Following a Thursday Night defeat against the San Francisco 49ers, the New York Giants had little answers for questions on another unconvincing defensive performance. For a team that made a run into the divisional round of the playoff in the year prior, the 2023 New York Giants seemingly have lost their identity as a tough and rough team.
The 49ers were yards-after-contact machines on Thursday. According to Next Gen Stats, an extraordinary 215 of 49ers QB Brock Purdy’s 310 passing yards came as yards after contact.
To put that into perspective, 11 starting QBs threw for under 215 yards in week 3. The inability to bring down 49er ball carriers was so glaring that fans and journalists alike began to ask questions, which prompted a pointed response from Giants CB Xavier McKinney.
Tackling is a symptom of a larger sickness
The Giants’ defense was beaten across all levels of the field as Brock Purdy sailed to his eighth consecutive win as a starting quarterback. While Giants NT Dexter Lawrence and second-year LB Micah McFadden had standout performances, the rest of the defense had performances to forget – including another quiet game from Kayvon Thibodeaux.
While Giants DC Wink Martindale certainly has an impressive resume and pedigree, the product he is delivering on the field is certainly not up to snuff. Martindale blitzed the 49ers on 85% of Brock Purdy’s dropbacks, yet was only able to reach the quarterback twice. The 49ers converted on nine of their 16 third downs and held the ball for 39 minutes. Missed tackles may certainly extend drives, but Purdy seemingly had his way against the Giants’ secondary.
49ers HC Kyle Shanahan runs a ton of motion in his offense, and it’s clear that his game plan highlighted blitzes and clear opportunities for Purdy before the snap. Martindale seemingly had no answers to stop Shanahan’s offense, just like he had a hard time for 3 quarters in attempting to stop Cardinals HC Jonathan Gannon and QB Josh Dobbs.
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The Giants’ pass defense isn’t cutting it
Entering Week 3, the Giants’ defense had yet to allow a single passing touchdown. Brock Purdy decided to put an end to that streak and had a career game, collecting two touchdowns and throwing for 310 yards.
Before Thursday night, Purdy had never accumulated more than 285 passing yards in a single game. Now to add some salt to the wound, Purdy was able to generate these career-high numbers without his second-favorite target, WR Brandon Aiyuk.
Inexperience is plaguing the Giants’ secondary
The Giants are starting two rookies at the cornerback position. The plan was to let standout Maryland rookie CB Deonte Banks and sixth-round CB out of Old Dominion Tre Hawkins III start at the pivotal positions. This strategy isn’t working.
At a position as critical as CB in the modern NFL, a league dictated by air yards and quarterbacks, it’s rather baffling to rationalize the Giant’s decision to throw two rookies into the fold. The Giants are giving opposing offenses 7.2 yards per passing attempt, the eighth highest in the league. Their yards allowed is somewhat better, a 14th-worst 671.
However, this ranking could decline as the season continues, considering injury at the position and the strength of schedule this team has left remaining.
While Adoree’ Jackson, Jason Pinnock, and Xavier McKinney hold down the rest of the pass defense, their performances haven’t been stellar either. The Giants haven’t generated a single takeaway so far this season and they are one of three teams to not have generated an interception yet this season.
Where tackling issues are hurting the most
There’s only one team that has fewer sacks than the New York Giants (three): the Chicago Bears (one). What’s shocking is the Giants have more QB hits (15) than the Bengals (six), Rams (nine), Texans (13), and the Broncos (12), yet have fewer sacks on the season.
The Giants, as a result, have the fifth-highest pass rush win rate, at 53% of all passing downs. Winning pass-rushing and landing hits on the QB is usually an equation for sacks, but the tackling issues plaguing the defense seem to be impacting this metric as well.
Time will tell if Big Blue can turn it around
For now, the Giants are aware of their issues on defense and fortunately have a few extra days to solve their problems as they play the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night in what is shaping up to be an important week, as both the Commanders and Cowboys lost their Week 3 matchups.
Teams that escape week four at 2-2 have a 42% chance of making the playoffs, whereas teams that end 1-3 only have a 14% chance. The Giant’s early season depends on the team’s ability to return to the previous year’s form, and fast.