The Giants’ offense averaged just 19 first downs per game. Compare that to the Buffalo Bills, who led the league with 397 total first downs — a full 100 more than the Giants had. The Bills averaged 25 first downs per game, which is a big factor to their higher averages than the Giants in both points and yards per game.
The Giants averaged 17 points per game, while the Bills averaged 31. And while the Giants managed to average an even 300 yards per game, the Bills averaged 396.
It’s not a far stretch to say that the more first downs you have, the more points you score and yards you gain, which leads to more wins.
But the Giants rarely used their offensive possession to put themselves in a position to win the game. This is clear from their very first possession of each game. In fact, it’s clear from the whole first quarter.
The Giants offense only averaged two first downs on their first possession in 2020. Further, they had four games in which they didn’t move the chains at all on their first drive, going 1-3 in those games. Compare that to games in which they made at least three first downs, and the Giants sported a record of 3-1.
Those first drives dictated how the Giants offense played the rest of the game, regardless if they scored on their first possession. When the Giants reached three or more first downs on their first drive, they averaged 26 points and 315 yards per game. When they had two or fewer, they averaged 15 points and 295 yards per game.
Unfortunately, the Giants had two or fewer first downs on their first drives in 12 games. And the team performed much of the same in the rest of the first half; the Giants were 27th in the NFL in first half points per game, averaging 9.1.
It’s not necessarily a death sentence to have two first downs on the first drive. In fact, the Bills averaged 1.5 first downs on their first drives, but were fourth in the NFL in first half points per game with 15.5.
The Bills seemed to understand the importance of a sustained offense, and made up for it on their subsequent drives. Buffalo was also fourth in the NFL in second half points per game with 14.5, almost identical to their first half numbers.
The Giants, meanwhile, did not get much better as the game went on. They were 31st in the NFL in second half points per game with 8.4.
In a game of inches, every yard, point, and first down helps to win. Thus, each time the Giants failed to move the chains on the first drive, they set themselves up to lose.