8:20 p.m. ET
Key Decision #1: (NYG ball, trailing 10-3 / fourth-and-goal, ATL 1 / 11:44 Q3)
• Despite trailing at halftime, the Giants defense is playing well on the road. The offense continues to struggle, but they’ve taken the opening possession of the second half and marched 74 yards to the Falcons’ 1. Head coach Pat Shurmur opts to forego a field goal and go for it. QB Eli Manning rolls to his right and throws back across his body into the middle of the field. The pass is incomplete and the Falcons take over on downs.
• This was a poor decision by Shurmur. Every point matters to this offense right now; a 10-6 deficit is not a bad position this early in the second half.
Key Decision #2: (NYG ball, trailing 20-12 / 2-point conversion attempt / 4:52 Q$)
• The Giants get a 2-yard TD run from Saquon Barkley to pull within 20-12., Rather than kick the extra point that would make it a 7-point game, Shurmur goes for two. Manning’s pass to Odell Beckham Jr. is incomplete and the score remains 20-12. We don’t like this call for several reasons:
• Not all of the analytics for this scenario are created equal, e.g., how many successful 2-point tries in the data pool were made after games were already out of reach? For example, the Giants were successful on their second 2-point try in this game – but with five seconds left, it didn’t matter to Atlanta one bit.
• The failed 2-point try is a momentum-killer in this circumstance.
• The odds of making a PAT are far higher than a 2-point try — and this is a Giants team that has trouble running any kind of successful play. So you’re asking a poor offensive team to convert a two-point try on the road — and if they fail, they get to try it again with the game on the line?
• As it turns out, Shurmur passed up four easy points — an early FG and a PAT. Maybe at a 20-16 deficit, his defense is feeling good about the game and fired up about getting just one stop?
Key Decision #3: (ATL ball, leading 20-12 / fourth-and-3, NYG 38 / 2:00 Q4)
• Three yards to a first down isn’t ideal of course, but ATL does have playmakers playing at home. Instead, Dan Quinn chooses a 56-yard FG attempt by Giorgio Tavecchio, a kicker they just signed on Tuesday. In a dome, 56 yards is within range for most NFL kickers, but a miss would give NYG a very short field.
• Tavecchio made the kick, but we would have preferred going for the first down to ice the game, as NYG had already burned all of its timeouts.
• While the Falcons have a great offense, they don’t really have a 4-minute offense. They have a quick strike offense, but with RB Devonta Freeman hurt, they will struggle to maintain ball-control drives needed to ice games. This is a good team, but not an elite one.
• The Giants defense played an outstanding game. Defensive coodinator James Bettcher and the players held ATL to 23 points at home, a big achievement. They played well enough to win.
• One big problem for NYG offense: There is zero identity, i.e., they don’t do a single thing well. There are no bread-and-butter plays. The Giants also play offense as if it is a 2-minute situation on every series; they’re just too skittish and panicky.
• If you can’t protect Manning, why line up in so many multiple WR formations? Why not go power, line up with a fullback and simply try to properly execute a couple of running plays over and over? No one really respects their play-action at the moment, and when they do run with Barkley, the play design is terrible; he is out there exposed. They don’t have a true FB on the roster, and this doesn’t help them. It seems as if they designed this team to throw the ball well, but if you know you can’t protect, perhaps you should adjust?
• The Giants offense also has bad body language breaking huddles, poor overall tempo, and they don’t even bother to use the snap count as a weapon. They’re completely lost on offense down to the smallest fundamentals. Yes, the OL is a problem – and that lies at the feet of the GM. They have a free agent LT, a rookie LG, and a third-string center — none of whom have ever played with each other or with Manning. This team needs to get back to basics and try to do some simple things well first before trying slow-developing pass plays down the field.
• As for ATL, they played with two backup guards who did a reasonably good job. But it’s a miracle QB Matt Ryan is as durable as he is. They ask him to run a lot of slower-developing downfield plays – we think this could catch up with them as the hits pile up on him.