Simple math- leveraging Play Action

The Giants running game is well-respected by the entire NFL.  Having a good OL with a great deal of communication/experience plus good RBs affords the Giants a great deal of respect when they hand off the ball.  Plus the Giants track record of success gives opposing defenses extra motivation to play run.

How many times per game is play action used by the Giants?  

3 times?  4 times?  For our purposes, let’s say the Giants use play action about 3.5X per game.

The Giants rush the ball 32 times on average per game, 5th in the league.  This means that 32 + 3.5 = 35.5 times per game the Giants take the snap and put that ball out toward the running  back to grab for a run.  90% (32/35.5) of the time it is indeed a run.  10% (3.5/35.5) of the time it is a fake and the Giants are actually passing. 

Now I have to ask all of you a question.. pretend you are the defensive coordinator of the team playing vs the Giants.  Your defense is going against a very good run offense.  What do you tell your players about play action if you know that 90% of the time that Manning goes back to hand off the ball that it is indeed a run?  The answer is simple- the fake decoy is only going to be used in a very small minority of plays the entire night- simply play it as run.  Manning will trick our defense a few times and that will be it.  The other 90% of the time we’ll have 8 guys ready to stop to the run, so I’d rather make SURE I am winning 90% of the other (run) snaps and I’ll worry about the couple of plays they do the play action later. 

This is why Gilbride does not run play action NEARLY ENOUGH.  The defense is handed a 90% success rate in knowing that a handoff is a handoff.  Defend the run, don’t worry about the Giants faking it because we’ll be so far ahead of their run game for it to matter.  Lose the play action battle 3-4 times,  win the running game war.

What percentage would YOU USE?  How about trying to keep the defense at a much larger GUESS?  The Saints this year have an effective running game with similar numbers compared to the Giants. They ran play action probably 10 to 12 times against the gmen. (There were 6 play actions on this video highlight reel alone. ALL FOUR OF BREES’ TDs were on play action.)  If you run play action 12 times, run it for real 32 times, that is 12/44 or 27%.  Now you are starting to get better numbers for confusion.  You take away the aggressiveness of the defense to poach the run and you raise the number of opportunities for impact plays on offense.  

This is just one of many ways that Gilbride is the predictable puncher.  The scary part is that he actually thinks that because the play action pass works so well in those 3 or 4 times per game that he is benefiting the team.  He gets 3 or 4 plays and the opposing defense completely gets success in the run game.  The moment Eli turns around to handoff the ball the LBers and Safety come all the way in to stop the run with little worry about a pass.  Great odds for the defense.  Bad odds for the Giants.   

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