5 plays that mattered in Giants’ victory over Bengals

The New York Giants earned their second straight preseason victory Sunday night to begin their quest toward consistent competence in the Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll era. Both of their opponents decided not to play their starters. Still, the Giants and winning haven’t been synonymous in the last decade, so, as Good Charlotte intended, let’s try and appreciate the little things.

The Giants defeated the defending AFC champions, 25-22, off two fourth-quarter Davis Webb-led drives. The Giants’ offense went north of 400 yards for the second consecutive week. New York was 9 of 16 on third down and two of three on fourth-down conversions.

Starting quarterback Daniel Jones looked poised and decisive, operating well within Mike Kafka and Brian Daboll’s RPO designs. Jones led an 11-play, 84-yard drive that ended in a 2-yard Jashaun Corbin touchdown run at the start of the second quarter. Tyrod Taylor entered the game on the Giants’ fourth drive.

Jones finished the day with an efficient 14 of 16 stat line for 116 yards with an interception. The interception wasn’t the game’s most important play, but it’ll be the first we dive into in this edition of five impact plays.

Play 1: Rookie Mishap

New York is in a single back formation with the tight end (Daniel Bellinger) to the boundary. I love the play setup; Wan’Dale Robinson (17) releases outside as the No. 2 receiver, looping around the numbers and the release of the No. 1 receiver. This clears space from the hash to the numbers for Bellinger’s cross.

The rookie tight end does a good job creating separation against Tycen Anderson (26); Bellinger leans into his break with a slight push-off before flashing his eyes to Jones. Akeem Davis Gaither (59) is the middle hook defender, and Bellinger does a solid job angling out of his break to provide Jones a wider throwing window.

Jones has to account for Davis Gaither’s presence, so he throws a catchable, albeit high and outside, pass so only Bellinger can ostensibly make a play on the ball; that is, of course, if he doesn’t tip it in the air. Bellinger fails to secure the football, and Dax Hill (23) dives for the interception.

It’s not a big indictment on Bellinger, who lacks length (25th percentile arm length/14th percentile wingspan), but it’s a learning experience for a first-year player who wasn’t used frequently as a receiver in college. This interception ended the Giants’ second drive after failing to convert on a fourth-and-1 Antonio Williams’ run. The Giants’ offense regained its focus on Jones’ third and final drive of the game.

Play(s) 2: Sills’ army is marching

Jones showed excellent decision-making and looked supremely comfortable on his 11-play, 84-yard drive. David Sills V (13) – a longtime fan favorite and good friend of Jones – was the engine of the drive, as Kafka/Daboll called multiple RPO passes, trusting the quick decision-making ability of Jones.

Jones was decisive and accurate with his passes. He found Sills V for three of his five catches. The receiver ended the day with 56 yards. Jones and Sills V showed their report on the fade pass where Jones had free access in a one-on-one situation to the boundary. Jones read the cornerback’s leverage – inside and high – and put the ball back shoulder for Sills V to locate and adjust.

Sills V does an excellent job finding the football and securing the pass in single coverage. His release outside was solid, and the adjustment was impressive. The Giants’ wide receiver room is very deep, but it appears new names keep arising.

Play(s) 3: It’s a bird, It’s a plane…no, It’s Bach-Man

Like Sills V, Bachman’s been a mainstay on the Giants’ practice squad for years. He was undrafted out of Wake Forest in 2019, and just had the game of his career with an 11-catch, 122-yard, two-touchdown stat line on 14 targets.

After an offensive pass interference penalty against Austin Allen, the Giants found themselves in a third-and-14 scenario. I really love this play call and I believe this is a choice type of route for Bachman (81), who works underneath the linebacker – selling the cross – before sitting in a void. The Bengals align in a two-high, middle-of-the-field open, defense, and Bachman finds the soft spot in the zone and sits, which allows Davis Webb (12) to find him and move the chains.

Bachman wasn’t done impacting the Giants’ second to last drive;. Here, he catches a simple drag route and accelerates up the sideline, maintaining balance and scoring a touchdown. This go-ahead touchdown was scored in the fourth quarter. Bachman then scored a second touchdown with 35 seconds to go in the game.

Bachman runs away from man coverage and breaks a tackle in pursuit of the touchdown. Bachman also had a great special teams tackle. He played phenomenally in the second half.

Play 4: Ojulari the nuisance

The Bengals were penalized eight times for 59 yards, whereas the Giants were penalized seven times for 75 yards. There was a lot of yellow on the ground throughout the game. Second-year pass rusher Azeez Ojulari was the catalyst for three holding penalties in the first half against the Bengals. Here is one of them:

Ojulari missed most of the camp with a hamstring injury. It’s great to see him wreaking havoc and causing holding penalties due to his relentless nature. Kayvon Thibodeaux’s knee injury was scary to witness, and hearing about Ojulari’s hamstring issue at the start of camp was unfortunate. So, to see Ojulari back healthy and making things difficult for offensive tackles is a sight for sore eyes.

Play 5: Not-so-special teams

The Giants’ special teams haven’t played well in either preseason game. Poor kick coverage and bad ball security have plagued the Giants early in the season. Here’s inadequate coverage by the Giants, but a great individual play by Cam Brown (47):

In this play, kicker Graham Gano (9) suffered a concussion, and Brown saved a touchdown. Giant legend Carl Banks stated that Brown should be a Pro Bowl special teams player. Excelling on special teams is not new territory for Brown; in his rookie season, Brown made a touchdown-saving shoe-string tackle against the Bengals on a punt return:

The Giants surrendered an opening kick-off for a touchdown against the Brandon Allen-led Bengals during this 2020 Giants’ victory. The Giants might have lost this football game in 2020 if Brown didn’t make this tackle. The length, athletic ability, and special teams savvy is there for Brown, and he made impact plays in that phase dating back to his rookie season.

Final thoughts

The New York Giants found ways to win each of their preseason games. The injuries suffered against the Bengals are very concerning and are a primary storyline exiting the 25-22 victory. The rise in the Giants’ receiving room will also be a talking point, as the Giants will cut five players on Tuesday and then drop to 53 a week later. The Giants will be releasing players with talent, and Schoen will be active throughout the waiver process.

The season is a few short weeks away. It’s great to see the Giants seize the day against teams they’re competing against, but the first team for the Tennessee Titans is different than the second and third string for the Bengals and New England Patriots. However, one can only play who is in front of them, and the Giants were admirable in their efforts.

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