Sep 282001
 

Approach to the Game – New Orleans Saints at New York Giants, September 30, 2001: This game is far, far more important than the two AFC games already played. Aside from their divisional opponents, the Giants play four other NFC teams this season – the Saints being one of them. The others are the Vikings, Rams, and Packers. To win the division, the Giants probably have to split these four games. And on top of all of that, if the Giants don’t win the division, then any chance to make the playoffs via the Wild Card route may rest of this Sunday’s results since New Orleans will undoubtably be in playoff contention.

The Saints are a lot like the Giants. They are a well-rounded football team who plays great defense and who can run and pass on offense. The play of the two quarterbacks and special teams may prove decisive.

Be loud and supportive this weekend Giants fans – the Saints are one of the best teams in the NFL and the team needs the twelfth man to help them out.

Giants on Defense: Those looking for an improved pass rush this weekend won’t find it. The Saints have arguably the best offensive line in the NFC. The Giants also must concentrate big-time on the ground game. And lastly, once the Giants are in passing situations, the down four must maintain pass rush lane discipline in order to keep the very mobile and elusive QB Aaron Brooks from hurting them. In other words, the pass rushers can’t be as creative or unpredictable as they would like. This makes it easy to pass block for New Orleans.

Kenny Holmes gets yet another tough opponent in perennial Pro Bowler Willie Roaf. But the Giants did not sign Holmes merely to play well against the average players of the league. It’s time for Holmes to start really earning his paycheck. I don’t care about the pass pressure this week from Kenny; what he needs to do is anchor well and/or penetrate against the ground game. The Saints are going to test the right side of the Giants’ defense big-time and Kenny will be the man on the spot. The Giants need another big game out of DT Keith Hamilton this week since he plays next to Holmes. “Hammer” faces LG Wally Williams. Aside from Holmes, the other guy up front who has to play better against the run is DT Cornelius Griffin who has demonstrated problems against the double-team. Unfortunately, like last week, he faces a very good right guard: former first rounder Chris Naeole who can muscle and maul with the best of them. It doesn’t get any easier for DE Michael Strahan who faces one of the best right tackles in the game, Kyle Turley (another first rounder). OC Jerry Fontenot is a savvy technician. The Saints’ line is one of the few power lines in the game and the Giants have had problems in the past with power lines (i.e., the Titans). There feature tail back, Ricky Williams, will over-power you too – similar to Eddie George. The Giants are going to have to play a very physical game up front if they want to stop the running game. At the same time, they need to use their quickness to penetrate and disrupt.

Key to defending the run will also be the play of the linebackers. Jessie Armstead needs to start making more plays. Brandon Short’s physical style should come in handy. Hopefully, Mike Barrow plays as well as he did last week. Terrelle Smith is a crunching lead blocker at fullback and Deuce McAllister is this year’s first round pick who backs up Ricky Williams. It’s a dangerous backfield. The good news is that TE Cam Cleeland of the Saints is hampered by a hamstring. If he does play, he is a dangerous weapon who must be kept aware of. The bad news is that Ricky Williams is becoming a bigger factor in catching the ball out of the backfield. He really hurt the Bills with his pass catching last week. The linebackers need to do a good job of covering him.

QB Aaron Brooks has performed incredibly well in his short tenure as a starter, despite his inexperience. Obviously what the Giants need to do in coverage is to mix things up and attempt to confuse him. Keep switching between man, zone, and combo man-zone coverages. Play tight, then play loose. Keep him off balance.

WR Joe Horn made the Pro Bowl last year and he can get deep. It will be interesting to see if the Giants keep Will Allen on him or move Jason Sehorn over. Willie Jackson is steady. Albert Connell has very good speed and he has given the Giants problems in the past as a Redskin.

A real key is going to be to contain Brooks in the pocket. He is similar to Donovan McNabb in the way that he can hurt you with his feet. All four down linemen must be disciplined enough to not create big gaps when rushing the passer. Look for John Fox to use many of the same defensive tactics that he employs against the Eagles in passing situations.

Giants on Offense: The nightmare for the Giants up front is the Saints’ defensive line, arguably the very best in all of football. All can rush the passer and play the run. It doesn’t help that RG Ron Stone (shoulder) is ailing. He faces the run-stuffing monster of the group, Norman Hand. Stone will be able to assist his team (and his contract status) greatly if he can consistently generate movement on Hand. LG Glenn Parker may have the toughest test in combating Pro Bowl DT La’Roi Glover (17 sacks in 2000) – a player who may be better than Warren Sapp. He’s going to need help from Dusty Zeigler there. LT Lomas Brown faces Pro Bowl DE Joe Johnson – one of the most underappreciated players in the league among fans. He is a difference-maker. DE Darren Howard, who impressed greatly last year as a rookie, faces RT Luke Petitgout.

The Giants’ offensive line is going to have to play one of the best games they have ever played in order for the offense to be effective. The Saints are going to make plays. They will stuff many runs and they will sack Kerry Collins. But what the Giants need to do is keep these negative plays to a minimum and not get discouraged. Smart offensive design and play-calling by Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton will be crucial. The Giants may want to slow the Saints down with some misdirection, screens, and draws. It will be interesting to see if the Giants use more of the power running approach (Ron Dayne) or the quick-strike approach (Tiki Barber).

Also interesting to watch is whether the Giants come out passing or running. I think I would come out throwing and try to get an early lead – then settle back into the ground game. I would pass on first and second down when the chances of success are greater. The Saints have a decent secondary, but one that can be exploited if the offensive line can give Collins and the receivers time (a big “if”). Ike Hilliard will probably see about 10 plays of action, but it is Amani Toomer and Joe Jurevicius who need to make plays and score touchdowns. Taking a shot with Ron Dixon might be wise as well. SS Sammy Knight is their leading play-maker in the secondary.

The Giants need Kerry Collins to play tough this week. He’s going to get pressured, hit, and sacked. He must rebound from all of this and continue to make plays. Most importantly, don’t make any killer turnovers. For the Giants to win, he MUST out-play Aaron Brooks.

Giants on Special Teams: Games between evenly-matched teams are often decided by special teams play. Michael Lewis is a dangerous punt and kick returner.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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