Sep 202016
 
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Lea Thompson

New York Giants 16 – New Orleans Saints 13

Overview

“Things are different now.”

Those brilliant, Shakespearean-like words were uttered by one of the finest actresses in silver-screen history, Lea Thompson, in the all-time classic Red Dawn. And as I watched the New York Giants against the New Orleans Saints that magnificent prose from 1984 kept ringing in my ear.

The Giants have won the first two games of the season despite being held to under 21 points in both games. They oddly out-rushed the Cowboys and beat the high-powered Saints without scoring an offensive touchdown. Now one would think that turnovers were the great equalizer but the Giants defense has not yet forced a turnover this year. Worse, the Giants are actually -4 in turnover differential.

So how are the Giants winning? Defense. Hard-hitting, sure-tackling, fundamentally-sound defense. They’ve held both the Cowboys and Saints to one touchdown apiece. I’ve opined in the past that a defense that lives and dies off of turnovers will eventually whither. Because while turnovers are often the product of good defense, they are also often based on luck. This Giants defense isn’t based on luck. It is showing flashes of Giants teams of old – hit, tackle, stop the run, get after the passer, cover the offensive targets.

Just wait until they get a bit lucky and the turnovers start flowing their way.

So a Giants defense that has been cellar dwellers for the past few seasons is showing some bite. And the Giants are winning close games, even when their offense has yet to click on all cylinders. Indeed, things are different now.

Giants on Offense

This is a bottom-line business and the bottom line is the Giants offense scored nine points. The problems were obvious: an inability to run the football, dropped passes, turnovers, and 0-for-3 in the red zone. Smartly, the Saints played it safe on defense, giving up the dink-and-dunk stuff, hoping the Giants would make mistakes during longer drives – which they did. The good news? The Giants still managed to generate 22 first downs and 417 net yards of offense, were close to 50 percent on 3rd down efficiency, only committed two penalties, and dominated time-of-possession by eight minutes.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 18, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterback

The Giants scored nine offensive points? Eli Manning must have sucked, right? Far from it. In fact, had it not been for a number of costly dropped passes, his already strong numbers would have been outstanding. As it was, Manning finished the game 32-of-41 for 368 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions. The biggest knock was his fumble that gave the Saints the ball at the NYG 25-yard line.

But with the game tied twice in the 4th quarter, Manning coolly led his team on two go-ahead field-goal drives. On the first, Manning was 5-of-6 for for 68 yards, including a 32-yarder on 3rd-and-8 to Sterling Shepard. On the second drive, he was 3-of-4 for 51 yards. The one miss was a bad drop by Odell Beckham. Manning threw for six yards on 3rd-and-1 and 34 yards on 3rd-and-8 on this game-winning effort.

Running Backs

The two-headed committee that was so successful against Dallas largely flopped against the Saints. Rashad Jennings only rushed for 27 yards on 13 carries (a measly 2.1 yards per rush) and suffered a hand injury that limited his touches in the second half (only three carries after intermission). Shane Vereen carried the ball 14 times for 42 yards (3.0 yards per rush) and fumbled the ball away at the Saints 36-yard line. Orleans Darkwa had one carry for -1 yard. The three backs did catch a cumulative six passes for 50 yards.

Victor Cruz, New York Giants (September 18, 2016)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

The three-head monster continues to evolve despite a number of costly mistakes. Sterling Shepard’s breakout game didn’t take long as the rookie caught all eight passes throwing in his direction for 118 yards, including two 32-yard receptions, both coming on 3rd down. Odell Beckham caught 8-of-11 targets for 86 yards, but might have been the goat for his late drop on the game-winning march. Beckham did draw two pass interference penalties as well. Victor Cruz saved Beckham on the very next play as he out-fought the corner for the key offensive play of the game – a 34-yard catch down to the Saints 2-yard line in the waning moments of the game. Cruz finished with four catches (in eight targets) for 91 yards, but dropped three passes that hit him in the hands. His longest reception (a 40-yarder) was ruined by his fumble.

Dwayne Harris (3 snaps) and Tavarres King (1 snap) barely saw the field.

Tight Ends/Fullbacks

One gets the sense that if the Giants had a consistent play-maker at tight end, this offense would really reach a new level. Larry Donnell had a key 15-yard touchdown pass against the Cowboys, but that was it. This week he caught 4-of-5 passes thrown his way, but those were for only 24 yards and the one drop came in the end zone. Will Tye caught 2-of-3 targets for 10 yards. 34 yards total from your tight ends is not terribly productive.

Offensive Line

This performance was reminiscent of last season. The Giants had problems running the football, especially near the goal line. Eli Manning was for the most part protected. He was hit officially three times, with two of these unfortunately being sacks. Both tackles were flagged with holding penalties on the same drive. The weak spot was Marshall Newhouse, who also left the game late with a calf injury that may cost him some time. Newhouse gave up both sacks on back-to-back plays. Bobby Hart came in to replace him for a dozen snaps.

Giants on Defense

The Giants defense has forced no turnovers and only has two sacks in the first two games. But they are hitting, tackling, and playing fundamentally-sound football. The defense also seems much faster. As hoped, other teams are finding it extremely difficult to run against the Giants. In a football game that was tight throughout, the Saints largely eschewed the run with only 13 carries for 41 yards (3.2 yards per rush). Some other stats of note were the Giants had five tackles for a loss, six quarterback hits, and a very good seven passes defensed.

Defensive Line

Last week, the defensive line had no sacks and officially only three quarterback hits. This week, the defensive line had no sacks and officially only four quarterback hits. This just shows you that you can’t base everything on stats. The defensive line as a unit is playing well. The hits and sacks will come. The Saints hardly bothered to run against the Giants and when they did, they were not terribly successful, gaining only 41 yards with the longest run being nine yards. Indeed, unlike last year’s team that regularly gave up the big play, the longest play for the Cowboys was a 21-yard pass play. The Saints had two plays over 18 yards (both passes – one for 21 and one for 23). Why the big turnaround? Yes, coverage matters but so does the pass rush. While the Giants are not getting there yet, the quarterbacks are aware of New York’s rushers.

Despite coming into the game with injuries, Jason Pierre-Paul (1 tackle, 1 QB hit, 1 pass defense) and Olivier Vernon (1 tackle, 1 QB hit) played virtually the entire game. Neither stood out on the stat sheet. JPP was flagged for a neutral zone infraction.

The interesting item to note this week was the reduce snaps for Johnathan Hankins (45 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 2 quarterback hits) and especially Damon Harrison (34 snaps, 4 tackles) as the Giants used more of their DE/DT “Nascar” hybrids inside. Romeo Okwara (19 snaps, 1 tackle) and Owamagbe Odighizuwa (16 snaps) were the beneficiaries of added playing time. Okwara got flagged with an offsides penalty that erased a sack by Vernon. DT Jay Bromley (7 snaps) and DE Kerry Wynn (5 snaps) did not play much. Hankins blew up a screen pass for a 3-yard loss.

Linebackers

Again, what is interesting is the snap distribution. You can’t make plays if you are sitting on the bench. Only four linebackers saw the field on defense. Keenan Robinson (52 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 pass defense) played more than any linebacker. Jonathan Casillas (41 snaps, 6 tackles, 1 pass defense) also was on the field quite a bit. Devon Kennard (10 snaps, 2 tackles) and Kelvin Sheppard (10 snaps, 1 tackle, 1 pass defense) did not play much. Robinson and Casillas give the Giants linebacking corps a more athletic feel than in recent years as both run well and can cover. Robinson flashed, starting with a textbook tackle for a 2-yard loss on the Saints second series. Three of the pass break-ups came from the linebackers.

Defensive Backs

When you hold Drew Brews to 263 yards passing with the longest play be 23 yards, you are doing your job. Brees was spotted at times looking for his first, second, and third options without luck.

I hate to harp on snap distribution, but there were some interesting developments here too. Like last week, Landon Collins (62 snaps, 6 tackles, 1 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 1 QB hit) was a fixture at strong safety and free safety snaps were split between Darian Thompson (45 snaps, 4 tackles) and Nat Berhe (17 snaps, 1 tackle), with Thompson receiving far more playing time this week due to his shoulder injury improving. Collins is starting to come on. He expertly stuffed a run on the first series and then sacked Drew Brees on 3rd-and-9 on the second series. The only major snafu was when WR Willie Snead split the safeties for a 17-yard touchdown reception.

What is far more interesting was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (39 snaps, 2 tackles) was fourth in snaps at cornerback behind Janoris Jenkins (59 snaps, 8 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 2 pass defenses), Eli Apple (59 snaps, 7 tackles, 1 pass defense), and Leon Hall (41 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 sack). Remarkably, Hall’s sack on 3rd-and-10 was the first of his long career. On back-to-back plays in the 2nd quarter, DRC expertly defended a deep pass and then Jenkins blew up a WR-screen that lost two yards. Apple made a nice tackle in run support but then gave up a 17-yard reception (on 3rd-and-9) and a 23-yard reception on the Saints only scoring drive of the first half. Jenkins did a fantastic job of sticking with his man across the field and knocking the intended pass away in the 3rd quarter. DRC did give up a 15-yard reception on 3rd-and-7. Apple had good coverage on two deep shots in the 4th quarter as did Jenkins on another.

https://twitter.com/VeteranScout/status/777996459266322432

Giants on Special Teams

Of course the play of the game was the field goal attempt that was blocked by Johnathan Hankins and returned 65 yards for a touchdown by Janoris Jenkins.

Josh Brown returned and was 3-for-4 on field goal attempts. He missed from 53 yards out while making his efforts of 48, 19, and 23 yards. Two of his four kickoffs resulted in touchbacks; the other two returns only gained 24 yards total.

Brad Wing only punted twice, averaging 58 yards per punt (44.5 yard net). The Giants gave up 21 yards on one of those returns and six on the other.

Dwayne Harris did not get a chance to return a kickoff and returned one punt for nine yards.

(New Orleans Saints at New York Giants, September 18, 2016)
Sep 182016
 
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Jonathan Casillas and Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants (September 18, 2016)

Jonathan Casillas and Janoris Jenkins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 16 – NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 13…
The New York Giants gutted out a 16-13 win over the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The game-winning 23-yard field goal was kicked by Josh Brown as time expired on the clock. The victory improved the Giants record to 2-0, the first time the team has started the season with two wins since 2009.

Remarkably, the Giants beat the high-powered Saints without scoring an offensive touchdown. The Giants dominated the stat sheet, out-gaining the Saints in first downs (22 to 16), third-down efficiency (47% to 23%), total net yards (417 to 288), net yards rushing (64 to 41), and net yards passing (353 to 247). But the Giants fumbled the ball away three times (for a -3 turnover differential) and were halted on a 4th-and-goal attempt.

The story of the game for the Giants was their defense and special teams. In seven first-half possessions, the Saints only gained six first downs. They punted the ball away five times, had a field goal blocked, and kicked another field goal with their only productive drive of the first half (11 plays and 54 yards).

Meanwhile, the Giants offense bumbled and stumbled in the first half even though the team punted the ball away only once (on their first drive). The Giants had an impressive 14-play, 80-yard possession end on 4th-and-2 at the 3-yard line with an incomplete pass to wide receiver Odell Beckham. Then came three straight offensive possessions with fumbles – one each by running back Shane Vereen, wide receiver Victor Cruz, and quarterback Eli Manning.

The drama began after Manning’s fumble which gave the Saints the ball at the New York 25-yard line. The defense held and forced New Orleans to attempt a 38-yard field goal. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins blocked the attempt. The loose ball was picked up by cornerback Janoris Jenkins who then raced 65 yards for the first score of the day for either team with 2:30 to play in the 2nd quarter. The Saints then responded with their one scoring drive of the first half. At the break, the Giants led 7-3.

The Giants missed a 53-yard field goal and the Saints punted early in the 3rd quarter. The Giants then put together an 11-play, 54-yard drive that ended with a 48-yard field goal by Josh Brown. The Saints responded late in the 3rd quarter/early in the 4th quarter with a 9-play, 74-yard drive that ended with 17-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Drew Brees. The score tied the game at 10-10.

The Giants immediately followed this up with an impressive 11-play, 74-yard drive that unfortunately stalled at the 1-yard line after facing a 1st-and-goal from the one. Brown’s second field goal of the day gave the Giants a 13-10 advantage with 8:46 to play. After both teams exchanged punts, the Saints tied the game after an 8-play, 47-yard drive set up a successful 45-yard field goal with 2:54 to play.

Then came the game-winning possession by the Giants as New York drove 70 yards in 11 plays. They converted two 3rd downs, including a 6-yard pass on 3rd-and-1 to wide receiver Sterling Shepard and a 34-yard pass to Cruz on 3rd-and-8 down to the Saints’ 2-yard line. After three kneel downs by quarterback Eli Manning, Brown kicked the game-winning 23-yard field goal with no time left on the clock.

Offensively, Manning finished the game 32-of-41 for 368 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions. His leading receivers were Shepard (8 catches for 117 yards), Beckham (8 catches for 86 yards), and Cruz (4 catches for 91 yards). The leading runners were Vereen (14 carries for 42 yards) and Rashad Jennings (13 carries for 27 yards).

Defensively, the Giants did not force a turnover for the second game in a row. The first sacks on the year were generated by safety Landon Collins and cornerback Leon Hall.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were defensive tackle Robert Thomas (illness), quarterback Josh Johnson, running back Bobby Rainey, running back Paul Perkins, wide receiver Roger Lewis, offensive tackle Will Beatty, and defensive tackle Montori Hughes.

Safety Mykkele Thompson injured his knee and right tackle Marshall Newhouse strained his calf in the game. Neither returned. Newhouse was seen after the game with his right foot in a boot. Running back Rashad Jennings had x-rays after the game and his hand was heavily wrapped.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Ben McAdoo and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

POST-GAME NOTES…
The Giants have won six consecutive games when holding the opposition to fewer than 20 points.

The Giants improved to 50-39-3 in home openers, including 3-4 in MetLife Stadium.

Ben McAdoo joined Dan Reeves (1993) and Joe Alexander (1926) as the only head coaches in franchise history to win their first two games as a Giants head coach.

This was the 30th game in which quarterback Eli Manning led the Giants to victory when they were tied or trailing in the fourth quarter.

Manning’s career yardage total increased to 44,762. That moved him past Drew Bledsoe (44,611) and into 10th place on the NFL’s career list.

The Giants scored on a blocked field goal for the first time since December 7, 2008, when cornerback Kevin Dockery scooped up a blocked attempt by Philadelphia’s David Akers and returned it 71 yards for a score.

PRACTICE SQUAD MOVES…
The New York Giants have re-signed quarterback Logan Thomas to the Practice Squad and terminated the Practice Squad contract of linebacker Deontae Skinner. Thomas had been cut from the Practice Squad on Tuesday to make room for Skinner.

Thomas was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. The Dolphins claimed Thomas off of waivers from the Cardinals in September 2015 and the Giants claimed him off of waivers from the Dolphins in June 2016.

Skinner was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the New England Patriots after the 2014 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Patriots (2014-2015) and Eagles (2015-2016), the latter waiving him on August 22.

ARTICLES…

Sep 162016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New Orleans Saints at New York Giants, September 18, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
The opening day victory against the Dallas Cowboys was huge. The obvious goal now is to get off to a 2-0 start by winning the home opener against a team that has given the Giants issues in recent years. Steve Spagnuolo and his defensive unit were humiliated last season as the Saints put up 52 points against New York. That marked yet another game where the Giants struggled on defense against an elite quarterback, in this case Drew Brees, who has had some of his best games of his career against the Giants. Enter Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, and Darian Thompson. We’re about to find out how much things have really changed on the defensive side of the ball.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) – questionable
  • DE Olivier Vernon (wrist) – probable
  • DT Robert Thomas (illness) – out

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Saints are going to put points on the board. So will the Giants. The traditional ways to approach this game are to either (1) slow the game down, maintain possession, and keep the Saints explosive offense off the field; or (2) be aggressive against a terrible defense and beat the Saints at their own up-tempo game. In the dome in New Orleans last year, the Giants got into a shootout and Eli Manning threw six touchdown passes – yet the Giants lost. But now the defense is improved. So the temptation will be to attack, attack, attack against a weak cornerback group that just lost its best player. That said, Ben McAdoo also has to like what he saw out of his ground game against Dallas last week combined with the possibility of wet weather on Sunday.

The 4-3 Saints defense is not good. They lack talent at all three levels. But they do have some strength down the middle with ex-Lion Nick Fairley at defensive tackle, ex-Ram James Laurinaitis at middle linebacker, and Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd at safety. Right defensive end Cameron Jordan is a very good player. We’ll get a far better read on Ereck Flowers this week. This is a match-up that could be a problem for the Giants. I’d be tempted to shift a tight end over there to help out Flowers. The cornerback situation for the Saints is a mess. Their best corner – Delvin Breaux – is out and all they are left with are no-names with little experience.

If I’m the Saints, I play it safe on defense, give up the underneath plays, and force the Giants to drive the field without making mistakes (penalties, negative yardage plays, turnovers). If they aggressively challenge Eli Manning, I think Odell Beckham, Sterling Sheppard, and Victor Cruz will eat them alive with big plays down the field (assuming the weather cooperates). But if the Saints play off with more defenders in coverage, like I suspect, then Manning will have to be patient and the ground game will have to produce. And like against the Cowboys, the Giants need to score touchdowns rather than field goals in the red zone. My guess is this is a game where Shane Vereen could possibly thrive as a runner and receiver. I think the short pass to him will be there all day long.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Drew Brees loves playing the Giants. But historically this Saints team is not the same on the road as it is at home, including against the Giants (see Giants 52-27 win in 2012 at the Meadowlands). And the 2016 New York Giants defense is not the 2015 version. Brees and the Saints are going to score. The key is to limit the damage. New Orleans is very, very good at converting on 3rd down and keeping drives alive. Again, weather could play a factor here too.

Brees is the heart-and-soul of the offense. He makes it go. They key is pressure him, make him uncomfortable, without leaving gaping holes in the secondary for him to exploit (like last year’s game in New Orleans). I would not send a lot of blitzes but rely on the front four to apply pressure, and often utilizing the Nascar package when the down-and-distance enable the Giants to do so. This is a game where ends Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul can really make a difference. Brees is not a scrambler. The Giants can pin their ears back and get after him. Now the risk obviously is that Saints cross up the Giants with a heavy dose of running back Mark Ingram, but that’s a risk they are probably willing to take. The thought here is Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hankins can hold down the fort and limit the damage.

The Giants do match up well on the back end because of their corners. Janoris Jenkins seems to have the ideal skill set versus the quick and speedy WR Brandin Cooks. I’d use Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple to take out the other wideouts – Willie Sneed and Michael Thomas. The Saints will probably try to free up Cooks by moving him to the slot quite a bit. Ex-Colt tight end Coby Fleener was added in the offseason, but so far he has not produced as expected. Still, given the Giants poor history of defending tight ends in recent years, the defense needs to account for him.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Saints have good coverage teams and Ben McAdoo has voiced his concern that the Saints will take some chances with trick plays on special teams. Josh Brown returns from suspension and a butt-load of negative media. It will be interesting to see how he responds.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on Saints DE Cameron Jordan: “Jordan is a guy that is a very talented player, as well. He’s a guy that can wreck a game and destroy a game. We have to make sure we’re aware of where he is. He’ll line up in multiple spots.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Many Giants fans are gun-shy of the Saints because of recent history when playing them down in New Orleans. But the Giants match-up extremely well with the Saints on both sides of the ball. Look for the Giants to win by at least 10 points.

Nov 042015
 
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animal-house-speech

New Orleans Saints 52 – New York Giants 49

Overview

What? Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! And it ain’t over now. Cause when the goin’ get tough…The tough get goin! Who’s with me? Let’s goooo! That’s how I felt when do-everything CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie laid the wood on WR Willie Snead and Trumaine McBride raced home for a 49-42 lead and finally a glimmer of hope emerged from the Superdome (or Mercedes Benz Bowl or whatever, I don’t care). Down 42-28, the G-Men once again summoned what the legendary Mick Foley would call their testicular fortitude. After a Dwayne Harris TD pulled the visitors to within 7, the Giants’ defense actually appeared for a series, forcing a 3-and-out which Eli Manning and his top WR trio turned into a 3-play, 65-yard game-tying drive.

Once down 14 in the final stanza, the Giants now had life, actual life after Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Ben Watson and Brandin Cooks ran up and down the field with no resistance for 3.5 quarters. Facing a 2nd-and-6 at the Giants’ 43, Brees found Snead on a quick in-route. DRC applied a perfect tackle, the ball popped loose and Trumaine McBride was off to a 63-yard score and a miraculous 49-42 lead. Predictably, the Saints answered with a 14-play, 80-yard drive that left Eli and company 36 seconds to win the game. Ordinarily not much time but in a game that featured 13 TD passes, 36 seconds is a lifetime. Two Manning incompletions sandwiched around a 5-yard pass to RB Shane Vereen and 20 seconds remained. Punter Brad Wing seemingly put the game into overtime with a 46-yard punt. But Marcus Murphy returned the ball 24 yards, coughed it up and Snead grabbed it and was down at the 47-yard line. But a penalty flag lingered. After much consternation, the referees deemed there was no penalty and the ball was to be moved back one yard because a fumble inside of 2 minutes cannot be advanced. But then, as it had all day, disaster struck any chance the Giants had of stealing a win in the Bayou. After another pow-wow, the referees determined (and it was clear) that Wing had winged Snead down by the face, not only frowned upon, but an actual infraction that turned an OT game into a 50-yard Kai Forbath game-winner.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterbacks

Welcome back to the Big Easy, Easy Eli. His hometown was good to the New Orleans native. The former Ole Miss Rebel torched the Saints to the tune of 350 yards and 6 TDs while completing 73% of his aerials. Eli was nearly perfect, but his now-I-have-it, now-I-don’t-fumble midway through the second quarter was his only real mistake along with possibly an overthrow to Dwayne Harris early in the game down the right sideline. That’s just nitpicking when looking for something bad in a loss. Let’s be honest, if the G-Men pulled this one out, Eli would have been the hero for his 42 points and 6 TDs. Eli was effective on just about everything, short throws to backs, the quick slants and even the broken play when he heaved the ball deep to Odell Beckham Jr. for a TD and found Dwayne Harris in the middle of the end zone on another 4th down scoring play that kept the Giants in the game.

Running Backs

The RB rotation keeps highlighting a different player each game. This time it was #34 Shane Vereen who stole the show with 145 total yards, 8 catches and a TD. Rashad Jennings had the most yardage from scrimmage of the group with 85 total yards and an impressive 5.4 yards per carry. Andre Williams again struggled with 7 yards on 5 carries and it may be time for the former Eagle to take a seat for a few weeks. He’s wasting carries. Orleans Darkwa ripped off a 17-yarder in the first quarter but only saw the rock 4 times total for 23 yards due to an injury.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

Rueben Randle opened the team’s first possession with a 19-yard deep-in from Manning and was accosted by penalty-machine and repeat PED-offender Brandon Browner a few plays later with no call. Randle was suplexed later in the first quarter by Mr. PED and Browner cost his team another silly 15 yards. Browner seemingly grabbed on every single play and seems to not fully comprehend the playbook. Browner had a sure INT just plays later but you guessed it, Brandon Browner held Randle in the end zone to get to the ball – just a horrific display. Odell Beckham Jr. seemed to enjoy his return to New Orleans as well, hauling in a team-high 130 yards and 3 TDs on 8 grabs. Beckham cashed in on the Giants’ first drive with an inside rub route on 4th-and-goal, and followed that up with a 50-yard, cross-field, broken-play TD from Manning that shows how dangerous these two are when healthy and focused. In the absence of Victor Cruz, Dwayne Harris has stepped up game after game for the G-Men. Harris made two fourth quarter, red zone TDs and finished with 37 yards on 3 grabs – another impactful effort from the former Cowboy.

Tight Ends

Poor Larry Donnell, at least he doesn’t look like Yaphet Kotto. Donnell set up the Giants’ second TD of the day with a diving 22-yard grab but did not return after injuring his neck. Kotto…err Tye was pressed into a lot of action on Sunday and was up and down. Just in case Rueben Randle was feeling singled out, Browner also illegally pulled Tye to the ground late in the first half to keep a Giants’ TD drive going. Tye then made an athletic grab one play prior to Shane Vereen’s TD grab to showcase his improving ability to contribute when it matters. Tye and Donnell are very different players with different skill sets, but Tye looks to have some promise as a slot weapon. Tye made a long catch that was negated by an Ereck Flowers hold, but it’s something to watch as he progresses. Tye did fumble the ball after a short catch on 3rd-and-16, but expect growing pains with this group as injured as it’s been.

alike

Kotto…or Will Tye???

Offensive Line

42 points is tough to argue with but 3 sacks and early trouble running left with two stuffs inside the 3-yard line may have made things feel little uglier than the final numbers suggest. Manning was dumped on his keister on the Giants’ second drive but that may go to TE Will Tye as opposed to RT Marshall Newhouse – an unblocked LB is usually someone’s fault but it’s never easy to know who. LG Justin Pugh was beaten inside for a sack in the 2nd quarter and was blown up by DT Kevin Williams inside on a goal-line series, but he righted the ship as the game went on. LT Ereck Flowers struggled at times with the tiny speed rushers that Fat Gandalf sent at him, and his hold negated a big completion to TE Will Tye – not the rookie left tackle’s best game. RG Geoff Schwartz was kind enough to get dinged so we could be re-introduced to the most-easily-moved 330lb human being of all time, John Jerry. RT Marshall Newhouse surprisingly pitched a shutout against DE Cameron Jordan.

Defensive Line

I wanted to leave this entire section blank, along with LBs and DBs, but I love pain I guess. Promising enough start, with DT Jon Hankins and DE Robert Ayers shutting down a Khiry Robinson toss for no gain on the Saints’ first drive of the game. After that, hide yo’ kids. Not once but twice I saw 330lb DT Jon Hankins IN COVERAGE! Yes I get the fire zone concept but using your best DL to waddle backwards and flail helplessly at passes is not the best use of resources. Hankins was in coverage again on Colston’s joke of a TD pass, but it was hardly the big fella’s fault. Overall though, bad, just bad. No pressure, no sacks and the Saints did whatever they wanted all day long. DE Kerry Wynn made the only good play of the day, dropping RB C.J. Spiller for a loss. Yes, a Giant defender not named DRC made a play, but in the words of Bill Parcells…that’s like throwing a deck chair off of the Queen Mary. Whoopdee doo in an otherwise putrid performance.

Linebackers

You’re all worthless and weak! Now drop and give me twenty! If only Niedermeyer was in charge of our LBs instead of Marty Funkhouser, maybe they’d have shown up on Sunday. I must admit, I did see LB Jon Casillas make a stop, but I also saw him flailing helplessly as Saint after Saint tip toed by on the way to the end zone. Uani ‘Unga had a shot at an interception but decided he didn’t want to help either. Jasper Brinkley was pressed into service, and after this game he should be pressed into a cube. He was completely useless in coverage and against the run. The LBs were polite though, leaving plenty of room for Saints’ players to run around and have a good time.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Trumaine McBride, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Trumaine McBride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

Thank you sir! May I have another? Why yes, yes you can you can have 7 TD passes thrown against you in one game. Out of this entire gang, only DRC did anything of note with his jarring tackle that fell into the hands of Trumaine McBride and gave the Giants their only glimmer of hope on an otherwise abysmal defensive day. S Landon Collins had his worst game as a pro, often falling flat footed when forced to turn his hips and open up to the outside. Collins bit hard on the Saints’ first TD, taking the few false steps forward on a flea flicker that Drew Brees required to toss the ball over the rookie’s oddly square head. (Have you looked at his head in interviews? It’s like a 4-slice toaster with hair). Trevin Wade got in on the fun with the Saints pinned at their own 4-yard line by losing the ball in the air and giving up a 46-yard completion to TE Ben Watson. Just awful technique, as Wade was stride for stride with Watson down the sideline. Wade got a bird’s eye view on Brandin Cooks first TD, seemingly admiring the 2nd-year WR’s route-running and refusing to get a hand on him. Wade and Collins chipped in again with horrific technique and coverage on Brees’ 4th TD pass of the game. Wade slowly trailed Snead across the formation only to see Collins stand flat-footed again and do nothing to help. Thank God for DRC. His interception and tackle that became a TD were the only bright spots for this defense. In fact, the only non-horrible, stomach-turning why-am-I-watching-this-defense-flop-around-like-armless-babies moment for the defense.

Special Teams

Well, as of this moment, Tom Quinn is on DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION. Yes, the special teams dream weaver finally got his charges to win a game last week. But in true bizarro-season style, the special teams shanked the game away in the waning moments, forever erasing Matt Dodge from our memories. Well maybe not erasing, but at least he has a buddy now that P Brad Wing decided to yank a Saint down by the facemask, putting the home team 15 yards closer to victory. Overall, good kick coverage again as the Saints managed 26 yards on 2 kickoff returns but the 24 yards by Marcus Murphy on the final punt return coupled with Wing’s gaffe was the difference in this game. Quinn’s return game was strong though, with 169 yards on 5 kick returns, the long a 46-yarder by Shane Vereen.

Anatomy of a Busted Coverage

So who to blame on the Marques Colston TD? Sure it’s one play among about 50 you could get ill watching, but this was the most egregious of all the egregiousness we saw on Sunday. The Giants came out in 2-deep coverage, but motion by WR Willie Snead moves S Brandon Meriweather (#22) into the slot. That’s where the breakdown begins. This should now be 3-deep coverage with Collins (#21) covering the deep middle and Hosley (#28) covering the deep third. The slot defenders in this formation are Trevin Wade (#31) and S Brandon Meriweather. The CBs are DRC (#41) and Jayron Hosley. As Snead motions, #22 slides up into slot coverage.

Colston1

Colston 2Collins should have moved off his hash to the deep middle as #22 slides into the slot. Collins stays put though to keep an eye on the TE, which he should not have done.

Colston3How do we know this? Watch up top, as DRC and Trevin Wade correctly play the coverage. DRC stays in the flat and Wade goes deep with his man indicating either man-coverage or Cover-3. Collins keeps eyes on the TE, but LB Uani ‘Unga and DT Jon Hankins drop into the hook zones to defend against the TE and any crossing routes from this formation, which negates the idea that it’s man coverage. That means that Collins should have abandoned the TE, and known by the shift that he was the lone deep safety with Meriweather now underneath. Further evidence is that Meriweather gives Colston an inside release and jams him towards the middle, a clear indication that (1) he knows he has help, and (2) he knows it’s a timing route and he can affect the play with a good jam. It’s possible that #28 should should have run deep in the slot as Wade did up top, but the shift of ‘Unga, Hankins and Meriweather show pretty clearly that they are the LBs in coverage for this formation and they have the short middle. Hosley though doesn’t get any width as Meriweather does, indicating he likely had deep third on his side. Most of the fault lies with Collins, but it appears Hosley read the shift incorrectly and wasn’t able to help by being in a trail position on Colston. The deep third is missing two people and Marques Colston races to pay dirt.

Coaching

Daniel Day Spagnuolo HAS no grade point average. All courses incomplete. That’s honestly as fairly as it can be put, incomplete. I cannot even fail Spags this week because he simply didn’t show up nor did his defense save for DRC on two plays. There was no scheme, there was no plan, there was mayhem for 4 quarters and it was revolting to watch. Drew Brees practically held a 7-on-7 drill for 3 hours. It was as rough to watch the second time as it was in real time and I saw nothing to change our collective opinion that this film should be burned and never spoken of again.

OC Ben McAdoo again annoyed with his RBBC approach that seems to go by series. But how can you argue with 42 points? Well if you’re the Saints, you argue back with 52, but I digress. I’m still confused by the rigidity of the RB distribution. At some point you have to ride the hot hand and control the clock and the game, but that doesn’t appear to be the approach in any game thus far. McAdoo’s passing game was nearly perfect even after losing starting TE Larry Donnell and playing from behind from the 2nd quarter on. Excellent work with Eli and company this week.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

The CiiyCA committee had too heated of a debate as to who should win the trophy this week for us to settle on a winner too quickly. Among the nominees: Sean Payton, HC of the Saints for what one staffer said was “His I’m sorta making kissy face but maybe I’m eating lemons face..face, I hate it and I want to punch it but I’m afraid there will be a bounty on us.”  Another potential winner was color man (which quite frankly we find offensive and racist and prefer they be called Former Player American Announcer Guy) Daryl Johnston for taking eons to get out any sentence then the sentence being insignificant because it’s three plays later and usually wrong. He is for all intents a purposes, the Jonathan Casillas of announcers, lots of stuff on the stat sheet, but damned if we know if what it is. If I had a coin I would have flipped it, but during my review, the gem below from Johnston after Orleans Darkwa was stuffed..NOT by Kevin Williams on the goal line cemented the former Cowboy as the winner. Read the following as quickly as possible with a slight lisp, with only pauses at the ellipses, no voice inflection and a hint of incredulity at the first bold section and you’ll hear it all over again in horrible nightmarish fashion.

“Kenny are they still running it right at Kevin Williams are we still running it right at huh uh Kevin Williams that guy was a beast on the opening series when they came down the field…I think they ARE still going right at Kevin Williams number ninety three he doesn’t make the play on that one actually nice job by Justin Pugh but the linebackers fillin’ the hole look at them stop Orleans Darkwa right there you can see all of his momentum going forward just shut down immediately.”

(New York Giants at New Orleans Saints, November 1, 2015)
Nov 012015
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 52 – NEW YORK GIANTS 49…
The New York Giants lost a heart-breaker at the Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday, falling 52-49. With the loss, the Giants fell to 4-4 overall.

In a game that featured 13 touchdown passes and over 1,000 yards of offense, the game-winning, 50-yard field goal was kicked as time expired. The field goal came on the very next snap after the Giants punted the ball away from their own 25-yard line with 20 seconds left to play. The Saints’ returned the punt 24 yards, fumbled and recovered the fumble, and punter Brad Wing was flagged with a 15-yard facemask penalty to set the ball up at the New York 32-yard line with five seconds left in regulation.

The Giants’ offense accrued 42 points, 28 first downs, and 416 total net yards (87 rushing and 329 passing). Quarterback Eli Manning was 30-of-41 for 350 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to have a 6-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio and still lose a football game.

The problem for the Giants was their atrocious defense that allowed seven touchdowns, 35 first downs, and 608 yards of offense (103 rushing and 505 passing). Quarterback Drew Brees, who was not sack and rarely pressured, threw seven touchdown passes. The yardage and first down totals were the second most ever allowed in franchise history.

The Giants had the football five times in the first half and scored three offensive touchdowns on drives of 60, 79, and 80 yards. They punted on the two other drives after going three-and-out. Wide receiver Odell Beckham scored on a 2-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-goal and a 1-yard touchdown pass on 2nd-and-goal. Running back Shane Vereen caught a 2-yard touchdown pass with only two seconds on the clock before halftime.

But the Giants trailed 28-21 at the half because the New York defense allowed four consecutive touchdown drives of 80, 96, 80, and 60 yards. They only forced one punt on the initial possession.

In the second half, the Giants scored on three more offensive possessions of 65, 80, and 65 yards with Beckham catching a 50-yard touchdown and wide receiver Dwayne Harris catching 9- and 20-yard touchdown passes. The 9-yard touchdown came on 4th-and-5.

Dwayne Harris, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Dwayne Harris – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The defense forced two turnovers in the second half, including scoring on a 63-yard fumble return by cornerback Trumaine McBride that cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie forced, giving the Giants a 49-42 lead with 7:11 to play. But the defense simply could not hold as Saints scored on three 80-yard drives, the last to tie the game with 36 seconds left to play. Rodgers-Cromartie was involved in the other turnover, intercepting Brees inside the New York 10-yard line after tight end Will Tye fumbled the ball away at the 36-yard line.

The leading rusher for the Giants was running back Rashad Jennings with 54 yards on 10 carries. The leading receivers were Beckham (8 catches for 130 yards, 3 touchdowns), Vereen (8 catches for 60 yards, 1 touchdown), wide receiver Rueben Randle (5 catches for 55 yards), and Harris (3 catches for 37 yards, 2 touchdowns).

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
TE Larry Donnell (neck) and RB Orleans Darkwa (back) left the game with injuries. WR Dwayne Harris (knee/ankle), RG Geoff Schwartz (ankle), and CB Jayron Hosley (facial laceration) were all hurt, but returned to the game.

POST-GAME REACTIONS…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Tom Coughlin and the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • Head Coach Tom Coughlin (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • WR Odell Beckham (Video)
  • LB Devon Kennard (Video)
  • CB Trumaine McBride (Video)
  • S Landon Collins (Video)

POST-GAME NOTES…
Inactive for the Giants were WR Victor Cruz (calf), DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (hamstring), LB Jon Beason (ankle/knee), LB J.T. Thomas (ankle), CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral), DT Louis Nix, and OT Bobby Hart.

Jasper Brinkley started at middle linebacker for Beason and Jonathan Casillas started at weakside linebacker for Thomas.

ARTICLES…

Oct 302015
 
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Orleans Darkwa, New York Giants (October 25, 2015)

Orleans Darkwa – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at New Orleans Saints, November 1, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
The victory against the Cowboys may have been the team’s most significant win since 2011. If the Giants had fallen to Dallas, they would have been 1-3 in the NFC East with two losses to the Cowboys. Now at 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the NFC East, the Giants find themselves very much in the hunt for the division title with nine games left to play.

But it’s important to keep in mind that this remains a thus-far seriously-flawed team that has greatly benefited from a weak division. The offense – which was supposed to be the strength of the team – is currently 23rd in the NFL in yards per game (14th in passing and 25th in rushing). And despite the strong initial start in run defense, the once-proud NYG defense doesn’t do anything well except generate turnovers – and that’s a well that can dry up very quickly. The Giants are 29th in defense, having fallen from 1st to 21st in run defense in the span of a few weeks, and 30th in pass defense. The fact that the Giants are one game in first place is a minor miracle.

The good news is that there is potential to improve, especially if the team starts to get some players back and if those players can play at a level anywhere near their previous form (Jason Pierre-Paul, Victor Cruz, Will Beatty). Offensively, the line and running game appear to be slowly improving and the passing game has yet to hit its stride. Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, Rueben Randle, and Dwayne Harris are capable of much more. Defensively, the pass rush will probably remain an issue unless JPP, Robert Ayers, Devon Kennard, and Damontre Moore come on. But the Giants were missing a lot of defensive players in the first half of the season who are getting healthier, including JPP, Ayers, George Selvie, Kennard, Jonathan Casillas, and Amukamara. The more the players become comfortable with Steve Spagnuolo’s new scheme, the better they should play. And the special teams are playing extremely well.

The short-term problem for the Giants is that many of those reinforcements are not quite ready yet. The Giants will have to scrape by for 1-3 more weeks. It’s a bad time for Amukamara to be out. The linebacking corps is beat up with Beason, Thomas, and ‘Unga ailing. The obvious goal is to win two important NFC games in the next two weeks against the improving Saints and Buccaneers. Get to 6-3.

Do not underestimate the Saints. They are 3-4, the Giants 4-3…not much difference. And the two teams are very similar in a lot of ways…winless start to the season, winning 3-out-of-4 of their last four (Giants actually 4-out-of-5), franchise QB, struggling defense, running game showing signs of life. Giants’ fans know the narrative coming into this particular contest. New York has gotten fat by beating the likes of Kirk Cousins, Tyrod Taylor, Colin Kaepernick, and Matt Cassel. Can the the 30th-ranked pass defense not get embarrassed by Drew Brees? Can a Giants’ offense that has scored two touchdowns in two games keep pace?

This is a big game. 5-3 is a lot better than 4-4.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Odell Beckham (hamstring – probable)
  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – out)
  • RG Geoff Schwartz (ankle – probable)
  • OT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP/out)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (hand – roster exemption/out)
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (hamstring – out)
  • LB Jon Beason (ankle/knee – questionable)
  • LB J.T. Thomas (ankle – out)
  • LB Uani ‘Unga (neck – probable)
  • CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
After an initial positive start under Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan in 2013 (ironically replacing the then-maligned Steve Spagnuolo), the Saints have struggled on defense for the last season and a half. There was significant turnover on the defensive side of the football in the offseason, and although the defensive unit has played much better in recent games, it still ranks 30th overall (one spot below the Giants’ defense). They are 26th against the pass and 29th against the run.

That all said, the Saints do some things well. They have 11 take-aways this year (4 interceptions, 7 fumble recoveries) and they are tied for 12th in the NFL in sacks (16). The Saints are also very good at third-down defense (33.7 percent – 4th in the NFL).

The Saints like to use a lot of different packages and looks in order to attempt to confuse opposing offenses. “They have a number of exotic schemes that you have to be totally prepared for in terms of how they’re using their people and the numbers game, in terms of the number of defensive linemen on the field and defensive backs on the field,” says Tom Coughlin.

The best defensive players are right defensive end Cameron Jordan (6 sacks), who will face LT Ereck Flowers, and strong safety Kenny Vaccaro, who can blitz, stop the run, and cover. They have a young linebacking corps who Ryan will send after the quarterback. Blitz pick-ups will be key. If the Giants can pick up the blitz, they will have some great opportunities for big plays.

Coming off 132 yards on the ground against the Cowboys, the Giants should be able to run the ball on the Saints. My preference would be for New York to let one or two backs get into a rhythm – let Rashad Jennings and/or Orleans Darkwa receive the bulk of the carries. I also expect a big home coming from receivers Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle. Both who are due for a big game, especially against a team with a suspect secondary with one starting corner (Keenan Lewis – hip) ailing. I would also attack the inexperienced and somewhat banged up linebackers in pass coverage with Shane Vereen. Linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and David Hawthorne have missed practice this week.

The keys? No turnovers, convert on third down against a stingy third-down defense, and convert in the red zone. “We need consistency of scoring in the green zone; when we get there, we’ve got to score,” says Coughlin.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Fans rightfully are fearful of what Drew Brees can do against the NFL’s 30th-ranked pass defense. The Giants miss Prince Amukamara as Jayron Hosley has been shaky and saved at times by opposing quarterback ineptitude. The safeties have played better than expected, but still have had issues at times as Landon Collins is still learning the pro game. Worse, the Giants have an NFL-low nine sacks. Nine. Give Drew Brees time and he will tear up any secondary, let alone one with the issues the Giants have in covering tight ends and wide receivers.

If we’re being honest, the Saints are going to move the football and they are going to score. Saints’ Head Coach Sean Payton has probably preached all week: don’t turn the ball over against the Giants, that’s the only way they are stopping people.

New Orleans is 6th in the NFL on offense (3rd passing, 22nd rushing). One would think the priority would be to focus on the pass over the run. The problem is the Giants’ run defense has rapidly deteriorated the last few weeks and the Saints’ running game – led by RB Mark Ingram – is starting to kick it into gear. The Giants have to make the Saints one dimensional or they are in real trouble. The Saints have had issues with injuries on the offensive line but the regular starters are expected to play against the Giants. My focus would be to stop the run and cross your fingers against the pass.

Brees has to be salivating at facing a defense that can’t seem to rush the passer and missing Amukamara. He’s completing over 67 percent of his passes and well on pace for another 4,000 yard season despite missing a game. Brees spreads the ball around to a variety of players at wide receiver, tight end, and running back. Five players have over 20 catches: the diminutive but explosive WR Brandin Cooks (35, 444 yards), WR Willie Sneed (29, 461 yards), TE Benjamin Watson (29, 325 yards), RB Mark Ingram (29, 235 yards), and RB C.J. Spiller (21, 181 yards). That doesn’t even include WR Marques Colston (19, 220 yards). While the Saints wide receivers have not been as dangerous as in recent years, they are using their running backs more as Ingram is having a career year as a receiver. Spiller – as his 80-yard game-winning TD in OT against the Cowboys demonstrated – can be a match-up problem for linebackers. Keep in mind Jon Beason is ailing and J.T. Thomas is out. The tight end Watson caught 10 passes in the win over the Falcons.

On paper, this match-up looks like a disaster unless the Giants continue to force turnovers or begin to generate pass pressure. Though Brees has six interceptions on the season, he’s not Cousins, Sam Bradford, or Cassel. I would expect Steve Spagnuolo change things up to make it somewhat challenging for Brees, but Brees is pretty darn smart and I don’t think Spagnuolo will want to give up the cheap play. The Saints lead the NFL with 32 plays over 20 yards. Spagnuolo will try to have his unit stop the run, not get too risky in coverage, and force Brees to drive the field without making a mistake. The problem is the Saints are very good on 3rd down, converting almost 46 percent of the time. The Giants desperately need their defensive line to rebound from an atrocious game, and need big efforts from Ayers, Selvie, Johnathan Hankins, and Cullen Jenkins in particular.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Rookie Marcus Murphy has returned one punt for a 74-yard touchdown this year so punt coverage will obviously be on the spot. He also returns kickoffs, where his long has only been 35 yards. The Saints have had issues at place kicker, now with journeyman Kai Forbath handling field goals and extra points. New Orleans did block a punt for a touchdown against the Falcons.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin on the pass rush: “Somehow, some way, we’ve got to make the quarterback uncomfortable… We need more pressure on the quarterback, we need to do a better job of that.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The Giants haven’t won in the Super Dome since Phil Simms was the quarterback. That said, this is not a very strong Saints team. This contest features two bad defensive teams that can cause turnovers, and potentially explosive offenses with ground attacks that are starting to come to life. The difference could be special teams.

The match-up issues on defense are scary for the Giants. How much longer can they count on multiple turnover games? The Giants’ offense most likely will need to come up big. New York will probably need to score almost 30 points to win. This would be a good time for Odell Beckham to take over a game.