Do the numbers tell us anything we don’t already know?
The 2021 season is finally almost done. The New York Giants penultimate game of the season came against the Chicago Bears and was pretty much a foregone conclusion from the very first snap of the game.
But with a number of starters out for a variety of reasons, the Giants’ depth players got the chance to make their cases to stay with the team for 2022. Or at the very least, put tape out there for their next team.
So who played, how much, and what can the stats tell us about the game?
Perhaps the most notable feature of the Giants’ offensive snap counts is just how many snaps so many different players got.
Kenny Golladay and David Sills V were out there almost every offensive snap. Devontae Booker and Saquon Barkley saw almost identical snap counts, and 17 different players saw at least one fifth of the total snaps.
If I’m looking for silver linings in the Giants’ play against the Bears, one of the few I can settle on is how many snaps were played by Azeez Ojulari, Quincy Roche, and Elerson Smith.
The Giants have a lot of needs heading into 2022, and finding a natural pass rush — the ability to get to quarterbacks without having to scheme pressure — might be the biggest on the defensive side of the ball.
Unfortunately, all of their pressing needs on the offensive side of the ball might keep the team from being able to add a pass rusher with strike-out stuff to their defense. That means they need these young EDGEs to get as much experience as possible.
Amazingly, the Giants had nine (9) players to exclusively take snaps on special teams.
Over the course of the game I started wondering if it’s possible for an entire NFL game to be garbage time. This game came as close as I think we’ve seen to that happening:
I usually count “garbage time” as when a team has a 90 percent chance of winning or greater. The Bears’ win probability jumped to 89.5 with 14:42 remaining in the fourth quarter, following their 2-yard touchdown run on the second play of the game.
I don’t want to pile on Mike Glennon, but it was remarkable just how poor his performance was against Chicago.
You can’t get the percentile in this picture, but I’ll save you the trouble: Glennon’s EPA per play and total EPA were in the 0th percentile since 2010. Considering the last time a team had a negative net yardage was 2009, it’s safe to say that we just witnessed the worst quarterbacking performance of the last decade.
It really didn’t help that the Giants’ depleted offensive line was just out-manned by the Bears’ pass rushers, who were simply living in the Giants’ backfield whenever Glennon dropped back.
NFL NextGenStats doesn’t list Trevis Gipson who had two strip sacks, but his unblocked sack to start the game was tied with the Los Angeles Rams’ Von Miller for the fastest sack of the week at 2.6 seconds.
One of the very few bright spots for the Giants on offense was Saquon Barkley’s 100-yard day.
Barkley took advantage of some generally shoddy run defense and tackling by the Bears and a couple good run blocks to have his best day since the end of 2019. It’s notable that Barkley led the NFL in runs against stacked boxes this week, with 13 of his 21 attempts coming against eight (or more) man boxes. Barkley has never been a particularly effective runner when defenses stack the box and are able to limit his options for cut-backs.
The Bears were in position to bring Barkley down for minimal gain (or a loss) on several occasions. But as we can expect from a team who came into the game with over 100 missed tackles, they failed to do so. As a result, Barkley was fourth in the NFL in Rushing Yards Over Expected (28), fifth in Yards Over Expected per attempt (1.34 per carry), and second in the NFL in his percent of rushing over expected (66.7 percent).
Next week’s game against the Washington Football Team could tell us a lot as to how much of this game was due to Barkley’s health improving or the Bears’ tackling. Washington limited the potent Eagles’ rushing attack to just 118 total yards.