Which plays really mattered on Sunday?
There are sloppy games, there are bad games, then there is whatever hybrid of the two the New York Giants unveiled against the Tennessee Titans at MetLife Stadium. It was mostly ugly in aa 17-0 loss to Tennessee and it should not come as a surprise that many of the most meaningful plays in the game featured negative Expected Points Added.
Both WPA and EPA presented from the perspective of the offense.
11:30 remaining, first quarter – Succup misses a long one
EPA: minus-3.65 | WPA: minus-8.2 percent (NYG 46.6 percent → 54.8 percent)
This game started off pretty ugly. The weather was gross from kickoff and only got worse. Tennessee got the ball to start and put together a nine-play drive for 44 yards. But it stalled at the Giants’ 30-yard line after three straight incomplete passes. The Titans had to settle for a long field goal attempt, but it went wide. That set a tone for the game that while three points would probably be successful for a drive, settling for long field goals wasn’t going to work.
2:47 remaining, first quarter – Henry gets in
EPA: 3.32 | WPA: 11.5 percent (NYG 41.6 percent → 30.1 percent)
After a Giants three-and-out that lost three yards, Tennessee took the next drive to the extreme — 15 plays, 75 yards over 7:45. The Titans got down to the Giants’ 1-yard line and got stopped on a Marcus Mariota sneak attempt. But with the ball just a yard away, Tennessee kept the offense on the field and handed the ball to Derrick Henry, who scored easily through the attempted arm tackles of Janoris Jenkins and Michael Thomas at the goal line. The 7-0 lead gave the Titans a near 70 percent chance to win before the first quarter was over.
1:28 remaining, first quarter – The other Shepard
EPA: 3.15 | WPA: 10.2 percent (NYG 25.1 → 35.3 percent)
The Giants briefly showed life on the next drive, if only for one play. On a third-and-5 from their own 23, the Giants came out in 11 personnel with Evan Engram and Bennie Fowler in a tight split to the right, Russell Shepard out to the left, and Sterling Shepard faked motioned to the right before running back out to the left. At the snap, Eli Manning had the threat of interior pressure closing in from Jurrell Casey and fired a pass to Russell Shepard uncovered on a corner route down the left sideline. Manning had a mixed day throwing deep — 5-of-14 for 125 yards and an interception on passes 10 yards or more past the line of scrimmage — but this was his best throw of the day. It did not help the Giants’ offense, though, five plays — including a 10-yard loss on a Saquon Barkley run — and a false start later, the Giants had to punt.
13:39 remaining, second quarter – Flipping with play-action
EPA: 3.16 | WPA: 11.2 percent (NYG 32.3 → 21.1 percent)
Tennessee is one of the league’s better play-action teams. Entering the week, the Titans ran it on the seventh-highest rate of their pass plays and average 8.1 yards per play-action pass, almost two full yards better than the average on straight drop back passes, per Sports Info Solutions charting from Football Outsiders. The Giants have been one of the league’s worst defenses against play-action with six teams getting play-action run on them more often and only six teams allowing worse yards per play.
The Titans used that in their favor to start to flip the field early in the second quarter. With the ball inside their own 10-yard line, Tennessee ran play-action with just one receiver out wide. Luke Stocker lined up inline to the right of the formation and started the play as if he would block. As the run fake and Marcus Mariota’s rollout turned the defense around, Stocker snuck out across the field for a gain of 15 for a first down and more room for the Titans’ offense to work.
Tennessee eventually had to punt but did so close to midfield and the Titans pinned the Giants at their own 6-yard line.
14:22 remaining, third quarter – Shepard gets deep
EPA: 4.02 | WPA: 13.4 percent (NYG 24.1 percent → 37.5 percent)
The Giants got the ball to start the second half down only 7-0 and the drive had a promising start. After a 4-yard loss on a Saquon Barkley first down run, the Giants had a second-and-14 from their own 21. The Giants used some play-action of their own and ran a Yankee concept (two deep crossing routes) with max protect. The run fake was enough for Sterling Shepard to get behind the defense on his crosser from the right to left side of the field. Manning had plenty of time and hit the open Shepard for a gain of 38 to get across midfield.
9:07 remaining, third quarter – Eli floats one
EPA: minus-2.52 | WPA: minus-6.1 percent (NYG 33.1 percent → 27.3 percent)
That drive would not end well for the Giants. Eight plays and a few penalties later, they had a third-and-20 from the Tennessee 29. Russell Shepard ran a deep out from the right slot and with no pressure, Eli Manning floated a pass in front of the receiver. The problem was Manning did not see safety Kevin Byard, who was able to charge in, jump the route, and intercept the pass. This could have been a more likely completion with a little more zip on the pass to give Byard less time to break on the ball.
Per Next Gen Stats, Manning had an expected completion percentage of 70.3 percent but completed just 47.7 percent of his passes. That negative-22.6 percent gap is the worst in the league since Week 1 when two quarterbacks (Nathan Peterman and Blaine Gabbert) beat that mark. Only two other quarterbacks (Tyrod Taylor, also in Week 1, and Josh McCown in Week 10) have eclipsed a negative-20 percent difference in a game this season.
5:15 remaining, third quarter – Stunt, sack, fumble
EPA: minus-3.09 | WPA: minus-5.6 percent (NYG 20.2 percent → 14.6 percent)
Manning’s woes did not end with the interception. The Giants forced a Titans punt, but the next offensive drive lasted just three plays. On a third-and-10, the Titans ran a stunt along the defensive line that got the best — or worst— of center Spencer Pulley and right guard Jamon Brown. Manning stepped up to avoid Harold Landry (58) working Nate Solder around the edge, which would have been fine if the interior line did not break down. Derrick Morgan (91) broke through, but Kalami Correa (44) was able to wrap the quarterback up. Manning attempted to get the ball away, but instead of a pass attempt, the ball slipped out of his hands for a fumble and a Tennessee recovery.
It was a rough day for Manning, who finished with a QBR of 16.7, which basically means a quarterback who played like Manning should expect his team to win just 16.7 percent of the time.
1:51 remaining, fourth quarter – Empty to Engram
EPA: minus-2.73 | WPA: minus-0.3 percent (NYG 0.7 percent → 0.4 percent)
Despite the overall sloppiness, the Giants had a chance to end the game on a positive note and avoid a shutout. That did not happen. During the course of the game, the Giants tried to get Evan Engram involved in the passing game. He led the team with 12 targets, eight receptions, and 75 yards, but those plays were worth a combined minus-1.83 EPA. Just four of his 12 targets had positive EPA, but that is less on Engram than it is the routes and passes thrown his way.
The worst of which was the Giants’ final offensive play of the game. With a fourth-and-goal from the 4, Engram was the middle receiver in a trips bunch to the right. He worked right past Kevin Byard at the snap and had plenty of separation in the back of the end zone, but Manning’s pass had little air under it and hit a pursuing Byard in the back. It was a fitting way to end the game.