Two weeks may be too soon to draw any conclusions from NFL statistical comparisons, but so far in this season when it comes to the ultimate objective – scoring points – the Giants are the worst at it.
They have managed just three touchdowns and are averaging 14.5 points per game. The best team in the league in that category, the Packers at 42.5 per game, are almost three times better than the Giants.
"Obviously, we need to score more points," offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said on Thursday. "We need to be more productive of an offense."
The missing ingredient in that may not be the touchdowns themselves, but the plays that cover large swaths of the field and put teams in much better position to score. Such plays – the Giants and many others call them "explosives" – have been largely absent from this team’s resume. They scored their first touchdown of the season on a 41-yard strike from Daniel Jones to Darius Slayton early in the second quarter against the Steelers, but since then have had just one pass over 30 yards. They have just five plays of 20 or more yards in two games.
"The correlation between making explosive plays in a drive and scoring is pretty high in this league," Garrett said. "When you don’t make them, it’s much more difficult… You have to mix in some explosive plays. That’s how you score points in this league."
The Giants will have two obstacles regarding that on Sunday against the 49ers.
One is that they will be without two of their best home run hitters with Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard both on injured reserve. The other is a 49ers defense that is philosophically averse to allowing such plays.
"They don’t give up explosive plays," Joe Judge said. "That’s the biggest thing. This team makes you commit to being a disciplined team and execute down the field, play after play after play. You watch them, they do a great job of just sitting back, letting you check the ball down and then tackling the ball in front of them. This is a tough opponent."
That’s actually the one thing the Giants have been adept at. Sort of.
They have engineered two of the longest drives in the NFL this season, a 19-play possession against the Steelers (which is the longest by any team) and a 13-play one against the Bears. Neither of them resulted in any points. Jones threw an interception to end the first one, the game ended without the Giants scoring the winning points in the second.
"We’ve shown the ability to move the ball," Jones said. "We’ve had some long drives, lots of plays, moving the ball down the field. That’s important to be able to do that and execute. You also need to be able to have the chunk and create the explosive plays."
Sometimes that means airing it out. Sometimes not necessarily.
"I mentioned to my guys the other day, I said, ‘Maybe it’s not the long shots down the field, maybe you have to catch a slant and create your own explosive play,’" wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said. "I’m not too concerned about taking shots all the time because there is a lot of risk-reward with that, so sometimes you have to create your own shots by taking the short passes and turning it into an explosive."
And with any luck… boom!
"The best offenses I’ve been around have different guys who are capable of (making big plays). We feel like we have guys who can do that, and we just have to keep banging away," Garrett said.. "Making big plays has a lot to do with trying to put your players in the right position and simply executing. I think we’ve had some opportunities that we’ve taken advantage of. We’ll keep trying to get those opportunities for our guys."