New Orleans Saints 33 – New York Giants 18
Two of the 5 longest tenured quarterbacks in the NFL went head to head at MetLife Stadium as the 2-1 Saints and their dangerous offense came to take on the 1-2 Giants who gained some momentum last week in Houston.
NYG kept that momentum rolling with an early 7-0 lead on a short Eli Manning pass to Sterling Shepard. It was a drive full of chunk-yards acquired in a variety of ways. The Giants offense was “rolling” if you want to call it that as a continuation from last week. The Giants defense forced a 3 and out, or so they thought. In typical aggressive Sean Payton fashion, NO executed a fake punt from their own territory. 11 plays later NO got on the scoreboard with a 42 yard field goal.
The Giants began with second quarter a shot to their own foot, an offensive pass interference on Russell Shepard that pushed them into a very unfavorable 1st and 20. The conservative NYG offense paired with a defense that had this scheme pegged correctly all afternoon made that a near-impossible hill to climb. Once again the NO offense drove up the field with little-to-no issues presented by the NYG defense. They were also aided by a phantom horse collar tackle called on Janoris Jenkins. NO got within one, as kicker Will Lutz knocked through his second field goal.
This was the point where NYG needed to show their offense was actually on the right track. However on 1st and 10 at midfield, backup running back Wayne Gallman fumbled on initial contact and it was scooped up by CB Marshon Lattimore who brought it back to the NYG 11 yard line. The NYG defense continued their bend-don’t-break theme, holding the elite offense to their third field goal in as many drives.
NYG then started to revert to their weeks 1 and 2 ways, meaning a 3 and out and a lack of flow. Manning misfires, no time in the pocket, and being put into very unfavorable 3rd down situations. Brees brought the Saints offense into the red zone via a 25 yard gain on a screen pass to star running back Alvin Kamara and all of the sudden they were back in the red zone. Once again, the NYG defense did a solid job of holding them to yet another field goal for the fourth drive in a row. This brought the half to an end, NYG was down 12-7 but it could have been so much worse.
The Giants lack of commitment to the run game was as evident as ever in their first possession of the second half. Barkley gained 5 yards on their first play and from there on out, NYG threw the ball 6 straight times and even though yards were gained, the dink and dunk approach eventually led to a sack that once gain put them in an insurmountable 3rd down position. They returned the ball to NO and the sleeping giant, the Saints’ offense, scored their first touchdown of the day on a 9 yard run by Kamara.
NYG did respond with a field goal largely thanks to their biggest gain of the day, a 28 yard run by Barkley. The score was 19-10 and the NYG hope was hanging on by a thread. Someone on this defense needed to step up and make a play. A turnover, a sack, something.
The 4th quarter began with a 14 play, 6:39 drive that resulted in the Saints second touchdown of the day, a physical 3 yard run by Kamara. Down 16 with under 7 minutes remaining, NYG put together a touchdown drive against a prevent defense. It was capped by an impressive Barkley touchdown where he jumped over everyone on the field. After a successful 2 point conversion, it was a 1 possession game with just under 4 minutes remaining.
Confidence wasn’t high until the NO kick returner Ted Ginn muffed the kickoff, struggled to regain control of the ball, and ended up being tackled on the NO 2 yard line. The crowd once again had juice. And then the worst of 4 badly missed calls by the refs took place. Dalvin Tomlinson jumped the snap and was about to hit Brees before he hit the back of his drop back in their own end zone, but center Max Unger got away with a tripping penalty and a few seconds later Brees threw the ball downfield on the move and connected with tight end Josh Hill for a 21 yard gain.
NO then, piece by piece, like watching a slow death, made their way to midfield. The two final kicks to the NYG chances were a 3rd down pass interference call on Donte Deayon and one final touchdown run by Kamara, a 49 yard dash up the middle.
Saints win 33-16.
Eli Manning: 31/41 – 255 yards – 1 TD / 0 INT. After a step forward in Houston last week, Manning and the offense took another two steps back against a defense that had given up an average of 34 points per game over the first three weeks. Manning was getting the ball out in under 2.0-2.5 seconds for the vast majority of the day. Think about how much a play can truly develop in that amount of time. Manning looked a little gun shy, a little shaky and hoppy in the pocket. Most of the time, it was warranted. The pocket was small (especially in contrast to what Drew Brees had to work with) and the Saints secondary was defending against the deep ball from the beginning. Through 4 games, Manning is completing 74.2% of his passes. That mark, in his 15th season, is the highest it has ever been throughout the first 4 games of any season. He’s been sacked 15 times already, fourth most in the NFL. With all of that said, Manning missed three throws that I would consider on the easy/simple side and is letting the situation around him make him worse, to be blunt. As hard as it may be, he is a $22+ million quarterback that needs to play better if this team is going to turn it around.
-Saquon Barkley: 10 att / 44 yards / 1 TD – 6 rec / 56 yards. It wasn’t a very impactful day for the rookie. However when 100 total yards on just 16 touches is considered a quiet day, we have to keep things in perspective. When Barkley did hit a little groove, it is easy to notice how his presence impacts the defense. As a blocker, this was the first time he graded out negatively. He is never going to get a ton of action in that department, but he needs to be better than he was Sunday. He allowed 2 pressures.
-Wayne Gallman: 2 att / 6 yards – 3 rec / 17 yards. Gallman’s biggest play of the day was a negative. He fumbled after a first down catch, which Saints CB Marshon Lattimore returned to the NYG 11 yard line. It turned into 3 points for the Saints, which took the lead from NYG.
-Sterling Shepard: 10 rec / 77 yards / 1 TD. Shepard made a few difficult catches on the day. Eli really trusts him in 50/50 situations despite the lack of size. The touchdown reception was both an excellent route and snag with both his hands, as was the catch late in the game the brought NYG near the goal line.
-Odell Beckham: 7 rec / 60 yards. Beckham led the way with 11 targets, 2 of which were very bad misfires from Manning. Beckham had a hard time getting behind the Saints secondary, or even close to it. They shaded a safety in his direction nearly every time he ran vertical. Combine that with Manning getting the ball out so quickly, he didn’t have any big play opportunities. The longest NYG passing gain was to Beckham, 27 yards, most of which were gained after the catch. It seemed to be a frustrating day for league’s highest paid receiver. He is a competitor that wants to win, wants to make the big impact and it just hasn’t happened yet. His time will come.
-Rhett Ellison: 3 rec / 29 yards. With Evan Engram out with a knee injury, we knew we would see an uptick in Ellison’s playing time. He earned a solid, slightly above average grade as a blocker and came up with few solid grabs over the middle. He is a consistent “fall-forward” type who carries defenders on his back old school style. He had a chance at a touchdown pass for the second straight week in the 3rd quarter, but NO safety Vonn Bell made an outstanding late play on the ball to jar it loose.
-Scott Simonson saw a decent amount of time as well. Much of his duty revolved around chip blocks on NO DE Cameron Jordan. He did a fine job there and came up with a key block on Barkley’s 28 yard run.
-Nate Solder was solid for most of the game, but didn’t stay consistent from start to finish. He had a rough stretch towards the end of the 3rd quarter into the beginning of the 4th where he allowed a tackle for loss and a sack. He also allowed 1 pressure in the game.
-Admirable effort by Chad Wheeler. Although he was receiving help for most of the day on NO star edge rusher Cameron Jordan, he competed hard and won most of his 1 on 1 battles with the multi-time Pro Bowler. He still has episodes of being physically overmatched, but there is a lot of “want-to” in his game. He improved from last week and that is all you can as for at this point.
–Lowest grade on the OL goes to Center John Greco, who received some praise a week ago. He allowed 1 sack, 1 pressure, and was called for a holding penalty. Can’t expect much out of him at this point, but communication along the OL does seem better minus the occasional hiccup here and there.
-Will Hernandez has now put 2 solid weeks in a row together. He was the highest graded NYG OL in this one and the sack he allowed late can’t be held against him. His hands looked strong and accurate and he was able to anchor against some solid bull-rushing DTs.
-Patrick Omameh was solid in the first half, not so much in the second half. He allowed 1 pressure and struggled to adjust to defenders in space. His reactions are very delayed. Spencer Pulley actually got in as a 6th OL four times. An interesting personnel decision now that Engram is out. If you need an extra blocker, might as well bring a guy in that gets paid to do it for a living.
-Connor Barwin and Kareem Martin took most of the snaps and neither had much of an impact. Much of the NYG pass rush-woes can be blamed on these two. There isn’t anything dynamic in either of their skill sets and repertoires. Both were dominated at times in the running game, as neither have quick twitch reactions or show the ability to break off blocks.
-Lorenzo Carter played less than both Martin and Barwin, but finished with 1 more tackle and played good assignment football. Even though I still think he is a year or two away from being a real impact player, it may be time to shift more snaps in his favor.
-Kerry Wynn didn’t record anything on the stat sheet, as he only played about a third of the defensive snaps. Puzzling why he is on the sideline so much after such a strong game in HOU, maybe there was an undisclosed injury. He still led the team with 2 pressures.
-Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson recorded 2 tackles each, with one of Harrison’s being a TFL. The main 2 rushers for NO led the way with over 7 yards per carry and while that did have more to do with the edge defenders, these two were neutralized in a few key moments. Tomlinson shared the team lead with 2 pressures, one of which may have resulted in a safety had he not been tripped by NO center Max Unger. The tripping penalty was not called.
-BJ Hill’s playing is still limited, but he did record a sack for the second week in a row and is now the team leader in that department through the first quarter of the season.
-Ray-Ray Armstrong is without-a-doubt viewed as the better option alongside Alec Ogletree. He dominated the snaps 4:1 between him and BJ Goodson. While the size, speed, and hustle are attractive to the naked eye, Armstrong was outclassed in coverage and against the quickness of Alvin Kamara. And please, stop celebrating after a tackle on a 8 yard gain by the opponent.
-Alec Ogletree had a solid run defending game. He had 12 tackles and 2 TFL. Ogletree is proving to be an excellent reader of the opposition. Sort of like Antonio Pierce used to be, moving towards the action before the play is headed there, sniffing out misdirection, and finishing when he gets there. The middle of the field in coverage continues to be a problem. The reasons for that include Ogletree, but they do not center around him.
-A very tall task for Janoris Jenkins, who faced off against the record setting Michael Thomas. For the most part, his performance was admirable but unspectacular. He was beat in a few key moments in the second half. One play I was very unhappy about was a 3rd and 1 rush to the left side, Jenkins totally side-stepped a downhill-moving Kamara and missed the tackle. The play resulted in a first down and NO later scored 3 points.
-BW Webb was attacked most of the day and he had his fair share of ups and downs. He had an impressive pass break up near the end zone but was also flagged for illegal hands to the face away from the ball on a 3rd down stop. On the very next play, NO scored a touchdown. Huge momentum shift.
-Donte Deayon’s playing time continues to see an upward boost with Eli Apple out. He made two impressive plays on the ball, showing his elite-foot speed and reaction. That can really go a long way but it doesn’t come without a price. Deayon’s lack of size is a factor that shows up often. He is easily blocked by receivers and ball carriers too often break through his contact. In addition, he was flagged on a 3rd down stop for pass interference while trying to recover after being beat off the ball by Cameron Meredith. There is a lot of give and take with a player like Deayon. However on a defense that lacks a playmaker on any level, he may be the one I trust the most to eventually force a turnover as crazy as that sounds.
-A dominant version of Landon Collins was on display in this one. A team leading 14 tackles, a pressure, and an elite-level pass break up that prevented a touchdown. This was the most we’ve seen him near the line of scrimmage this year and it worked out well. He was the one defender that was consistently getting Kamara on the ground by himself.
-Curtis Riley on the other hand had arguably his worst game as a Giant thus far. He had 2 missed tackles that resulted in absolute daggers to the defense. It may be considered unfair, but so be it. The last line of defense, the safety, has to be one of if not the best tacklers on the team. Riley is not that. In addition, there in no playmaker in him as a pass defender.
-Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 33). Rosas remains perfect on the year.
-P Riley Dixon: 4 Punts – 51.0 avg / 42.3 avg. He still had a couple hang time shortcomings, but overall a decent day.
-PR/KR Jawill Davis: Quiet day for Davis, who was active for the first time. He had one questionable decision to take it out from 6 yards deep on a kickoff, but this team needs a spark and I don’t mind the chance.
-S Landon Collins, WR Sterling Shepard, OG Will Hernandez
-EDGE Kareem Martin, S Curtis Riley, OC John Greco
3 THOUGHTS ON NO
-There is a lot to be said for Drew Brees and Sean Payton working together for what is now their 13th season. 13 years, one system. Several running backs, receivers, linemen, and tight ends. But one scheme that these two grew together from the start. I don’t want to put excuse on the table for Manning (this is his fifth offensive coordinator and third head coach), but there is countless value in the continuity and chemistry between this long of a QB/system relationship. Something to think about if NYG does end up going for a QB in the 2019 NFL Draft – is Shurmur the guy you want to tie to your young QB? If not, is it plausible for him to be a 1 and done?
-How can you not discuss Alvin Kamara when talking about the Saints. The 2017 3rd rounder who had some minor character concerns coming out is one of the most unique running backs I have ever seen. His contact balance, agility, and multiple levels of burst are all rare and he carries all of them. NO needs to make sure they don’t run this kid into the ground which should be easier now that Mark Ingram is past his suspension. He has MVP written all over him.
-The Saints were my preseason pick for the NFC Championship winner. Like most, I am not completely sold on their defense, however I think it can be “good enough” if they can get home field advantage. Their offense is capable of putting up 35+ against anyone if needed, and I mean that. And their 2017 draft may be one of the best of all time. That class turned around the fortune of this franchise at the snap of a finger. It CAN happen that fast.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
-The first quarter of the season is over. NYG is on pace for 4 wins and even though this team looks like they are light years away from being a legit contender, the worst part of their schedule is over in my opinion. While coming out of this at 2-2 was the goal, I’m not sure it was very realistic. These 2 games coming up against what I consider to be middle-of-the-pack NFC teams is an opportunity to get this team back to even. I know everyone wants to obsess with labeling this season contention or a bust right now, but you have to let this play out and take it one week at a time. Instead of thinking about final record, the focus is now on a very beatable CAR team.
-The theme of this game, personally, was the desire for someone on this defense to make something happen. We know the offense is sputtering and there are a few reasons for that. We know there should have been more commitment to the running game. We know the combination of a shaky QB and a porous, unreliable offensive line is a recipe for disaster. But this defense really has nothing that can change a game. No pass rush. No safety making plays. Just a bend-don’t break group that can’t hang with the league’s top offenses. That, to me, is just as frustrating and detrimental to this team overall as anything.
-Olivier Vernon, when he returns, really needs to show something. Well, more than just something. He has a cap number of $20 million each of the next two years. While youth on his side, injury history and on-field production are not. Loyalty to big contracts is one thing, but being strapped down on a team with so many holes is another. Getting him off the books and Manning likely off the books in 2-3 years from now presents a huge load of cap space that can be dispersed elsewhere. And with that in mind, the edge rusher might be THE spot this team can focus on this offseason in addition to QB.