The New York Giants went into last Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos with little chance to win. Writers such as myself gave the Giants zero chance of defeating the Broncos in Denver. Their offense, which relied on the pass, was going up against a Broncos defense that features two Pro Bowl cornerbacks. In addition to having a great secondary, the Broncos had the league’s best run defense entering Sunday’s matchup. Star running backs Ezekiel Elliott, LeSean McCoy, and Marshawn Lynch combined- yes combined- for 41 yards rushing against the Broncos defense this season. On Sunday, Orleans Darkwa– who had never rushed for more than 70 yards in an NFL game- had a career-high 117 yards rushing. The offense made several changes and were able to defeat the Broncos by a score of 23-10. Here are the changes the offense made and why they worked.
HC McAdoo gave play-calling duties to OC Sullivan
This change was a long time coming. Head Coach Ben McAdoo had been the team’s playcaller for the entire 2016 season and the first five games of the 2017 season. He did not call games well and often made bad decisions in key fourth-down situations. Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, who called plays in the Giants fourth preseason game, was given the play-calling duties. The results were good.
As I mentioned earlier, Orleans Darkwa had a career game on the ground. The running plays were executed crisply and the team was able to sustain drives.
The passing plays the Giants ran did not carry much risk, which was a good strategy against a stout Broncos secondary. The wide receivers, who were overmatched, combined for just two catches in the entire game. Fortunately, rookie tight end Evan Engram stepped up and had his best game of the season. Engram had five catches for 82 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown was on a pick play at the goal line in which Eli Manning rolled out to the right and found Engram in the flat. The play was perfectly executed, and the Giants were able to capitalize on a trip to the red zone.
Offensive line changes
The Giants switched up their offensive line. At least for one game, the results were good. Justin Pugh was moved to right tackle and largely neutralized Broncos star pass rusher Von Miller. Miller had one sack and was not credited with any other tackles. D.J. Fluker started at right guard and made a key block that sprung Darkwa for a 47-yard run in the second quarter. Fluker showed his strength as a run-blocker in this game and seemingly locked up a starting spot for the rest of the season. Brett Jones filled in nicely for starting center Weston Richburg, who missed the past few games with a concussion. On the left side, tackle Ereck Flowers and guard John Jerry each did their jobs and cleared some space for Darkwa to run. The line will face a stiff test this week against the Seahawks, but at least the Giants know they have an offensive line combination that can work.
Pace of Play
The Giants, who used a no-huddle offense more than almost any offense in the league through five weeks, slowed down the pace of the game. They took more time off the clock in between plays in an effort to shorten the game against a difficult opponent. This strategy worked, as the Giants won the time of possession battle against the Broncos. Of course, a successful run game helps teams have more time of possession. The Giants will be limited in the passing game without Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall, which means they are going to have to rely on the run game for the rest of the season.
Is the offensive success sustainable?
The Giants are going to need to replicate last Sunday’s performance if they want to win more games this season. Opposing defenses will likely have a better game-plan than the Broncos had on Sunday. It will be interesting to see what happens if a defense decides to stack eight men in the box against Big Blue’s surprisingly successful rushing attack. We will likely not have to wait long to find out, as they play against an aggressive Seahawks defense this Sunday afternoon.
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