Four-man pass rush paying off for Giants

The New York Giants were able to disrupt quarterback Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan with their front-four pass rush, and Giants QB Eli Manning used an effective short passing game that piled up 158 yards after catch in a 24-2 wild-card playoff win in January.

The teams meet again Sunday in one of Week 15’s headline games. The Falcons are soaring above every other team in the NFC and the Giants hoping to add to their NFC East lead and secure a chance to defend their Super Bowl title in the playoffs.

Here are some areas to keep an eye on:

• In their last six games, the Giants have relied more on their four-man pass rush which has yielded positive results. When sending four or fewer pass rushers, the Giants have allowed a Total QBR of 47.5, considerably lower than the 83.2 they allowed in their first seven games.

Giants This Season
Sending 4 or Fewer Pass Rushers

In their playoff matchup, the Giants sent four or fewer pass rushers on 37 of Ryan’s 44 dropbacks. They sacked him twice and put him under duress eight other times, forcing him to keep his passes short (5.2 yards per attempt).

• One of the biggest differences this season between Manning and Ryan has been their success with play-action. Ryan has the second-highest completion percentage (71.9) among qualified quarterbacks; Manning has the fifth-lowest (51.9). Ryan is averaging a touchdown every 14.8 attempts on play-action. Manning averages one every 20.3 attempts.

• Manning’s struggles on play-action passing may continue. The Falcons’ defense has allowed only two touchdowns all season against play-action, tied for fewest in the league. Atlanta has also allowed the second-fewest 30-yard plays (2) and the fourth-lowest QBR (39.8).

• Giants running back David Wilson made a major impact in the run game last week against the New Orleans Saints, rushing for 100 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries. However, all of his rushes came on first and second downs. Wilson was on the field for only one third down, a pass play with 49 seconds left in the first quarter. During the third down, Manning was forced to throw the ball away due to pressure.

• Wilson was also a huge part of a kick return and kickoff unit that was responsible for 3.04 Expected Points Added, the Giants’ highest contribution by the kickoff team since Week 2 of 2010. Wilson leads the league in kick return yards (1,321) and already has more return yards than any other Giant in the past 12 seasons.

-- Michael Bonzagni, Evan Kaplan and Kim Meyer contributed to this post.