Did the Giants offense miss Odell Beckham Jr. on Sunday Night vs. the Cowboys? Sure. But they still had tons of offensive talent on the field – Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, and 2-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning.
The issue for the Giants offense was not talent or injuries on Sunday night. It was their approach. New York’s inability to consistently attack the Cowboys defense with scheme looked all too familiar to their anemic 2016 season. They didn’t use alignment or personnel distribution to create mismatches (e.g. TE Evan Engram and RB Shane Vereen aligned on the perimeter). There were very few route combinations that put defenders in conflict. There was very little, in fact, that made life difficult for the Cowboys defense at all.
Case in point, the Giants’ approach in the 3rd quarter facing 3rd-and-goal from the 13. After an untimely sack on the previous play, the Giants needed to take a shot at the end zone. It was 16-0, and this would be the best opportunity they had to get back into the game. Did they attack the end zone with multiple receivers? Did they challenge safeties with seem routes or more elaborate combinations? No.
As you can see below, the Giants aligned in a 3×1 set, with Brandon Marshall isolated on the right and Roger Lewis, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram aligned to the left.
Brandon Marshall ran a go-route into the end zone. The Cowboys had two defenders ready for him (although you could argue the safety wouldn’t have been a factor on a back-shoulder throw to Marshall).
Manning pumped to Marshall’s side to try and keep the backside safety away from Evan Engram’s seam route. Unfortunately for the Giants, Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee dropped deep in the middle of the field to take away the seam.
Shepard cut underneath Engram, but he was easily taken away by the underneath coverage.
This left Eli with a Roger Lewis on a hitch route to the outside. The result was a measly 6-yard completion.
It’s tough to argue that the Giants did anything here to challenge the Cowboys defense. For such a big play in the game, the decision by Ben McAdoo to not really attack the end zone is head scratching. Down by 16, the giants went from a chip shot field goal attempt…to a chip shot field goal attempt. Explain that one.
It would be one thing if the Cowboys were throwing the kitchen sink at the Giants on this play. But they played a pretty conventional goal line defense. The Cowboys played a pretty conventional defense throughout the entire game, in fact. They played basic zones and rarely blitzed. There wasn’t much disguise either. There was some coverage rotation before the snap, but nothing Eli Manning hasn’t seen thousands of times before. Additionally, Manning had several opportunities to try and force the issue with Brandon Marshall versus 1-on-1 coverage. He rarely pulled the trigger, though.
Perhaps the biggest concern for the Giants is that Manning seemed under pressure for most of the game, despite Dallas predominantly only bringing 4 pass rushers. Perhaps this contributed to his inaccurate throws and erratic play. However, if teams can consistently get pressure without sacrificing coverage, as the Cowboys did on Sunday Night, don’t expect the Giants offense to look that much different than it did in 2016.