You’ve got to love the annual Giants verses Cowboys Sunday night game. It’s one of the rare times when Cris Collinsworth can talk about the Odell Beckham catch without it seeming completely out of place. The game wasn’t exactly an offensive explosion, however it did start with a boom. Dallas ran their first two plays from a singleback set, and got a quick first down. The Cowboys subbed in a fullback, which gave the appearance that they were going to establish the ground game with Ezekiel Elliot. But instead they went with a play action, which fooled the Giants, and Prescott was able to find a wide open Tavon Austin for a 64 yard gain. A very interesting fact about last Sunday’s game, all 6 times Dallas had a fullback in the game they passed the ball. While it paid off huge on the 64 yard touchdown, they only averaged a solid but nothing special 5.4 yards per play with a fullback in after that play.
Saying New York struggled on offense is kind of like saying the the Genghis Khan wasn’t a very nice dude. They’re both pretty massive understatements. A singleback set is the most common set in the NFL (it’s your average set with 3 receivers a tight end and a halfback). The Giants ran 27 plays from a singleback set (38.6%) 19 were passes and 8 were rushes. From those sets they averaged just 3 yards per passing play, and just 1.25 yards per rushing attempt (2.48 Yards per play overall). I certainly don’t blame Saquon Barkley, for that 1.25 rushing yards per play, I thought he did a fine job running the football, and he was especially great at breaking tackles. However we knew the biggest worry for the Giants heading into this season was going to be their offensive line, and they were a disaster on Sunday night. New York made adjustments to bring on help for their offensive line, as they ran 18 plays with multiple tight ends. However that was an even bigger disaster, they averaged 1.92 yards per passing play, and 1.83 yards per rushing play (1.89 yards per play overall).
Not every play was as atrocious for New York as the one’s from those two sets. Personally I’ve never been a fan of giving your line extra help when it’s struggling, I feel that your better off going with more receivers to try to find holes in the opposing team’s secondary faster. I think this game is a perfect example of that theory. The Giants appeared to get scared off from 4 wide sets early, when the first 3 times they passed the ball from a 4 wide set the play resulted in an incompletion. They didn’t try it a 4th time until 7:52 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. That play resulted in 4 yards, and they next play resulted in 18. They ended up running a play from a 4 wide set 17 times, 16 of which were passes, and they averaged 6.46 yards per play after the three incompletions. Still not exactly lighting the world on fire, but a lot better than 1.89 yards per play with multiple tight ends in.
The Cowboys had a relatively weird game. A lot of their yardage totals are low, but they only ran 52 plays all game. Much like New York, Dallas struggled out of singleback sets, only averaging 3.95 yards per play. Although really, it was rushing out of singleback sets that was the problem for them, in the 9 plays they rushed out of a singleback set they gained just 2.22 yards per play, but out of passing plays they gained a slightly more respectable 5.25 yards per play. However Dallas was able to find the most success in multiple tight end sets. They ran the ball in 9 out of 11 multiple tight end sets, and averaged 6.89 yards per carry. On one hand it might make you wonder why they didn’t rush from those sets more often, but it’s important to remember they only ran 52 plays, so 11 plays from those set is still 21.2% (although that’s still less often than New York ran plays from those sets, despite them gaining exactly 5 less yards per play). Dallas was decent from 4 wide or 5 wide sets, they passed on 8 of the 9 plays they ran from those sets, and they gained 5.56 yards per play. On the Cowboy’s final drive, they had a big 10 yard gain on third down out of a 4 wide set. It was the first time they got a first down in 9 plays, and it jump started a strong drive. Dallas also had a 15 and 19 yard run (both out of multiple tight end sets naturally) and they ended up with a touchdown to put them up 20 to 3. It ended up being an important one too, as the Giants were about to attempt a comeback.
I’m sure a lot of people will be ripping the Giants offensive playcalling, however they do deserve a bit of credit for making an adjustment here (albeit probably too late). 10 of the 13 plays on New York’s second to last drive were out of 4 wide or 5 wide sets, and they were finally able to get into the endzone over minutes 58 into the game. However I found their playcalling after that touchdown a bit odd. They got the onside kick and had newfound life, but they then proceeded to run 4 straight plays from singleback sets, which they’ve been awful from all game. They got some short gains, and picked up a total of 16 yards to put them at the 37 yard line with all three of their timeouts left. My thought was that they should’ve tried a 54 yard field goal. It they made it they wouldn’t even need an onside kick, as there was still 54 seconds left on the clock. They could’ve in theory, gotten the ball back with 30-35 seconds left to attempt to score a touchdown to tie the game. It was a longshot, but at leas they had a chance. Instead they called all three of their timeouts, ran 4 more plays which got the clock down to just 11 seconds, and then kicked a field goal anyways. Dallas recovered the subsequent onside kick, and improved their record to 1-1.