coming, the Giants were able to carry on the momentum of their offense. This was most evident on that long third quarter campaign, when the Steelers were yet to go off the field. By the time Jones threw an interception in the end zone, the Steelers were dripping with sweat and visibly gassing.
This was not enough to turn the tide of the game, but nature had Garrett to adapt to the fly and to get away from his favorite plan when he was.
NFC East lead … football team?
The Giants falling for steel is not a surprising result for a week. Pittsburgh was heavily favored and very much everyone expected them to go on with the win.
What is surprising is that neither the Philadelphia Eagles nor the Dallas Cowboys came away with the win. The Eagles led by 17 points, while the Cowboys lost to the Ram of Los Angeles, suffering a trio of significant injuries.
And with the Giants losing, the Washington football team was left as the division’s leaders. They managed to overcome a major drawback against the Eagles and a big win against a heavily favored foe. What should be for the Giants – based on how the Steelers front disrupted the Giants’ gameplay – is that a sinister pass pulled the upset on the backs of the crowd.
Washington finished the game with 8 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions. Longtime veteran Ryan Kerrigan had two sacks, while rookie Chase Young and DT Matt Ioannidis trailed with 1.5 of their own. In the second year EDGE Montez Sweat and linebacker John Bastick added another sack overall.
It was only the first week and Washington certainly has serious flaws around its roster, but that defensive front has to be respected.