The Giants pulled off one of the biggest, if not the biggest, upsets of the year on Sunday. Entering Seattle with a back-up quarterback and coming out with a win is no small feat. But let’s be clear, it was the Giants Defense that once again carried the day for Big Blue. So what was it about their approach that gave Seattle trouble?
First, this was a 2-shell game for the Giants. Meaning they utilized a ton of 2-deep-safety looks for most of the day, whether in man or zone coverage. These 2-shell looks took away the explosive plays from D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
But it wasn’t just THAT the Giants used these 2-shell looks, it was HOW they got to them that seemed to befuddle Russell Wilson. The Giants used a ton of disguise and did so in a multitude of ways.
The below play was a 2nd-and-16. Here, the Giants were aligned with one deep safety in the middle of the field pre-snap.
It looked like they could potentially be playing some form of Cover-3. The Seahawks had a post-wheel route combination called, which is a great concept to attack Cover-3. The purpose of the design is to have the post route occupy the cornerback and the deep safety, leaving a void for the wheel on the outside.
Only, the Giants would spin out into Cover-2. The post route would end up running right into the deep safety to that side, and the wheel was taken away by the flat corner.
The design of the play was taken away with the post-snap movement. The Giants also paired this disguise with a pressure scheme as safety Logan Ryan blitzed. You’ll notice that the Giants were able to bring the blitz without sacrificing coverage (4 pass rushers). The pressure disrupted Wilson and forced him to scramble before firing an incompletion to set up 3rd-and-long.
Below is another example of how the Giants used disguise to get into their 2-deep looks. The Giants once again started off in a 1-deep safety look pre-snap. They would again rotate to 2-deep, this time with cornerback James Bradberry dropping to become a deep-half defender and Jabaal Sheard dropping out underneath to his side.
The Giants ultimately played zone with the exception of two defenders playing man. Jabrill Peppers took Tyler Lockett in the slot and linebacker Tae Crowder (#48) took running back Carlos Hyde.
Russell Wilson had a man open to his right side. However, it took too long to find him before the pass rush got in.
That’s what disguise does. It prevents the quarterback from easily knowing and seeing where to go with the ball before the pass rush gets home. It can also prevent the offense from getting into the best play pre-snap. You can also see that the Giants brought another blitz without sacrificing men in coverage (this time it came from the slot). Tae Crowder also Green-Dog blitzed when he saw that Hyde was staying in to block initially, and this ultimately finished the play.
As mentioned earlier, when the Giants played man, they often did so using 2-deep safety looks (2-man coverage). The man-coverage defenders took away the underneath throws, either by trailing their receivers or jumping their routes, something they could do with the 2 deep safeties protecting over the top. Their two final sacks in the 4th quarter came while using 2-man coverage.
Wilson had nowhere to go with the ball quickly on the above play because the underneath was taken away effectively. By the time a receiver did break open, Jabaal Sheard was in Wilson’s face.
This final sack all but sealed the win for the Giants. Again, notice the 2-man look and nowhere for Wilson to go with the ball before the stunt by Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams hit home.
The Giants succeeded in taking away the deep ball with these 2-deep safety looks. The disguise did enough to prevent Wilson from quickly finding open receivers, and the pass rush was timely in its ability to disrupt.
In addition to the disguise, Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham also did a good job of keeping the pressure on Wilson and Seattle on early downs. He brought blitzes on 1st and 2nd down, often without needing to rush more than 4 (as you saw multiple times above). When the Giants had success early, they didn’t ease off just because it was 2nd-and-long. This sequence from the first half is a great example.
On 1st-and-10, they rushed 5 (and actually rotated from a 2-shell to a 1-shell look this time).
After the sack led to a 2nd-and-18, the Giants played 2-man, again preventing any easy throws underneath. Why give up easy yards and set up a more manageable 3rd down for a dangerous offense (as many NFL defensive coordinators love to do for some reason)?
The incompletion set up 3rd-and-long. Seattle would ultimately be forced to punt.
Graham has taken a similar approach for much of the season. It likely was more on display against Seattle because he knew points would be at a premium for the Giants Offense. New York wasn’t going to win if they allowed Seattle to pick up yards easily and waited until the red zone to apply any pressure.
The Giants currently lead the division with 4 games left to play. After all the jokes and disrespect paid to the NFC East throughout the season, both the Giants and the Football Team are showing themselves to have defenses worthy of a division winner. Whoever ends up taking the NFC East will not be an easy out for the #5 seed in the playoffs.
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