7:10 PM ET, September 8, 2014
Ford Field, Detroit, MI
The Giants have made big changes and the Lions return their offensive weapons, but few are predicting big things for either team in 2014 as they open their seasons at Ford Field on Monday night.
New York (7-9) started last season with the lofty goal of becoming the first team to play in the Super Bowl in its own stadium, but that quickly became a punchline as the Giants stumbled to 0-6 on a wave of turnovers, mistakes and poor offensive play. New York's 294 points ranked 28th in the league and the club easily topped the NFL with 44 giveaways.
The 7-3 recovery came too late as coach Tom Coughlin's team missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.
The changes that followed were sweeping. Longtime offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride retired and the team hired first-time offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo away from Green Bay to install his West Coast system. The team also went on a free-agency binge that was designed to fortify the offensive line, which performed miserably in 2013, and upgrade the defense.
McAdoo's quick-release offense is a big departure from Gilbride's downfield-heavy passing scheme, and the results haven't been good so far. Eli Manning, who led the NFL last year with a career-high 27 interceptions, looked out of sync with top receivers Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle throughout the preseason as he struggled to adapt to the first change in offenses of his career.
Receiver Odell Beckham Jr., New York's top draft pick, has barely been on the field due to injury and won't play Monday.
"Don't get me wrong, we're ready for Week 1," Manning said. "But I think as a season goes on, you're always looking to improve, whether you've been in a system for 10 years or whether you have young guys and need guys to step up or you have new players, there's always room for improvement."
Getting the passing game going will be critical, but a rebuilt rushing attack could help buy Manning and his receivers time to improve over the first few weeks. Free-agent signee Rashad Jennings was impressive in the preseason, as was fourth-round draft pick Andre Williams, a 230-pound bruiser.
The O-line, though, still appears to be an area of concern. Free-agent pickup Geoff Schwartz, expected to start at guard, will be out for at least the first seven games with a dislocated toe and the rest of the starters form a major question mark.
If there's an area the Giants are excited about, it's the defense. Better play on that side of the ball keyed the turnaround last season, and free agency allowed them to upgrade the secondary. Cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond along with improving holdover Prince Amukamara and veteran safety Antrel Rolle could make it difficult to throw on New York, which did bid goodbye to 2013 sack leader Justin Tuck and tackle Linval Joseph.
Linebacker Jon Beason, whose acquisition from Carolina on Oct. 4 gave the Giants a desperately needed defensive leader, has recovered from an offseason foot injury and might be ready for Week 1. New York, though, needs end Jason Pierre-Paul to regain his 16 1/2-sack form of 2011 after two injury-marred seasons.
"I think we have the potential to be a Super Bowl championship team," said end Mathias Kiwanuka, a part of the Giants' title teams after the 2007 and '11 seasons. "l am not just saying that. We have all the talent. We have the desire. It's just about putting it together."
The Lions (7-9) should give that revamped defense an immediate test. Matthew Stafford posted his third straight season of more then 4,500 yards passing, throwing for 4,650 with 29 touchdowns, though he also tossed 19 interceptions.
Despite its impressive array of offensive talent, Detroit dropped its last four games and six of the final seven to miss the postseason for the 13th time in 14 seasons. The club has posted two winning records in that span.
That led to the firing of coach Jim Schwartz and hiring of Jim Caldwell, an offensive-minded coach who's focused on helping Stafford take another step forward.
"We're incredibly motivated after what happened last year," said Johnson, who was limited to 14 games by a nagging knee injury. "We know what we had in our grasp, but there were so many games down the stretch that we couldn't finish. We learned from that, and we're in a position now that we can win those games and get into the playoffs. Once you get in, anything can happen."
Detroit's front four could give the Giants' offensive line major problems. Ziggy Ansah (eight sacks), Ndamukong Suh (5 1/2) and Nick Fairley (six) might end up creating flashbacks for Manning, who was sacked a career-high 39 times last year.
One of the Lions' late losses in 2013 was a 23-20 home defeat to the Giants on Dec. 22, New York's third straight win in the series. Stafford was picked off twice, while Johnson had only three catches for 43 yards.
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|Avg Points Allowed||35.0||14.0|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||NYG|
|Rush Yds Allowed||NYG|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|NY Giants leads 3-2|
|Dec 22, 2013||NYG 23, @DET 20|
|Oct 17, 2010||NYG 28, DET 20|
|Nov 18, 2007||NYG 16, @DET 10|
|Oct 24, 2004||NYG 13, DET 28|
Matthew Stafford completed 6-of-8 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns when under duress Monday, including 3-of-3 for 107 yards when targeting Calvin Johnson. Eli Manning completed 3-of-10 passes when under duress, including 1-of-5 when targeting wide receivers. Manning was pressured on nine of his 22 first-half dropbacks (41%), his highest pressure percentage for any half since Week 7 of last season.[+]
The Giants once again did not score a point in the first quarter. In 2013 they failed to do so in 7 games, third-highest total in the NFL. They failed to score a touchdown in the first quarter in 12 different games last season, the second-highest total in the league.
Eli Manning completed 13-of-25 passes (52.0%) for 118 yards and two interceptions against four or fewer pass rushers Monday. Tom Brady was the only quarterback from Sunday's Week 1 games to have a lower completion percentage against standard pressure (50.0%). Last season, Manning's 60.5% completion percentage against four or fewer pass rushers ranked 30th out of 39 qualified quarterbacks.
Matthew Stafford completed 14-of-17 passes in the first half (82.3%), on pace for the highest completion percentage of his career. His previous best is 80.6% against the Chargers in Week 16 of 2011.
Matthew Stafford reached the 300 passing yard plateau tonight for the 23rd time in the last four seasons, 3rd most in the league over that span (Brees - 35, Brady - 25).
*Calvin Johnson had seven receptions for 164 yards and two touchdowns Monday, including five receptions for 131 yards and both touchdowns in the first half. Both of Johnson's touchdowns came on passes 15 or more yards downfield. Since 2010, he has an NFL-best 22 touchdown receptions on deep passes and leads the league in receptions (123) and receiving yards (3,359) on such throws during that span. --Johnson had 98 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter, both career bests. Johnson has never had a SEASON with more than two first-quarter touchdown receptions. --Matthew Stafford's two deep touchdown passes to Johnson helped lead to a career-high 97.5 Total QBR, the highest of Week 1.[+]
Calvin Johnson's 98 receiving yards are the most he's ever had in a 1st quarter. This is also the first game in which he's caught multiple TDs in a 1st quarter.
Eli Manning has thrown at least 2 Int in a game 47 times since entering the NFL in 2004, most of any quarterback in that span.
Eli Manning threw 5 interceptions last season due to miscommunication with his receivers. No other QB had more than 3 such picks. He has thrown one tonight.
Eli Manning was pressured on 9 of his 22 first-half dropbacks (41%). Manning has only had 2 games since 2009 with a higher pressure percentage.
Since the start of the 2010 season, Calvin Johnson has an NFL-best 22 TD receptions on passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield, including 2 so far tonight.
--Golden Tate caught all six of his targets for 93 yards Monday, just the second time in his career he has been targeted at least five times without an incompletion. Tate looks to become the first Lions receiver since 2007 not named Calvin Johnson to have an 800-yard season. --Lions receivers did not drop a pass Monday after leading the league last season with 46 drops, 10 more than any other team. --Eli Manning's first interception was a result of miscommunication with tight end Larry Donnell. Since the start of last season, Manning has thrown six interceptions due to miscommunication with his receivers, three more than any other quarterback. --Eli Manning's passes traveled an average of 6.2 yards downfield Monday, including 5.7 yards in the first half. Last season, Manning led the league with 9.5 air yards per attempt.
No Lions WR other than Calvin Johnson has had more than 800 yards in a season since 2008, Johnson's 2nd year in the league.
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