New Orleans Saints 49 (8-3) – New York Giants 24 (6-5)
by rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com
New York talked a lot about pride, enthusiasm, and determination leading up to their Week 12 game with the New Orleans Saints and then went out and put on the worst defensive performance by a New York Giants team in many decades. Injuries were part of the problem as they simply didn’t have the fire power on defense to match up with the Saints offense. Even so, there were few people who thought the Giants defense would be that uncompetitive in this game. New York had absolutely no answers for the Saints, who routed the Giants and handed them their third straight loss with the Green Bay Packers on deck.
There’s no way to sugar coat this. We all love our Giants, but the writing’s on the wall and by all evidence shown over the past three weeks, this season is over unless somehow the Dallas Cowboys completely collapse and the Giants find a way to win four of their last five games. That’s a tall order and one that seemingly cannot be filled by the team as it’s constituted right now.
Once again, the Giants were severely hampered by injuries. OT William Beatty, WR Mario Manningham and RB Ahmad Bradshaw all missed the game on offense while LB Michael Boley sat out again on defense. To make matters worse, DE Osi Umenyiora was lost early to a high ankle sprain that’s expected to keep him out for 2-4 weeks.
The Giants kept the game close for a quarter, but that was more a result of stopping the Saints on a fake field goal following a 70 yard drive on their first possession and then putting together an impressive 72 yard drive that consumed nearly 5 and a half minutes of clock that ended with an interception in the end zone. It was essentially all Saints after that. New Orleans ran 69 offensive plays but only faced nine third downs, converting 5 of them.
Statistically, this game was oddly close. The Saints gained 577 yards and 31 first downs, while New York gained 465 and 29 first downs. Much of what the Giants accomplished was arguably in garbage time once the Saints got the big lead. The Giants actually outgained the Saints through the air. New York also had 3 more minutes in possession than New Orleans. The biggest difference was once again in the running game where the Saints gained 205 yards at a 6.8 ypc clip. New York gained just 73 yards on the ground at a 3.3 ypc average.
Though the Giants committed just 4 penalties on the night, 2 of them were false starts (both resulting in 15 yards distance to gain for a first down) that thwarted promising drives. The Giants were also plagued by the obligatory weekly Bear Pascoe holding penalty that put the Giants in a 1st and 20 situation but were bailed out by a personal foul on the Saints on the next play.
It’s hard to fault the offense in this loss, but there were too many critical mistakes that ended promising drives to lay them blameless. New York had 3 drives of 9 plays in the first half and came away with just 3 points. As mentioned, false start penalties hurt two drives and of course the interception in the end zone was a game changer. Instead of possibly going up 7-0, the Giants saw the Saints take the turnover and drive it 80 yards for their first touchdown. The offense also gave New Orleans two very short fields on a fumble and failed fake punt, one of which was also turned into a touchdown. For all intents and purposes, New York gave up 14 points off these gaffes.
In the second half, New York moved the ball quite well and scored three touchdowns, but alas the Saints scored four of their own.
Eli Manning’s turnaround from 25 interceptions and overall poor decision making in 2010 is nothing short of remarkable. It seems safe to say that without Manning this season, the Giants would very likely have a losing record at this point. Manning is an elite QB, and New York and their fans are lucky to have him. Everyone loves Phil Simms now, but it wasn’t all that long ago Giants fans everywhere despised him. It appears that most people have come around to recognize that Manning is the goods, but the true love from the fans will come 15 years from now when they pine for the days he was under center.
On Monday night Manning had one critical interception on a ball that was well thrown to his TE Jake Ballard in the end zone, but a sensational individual play by backup LB Will Herring. Ballard had both hands on the ball, but Herring was able to roll his body and tear it from Ballard and hold on to the ball. Unfortunately for New York, that play set the tone for the night and even the most diehard Giants fan had to have that uneasy feeling that the game was going to soon get out of hand, which it did.
Other than that one play, Manning was outstanding. Manning passed for 406 yards on 33 completions on 47 pass attempts including 2 touchdowns. That’s a 70% completion rate. Manning also completed 21 passes in a row at one point, one short of the NFL record. Imagine if Manning wasn’t once again victimized by 4 easy drops. Manning’s passer rating was 101.9 and his Total QBR this week was 67.4, sixth best in the NFL. On the year, Manning has a passer rating of 95.6 which is also sixth best in the NFL and a TQBR of 64, good for tenth in the NFL. Manning is also fourth in the NFL in passing yards and fifth in the league in touchdown passes.
Manning is doing all this great work with receivers and backs that have been in and out of games all season as well as playing behind the worst offensive line he’s had since he became a pro.
The Giants attempted to run the ball on Monday night and actually had moderate success early, but after falling behind by 18 points late in the first half that was all she wrote. The Giants’ running backs only attempted 20 rushes for 69 yards, a 3.45 ypc average. HB Brandon Jacobs carried 13 times for 46 yards and 1 touchdown. Jacobs did score a touchdown in which he pummeled SS Roman Harper on his way into the end zone to bring the Giants to within 11 points of the Saints. Jacobs was lucky not to get flagged when he taunted the Saints with a prolonged touchdown dance and jawing that was frankly juvenile. Later, Jacobs fumbled but got a fortuitous bounce and was able to recover. D.J. Ware carried 5 times for 23 yards but did most of his damage in the passing game where he caught 8 of 9 passes for 45 yards on a whole bunch of check downs by Manning. Rookie Da’Rel Scott received 2 carries for no yards and a costly fumble on a play in which it appeared he was down by contact.
The Giants had their success running the ball left behind LT David Diehl and backup LG Kevin Boothe. The Giants attempted to run right and it simply didn’t work. Neither Jacobs nor Ware have good cutback or juke ability at the line and if they get hit at or near the line of scrimmage the play is over the majority of the time. This team really misses HB Ahmad Bradshaw.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
It’s safe to say that along with Eli Manning, this group came to play on Monday night. WR Hakeem Nicks was hurt twice in this game, once when he took a big hit to the ribs along the sideline and later when he was nearly knocked unconscious by Saints safety Isa Abdul-Quddus. It appeared he was out of the game after that hit, but he came back in and was a force all night. Nicks finished with 7 catches for 87 yards. Nicks did seem to lose himself on the sidelines a couple of times, and one was critical because instead of converting a 1st down he came up a yard short on the drive that resulted in the 3rd and 1 where Da’Rel Scott fumbled off the direct snap. He would not have had the 1st down even if he hadn’t fumbled.
Victor Cruz is simply an unbelievable story, and frankly these stories do not happen for the New York Giants. Usually it’s another team like the Cowboys (Miles Austin) or the Eagles (DeSean Jackson) who have players come out of nowhere to NFL stardom. Cruz 9 of 12 passes thrown to him for an incredible 157 yards and 2 touchdowns including a 72 yarder. Cruz is now tied for the fourth leading receiver in terms of total yards in the league with 957 and he’s on pace for nearly 1,400 yards this season.
WR Ramses Barden continues to get more involved in the offense as he caught 3 passes on 4 targets for 38 yards.
TE Jake Ballard also caught 3 passes but was only targeted 5 times out of the 47 attempts thrown by Eli Manning.
There were many people on The Corner Forum who were hoping for a shake up on the offensive line and they got their wish, though probably not exactly how they wanted it to go. With LT Will Beatty out for the year with a detached retina, starting LG David Diehl moved back to left tackle and backup Kevin Boothe moved into the left guard slot. Apparently, Boothe was fired late in the second half as backup OL Stacey Andrews took his spot in the 4th quarter. Frankly, the results were not that bad as the Giants did have moderate success running over the left side and QB Eli Manning was once sacked (resulting in a fumble that was recovered by Diehl) and hit three times. Diehl was the weak link in pass protection as he gave up a number of pressures as well as the sack. He also allowed the pressure that resulted in Manning absorbing a questionable roughing the passer penalty.
The Giants defense played one of the worst games a New York Giants defense has played in decades. Aside from the astounding yardage given up both through the air and on the ground, the Giants allowed the Saints to score touchdowns on drives of 80, 80, 88, 73, 29, 80 and 40 yards. They also allowed a 70 yard that ended in no points. It’s an absolute embarrassment to allow six drives of 70 yards or more in a football game. Even after basically giving up after recovering an onsides kick, the Saints got the ball back with just over 2 minutes to go and were able to score a touchdown on a 35 yard touchdown on 3rd and 5. The Saints had 11 drives, punting just twice and losing the ball on downs twice. If not for the failed fake field goal attempt, New Orleans would have scored on 8 of 11 drives on Monday night.
Three early defensive events really turned this game completely on its head:
- With the Saints leading 7-3 in the second quarter, the Giants had the Saints in a 3rd and 7 at their own 44 when Brees had all kinds of time to find Darren Sproles 22 yards down the field in front of Aaron Ross for an easy first down. On the very next play, Brees hit WR Devery Henderson for another 24 yards down to the Giants’ 10 yard line and the route was about to begin.
- New Orleans 1st and 10 from their own 12 yard line with 1:09 left in the half. Drew Brees throws short to Marques Colston who breaks an 11 yard pass for 50 when CB Corey Webster is unable to push him out of bounds after a modest gain. This was the big play in the 88 yard, 34 second drive that effectively ended the game
- After the Giants closed to within 11 points with a 3rd quarter touchdown on their first drive of the second half, CB Aaron Ross dropped a sure interception on Brees’ next play. That would have given the Giants at worst a first down deep in Saints territory and at best could have gone for a defensive touchdown.
It was another dreadful game for the defensive line as they recorded very little pressure on QB Drew Brees. Again, the Giants seemed to trick themselves at time by rushing just three lineman, something that has not worked yet this season. The best player on the field was Jason Pierre-Paul, who made an incredible play to stop TE Jimmy Graham from converting what looked to be a well-executed fake field goal on New Orleans’ first drive. JPP came all the way from the opposite side of the field to make the stop about 2 yards short of the first down marker. JPP also had a QB hit and was in on 6 tackles. Unfortunately, JPP was part of the group that couldn’t find a sack on Monday, and the lack of any real pressure despite being credited with 6 QB hits. DE Justin Tuck seemed more of himself for much of the game, recording 4 tackles and registering 2 of the QB hits. It’s a shame to see what’s become of Tuck this season. Injuries have undoubtedly robbed him of his strength. His preseason was extremely promising and now he has just 1 sack on the season and to add insult to injury he hurt his ankle to go along with his neck and everything else that’s bothering him. Tuck had the best opportunity to sack Brees all night when he essentially missed him twice on the same play and then gave up and took a knee while the play continued. The play was extremely significant because it came on a 1st and 15 play just outside Giants territory and the sack would have made it 2nd and approximately 23. Now there’s no way of knowing whether the Giants would have held them anyway, but Brees did get away and convert that play into a first down and New Orleans went on to reestablish their 18 point lead later in the drive.
On the other side, DE Osi Umenyiora left the game late in the first half after severely spraining his ankle. It’s been described as a high ankle sprain, the worst sort, and it’s being reported that he may miss significant time. Umenyiora, largely ineffective anyway, was replaced by DE Dave Tollefson who had just 1 tackle and no pressures.
In the middle of the line, Linval Joseph was active but he’s not the force he was earlier this season. Could it be that the second year man has hit a wall after not having an offseason workout regimen and doesn’t have the stamina for a 20 game schedule (4 preseason and 16 regular)? Chris Canty had a subpar game by his standards, registering just 1 tackle. He was nearly invisible in the middle, where New Orleans feasted during the running game.
The linebackers weren’t good. They didn’t tackle, didn’t cover, and didn’t fill holes. The foursome of Kiwanuka, Herzlich, Williams and Jones combined for just 12 tackles on the entire night, and not a single one made an impact play. Not one had a pass defensed. Not one forced any type of fumble or turnover. Not one did a good job in either run or pass blitzing. The only one to get a QB hit was Herzlich. It is safe to say that the need for fast, fleet linebackers who can play in space is not overrated and this team needs to get some.
On a night when the secondary was obviously going to have to come up big, the entire unit pretty much tanked. Corey Webster was burned several times and somehow allowed the final touchdown run when he couldn’t usher RB Mark Ingram to the sidelines and more accurately escorted him to the end zone. Aaron Ross looked like a rookie out there dropping interceptions and a punt and not being able to stay with his receiver. Ross had the only pass “defensed” in the whole game and that’s because Brees hit him with the ball. No interceptions, no broken up passes, nothing. The only big hit was from S Kenny Phillips who leveled TE Jimmy Graham. He indeed separated Graham from the ball but he was called for a ticky-tack roughing call, as the Saints were earlier on Nicks. Both looked like legal hits, though I can certainly understand that the degree of roughness was “unnecessary” to bring him down or knock the ball loose. Antrel Rolle disappeared for huge stretches of this game and it’s astounding that he wasn’t more driven given his pre-game comments. He talks the talk but this week certainly didn’t walk the walk. Phillips and Rolle did combine for 12 tackles, which tells you all you need to know about how many receivers were roaming free through the Giants’ secondary.
Rookie Prince Amukamara saw significant playing time and had his ups and downs.
The main problem on the Giants’ defense seemed to be S Deon Grant being unable to get his troops into the proper defensive posture/alignment on many plays. To their credit, the Giants abandoned their zone look for much of the game and were in nickel and dime packages for most of the night. The problem was they didn’t execute what they preach, that they are best suited for press man coverage. No one was worse than Grant, who was abused repeatedly. It’s important to note that Grant never made it to training camp and was not in the Giants’ plans until Prince injured his foot in his first practice, Bruce Johnson went on IR soon after that, and then Terrell Thomas and Brian Witherspoon were lost for the year in the Chicago preseason game. That’s when Grant got the call, and he’s had the majority of snaps at the nickel ever since. It’s not how the story was written, but it is the way it’s been ad libbed on stage. You can’t blame Grant for at least trying his best, but the Giants sorely miss Michael Boley.
Aaron Ross dropped another easy punt but luckily Prince Amukamara was there to fall on it. Other than that, Specials were…interesting. Neither team had any particularly good runbacks though Da’Rel Scott was better than Thomas had been, each team only punted twice, and there were 7 combined touchbacks on kickoffs.
So the interesting. First, the Giants sniffed out and stopped a fake field goal attempt that had the potential of converting a firstdown/touchdown on the Saints’ first drive. WR Devin Thomas recognized the play and got out in front of TE Jimmy Graham and held him up long enough for Jason Pierre-Paul to disengage from the line of scrimmage and race over to finish him off short of the first.
The second interesting thing was in the 3rd quarter trailing 28-10 the Giants attempted a fake punt on 4th -7 from their won 33 yard line. Apparently, the fake was called off but P Steve Weatherford missed the sign and took off with the ball towards the right sideline for no gain. Fortunately for the Giants the Saints taunted the Giants on the play after the whistle and the 15 yards cost them a scoring opportunity.
K Lawrence Tynes converted on a 42-yard FG, coming up short on a 61-yarder before the half. He also hit all three PATs, so the Giants have THAT going for them…which is nice.
For the second week in a row the Giants came nowhere near matching the intensity of their opponents. On top of that HC Tom Coughlin made two desperation challenges that were both lost. If you’d like to read more about the schemes the Giants were running and why several people think they were incorrect, please read this thread, posted by respected BBI contributor Joey in VA. This should be required reading for all BBI.
The swoon is on. The Giants will lose this weekend to Green Bay, and they’ll do it with half the team on the bench or IR with injuries. Once the Giants fall to 6-6, they will most likely have to win their final four games against Dallas, Washington, New York Jets, and Dallas to make the playoffs.