This is the Week 4 installment of newsday.com's "Film Room" series, a breakdown of a key moment or storyline in last week's NFL games using NFL Game Rewind's Coaches Film.
The Giants may have found the big pass-catcher they've missed since Plaxico Burress.
Tight end Larry Donnell has emerged from out of nowhere to become a reliable target for Eli Manning both in the red zone and elsewhere on the field. The 6-6, 265-pound undrafted free agent out of Grambling State isn't the fastest target on the field, but he uses his big frame and 34.5-inch vertical to haul in passes.
Through Week 4, Donnell has 25 catches (on 31 targets) for 236 yards and four touchdowns. Three of those touchdowns came in the first half of a 45-14 rout against the Washington Redskins on Thursday night. Donnell was thrown to eight times and caught seven for 54 yards, including two 6-yard scores and a 5-yard score.
Let's break down what happened on each of those three touchdown grabs.
1ST QUARTER: 3rd & Goal, 7:43 left, ball on WAS 5
The Giants come out in the shotgun with an empty backfield. Donnell, circled in yellow, lines up just to the right of the line of scrimmage. Manning also has two receivers lined up on each side.
Donnell’s route is nothing fancy, just a straight fade directly into the end zone. The key to the play is for Manning to locate the defender assigned to cover Donnell. If it’s a mismatch, then Manning knows to take advantage.
Sure enough, the Redskins have linebacker 6-foot Perry Riley covering the 6-6 Donnell, who calls for the ball at around the 2-yard line. Manning gets rid of it as soon as he sees the matchup advantage.
Donnell uses his size and leaping ability to outmuscle Riley in the back of the end zone. Donnell times his leap perfectly, and Riley doesn’t even have a chance to go up for it.
2ND QUARTER: 2nd & Goal, 14:21 left, ball on WAS 6
Here, Donnell, circled in yellow, lines up as the in-line tight end in a three-receiver shotgun set. Running back Rashad Jennings is lined up wide out of the huddle, but motions into the backfield and lines up to Manning’s right, leaving the left side of the field wide open. As a result, strong safety Brandon Meriweather (circled in white), who initially lines up over Jennings, comes back in toward the box.
Donnell uses a double move to get free over the middle. He starts his route by taking two strides directly forward, then takes one stride to the left as if he’s going to head out into a fade route to the end zone.
Donnell then cuts back over the middle, keeping Meriweather on his outside shoulder as he looks to Manning for the pass.
With Meriweather trailing Donnell, Manning now has a window to throw the ball, and he guns it to the back of end zone where only Donnell can get it.
As a result of Donnell’s route and Manning’s ball placement, Donnell leaps and comes down untouched for the touchdown.
2ND QUARTER: 2nd & Goal, 2:21 left, ball on WAS 6
Here, the Giants find themselves virtually in the same spot as their previous touchdown (only this time, they’re lined up on the right hash mark instead of the left). Once again, the Giants come out in a three-receiver shotgun set, but now Donnell (circled in yellow) is split out wide all alone to the right, with the three wideouts to the left and Jennings in the backfield to Manning’s right.
Donnell tries another double move, taking a step to the middle of the field before cutting back to the right rear corner of the end zone. Redskins rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland takes a step toward the middle, giving Donnell just enough room to create some separation on the fade route. Meanwhile, Manning (circled in white) sees the mismatch between the 6-6 Donnell and the 5-11 Breeland and lobs the pass almost immediately after taking the snap.
Once again, Donnell uses his big frame and jumping ability to pull down the touchdown pass over Breeland. It was a mismatch all the way, and Manning and Donnell were able to exploit it for the touchdown.