Well rested and re-energized after nearly three years of sleep, the Giants’ offense has finally come alive during the second half of this season, averaging just under 26 points in four games since the bye week (the defense has scored an additional 14 points on two interceptions returned for touchdowns).
In the 40 games played by the Giants prior to week 11 of this season, they had scored 30 points only one time.
In just four games since their bye week, they have done it twice.
So what’s changed for quarterback Eli Manning and friends?
“Well I think it’s a combination of things, obviously.” Manning said.
“I think offensively we found the running game a little bit more, a little bit more play action, probably not as much just being in shot gun on first and second down and dropping back and that’s helped us eliminate some of those negative plays.”
One noticeable difference Manning didn’t mention is his team’s performance in the red zone.
Prior to the bye week, the Giants scored touchdowns on just 44% of their trips inside the opponents 20-yard line.
That means a lot of points getting left off the Giants’ side of the scoreboard.
In their three wins against the 49ers, Buccaneers, and Bears they have upped their red zone conversion rate to an impressive 70%.
The magic formula for scoring points in the red zone turned out to be giving the ball to Saquon Barkley a lot.
In the past four weeks, Barkley has 22 carries inside the red zone. The next closest player is Christian McCaffrey of the Panthers with 14.
Barkley has been challenged to go for the “dirty yards” by head coach Pat Shurmur in recent weeks, and Shurmur has backed up his words with actions by giving his rookie running back plenty of opportunities in the area of the field where yards are the dirtiest.
For their second meeting against Washington this week, it might be a good idea for the Giants’ offense to do the exact opposite of what they did in several areas of efficiency in the first matchup in October.
In that game, Manning was sacked seven times and threw two interceptions while the offense converted only one out of four trips to the red zone and just two of 14 third downs.
Manning threw the ball an alarming 47 times compared to just 13 rushes for Barkley in a game that was within one possession until midway through the 4th quarter.
“I think that game we moved the ball pretty well but had penalties, had turnovers, had drops and just too many bad plays,” Manning said.
“I think we’ve done a good job of eliminating some of those things and scoring when we get down in the red zone and I think just playing a little bit smarter football.”
The Giants have not won a divisional game since week 17 of last season against Washington.
This season, they have only scored on 25% of their red zone trips in games against division opponents.
That’s a recipe for zero wins in a division where losses to your rivals aren't taken very well by some of the most passionate fans in football.