In 2012, the New York Giants scored 429 points in the regular season, averaging 26.8 points per game and ranking them sixth in the league in the scoring category.
Of those 429 points, 306 (71 percent) were either field goals or touchdowns made inside of the red zone. In addition, of their 62 trips inside of the opponent’s 20-yard line, New York scored 56 times (34 touchdowns and 22 field goals).
While preseason games do not count in the final standings, sometimes the statistical trend, such as the Giants’ red-zone performance is something to watch in the early part of the regular season as it can determine a team’s successes or failures.
During the 2013 preseason, the Giants scored 71 points (17.8 per game), which put them 22nd in the NFL. However, their red-zone performance was abysmal.
Of their 11 red-zone trips, they scored eight times (two touchdowns and six field goals) for a total of 32 points (44 percent) of their production.
When asked about the red-zone issues, quarterback Eli Manning noted that there is a different focus in preseason.
“The game planning is not as extensive as it is in the regular season,” he said. “Some of it is not really game planning. We have a one-on-one matchup. We've got to win those matchups and we haven’t done it well enough (in the preseason).”
While an argument could also be made that the Giants starting offense never got a chance to work together as a unit the entire preseason, player execution and play selection must also be taken into consideration when dissecting the red-zone problems.
So here is a look at select failed red-zone plays from the Giants’ preseason games, with an assessment of why the play failed.
Opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers
First Quarter, 11:19
Following Damontre Moore’s blocked punt, which was recovered by the Giants on the Steelers' five-yard line, New York failed to move the ball so much as an inch on three tries, settling for a 23-yard field goal by Josh Brown. Here’s a look at the three failed plays.
Play No. 1: 1st-and-5 on Pittsburgh 5
Receiver Victor Cruz goes in motion, and the ball is snapped. However, right guard Brandon Mosley, starting for Chris Snee, is beaten by defensive end Ziggy Hood on an inside rush.
In the screen capture, Hood can be seen across the line of scrimmage before Wilson; running behind the left tackle, even gets the ball. Because of the lack of execution, Wilson had no chance to slip through hole as was intended.
Play No. 2: 2nd-and-5 on Pittsburgh 5
The Giants put three receivers on the field and again send Cruz. However, Manning’s pass to Louis Murphy Jr. falls incomplete for two reasons.
First, Murphy was unable to separate from the defender, whose jam disrupted the receiver's route.
Second, Manning’s pass landed in the back of the end zone in what was another failure to execute.
Play No. 3: 3rd-and-5 on Pittsburgh 5
Manning, working out of the shotgun, tried to hit receiver Rueben Randle over the middle.
On this play, Randle was tightly covered by cornerback Ike Taylor. The ball was also poorly thrown on what was yet another poorly executed play.
Opponent: Indianapolis Colts
First Quarter, 12:17, 4th-and-1 on Indianapolis 5
After running back Andre Brown came up one yard short of the first down on a pass reception, the Giants lined up Brown for a run to the left end that was stuffed as the Colts swarmed to that side.
This play, however, wasn't so much about the execution as it was about the call itself. When an offense is within 10 yards of the goal line, the idea should be to get the ball moving forward as quickly as possible rather than opting for a slow developing play such as an outside run.
Against a quick defense, a team trying to execute an outside run is asking for trouble. In this case, the Colts defensive backs read the play and were able to get up toward the line of scrimmage as the linebackers strung it out, keeping Brown from turning up field. Brown was then tackled before he ever got a chance to shift into second gear.
In short, this failed red-zone play was all about the play calling.
Opponent: New York Jets
Second Quarter, 2:00, 3rd-and-2 on Jets 2
On the third-down play, the intention was for Andre Brown to run up the gut, behind the lead blocks of center Jim Cordle and fullback Bear Pascoe.
One of the primary failures of this play, though, appeared to be that Cordle lost his balance and was on the ground before Brown could even hit the point of attack.
In the screen capture, you can see Cordle’s knee on the ground even before Brown took the hand-off from quarterback Eli Manning.
Meanwhile, Pascoe, facing two defenders, was overmatched as the Jets defense came crashing down on the line to fill the holes, the play having no chance of succeeding.
2nd-and-2 on Jets 2
On the ensuring fourth down attempt, the Giants replaced Larry Donnell, the extra tight end in the jumbo package used on the previous play, with receiver Hakeem Nicks in an attempt to spread the Jets defense out a bit.
Tight end Brandon Myers went in motion on the play, and Manning lobbed the ball to Nicks, who was covered by Jets safety Dawan Landry.
Landry never turned to look back at the ball, keeping his eyes firmly on Nicks, who tried to push Landry away.
However, it was never close as—although Nicks ended up out-jumping Landry for the ball—the defender was still able to get his right arm in to knock the pass away.
In most of the cases this preseason, the execution was to blame for the stalled red-zone drives, which is common in the preseason.
However, it will be interesting going forward to see the play selections in the red zone now that the game planning will be more detailed in the regular season.
Patricia Traina is the senior editor for InsideFootball.com. All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.
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