What happened to the Giants pass rush? How were the Saints able to move the football at will against the Giants? The answers to these questions is Sean Payton. Yes. Payton's brilliant game plan was executed flawlessly by Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his offensive teammates. Let us take a look at the details.
New Orleans Times Picayune's Jeff Duncan examined Payton's use of formations which took advantage of the Giants weaknesses on defense. And this weakness is the linebacking unit.
The Saints clearly wanted to attack the Giants' injury-depleted, inexperienced linebacker corps with their tight ends and backs. Consequently, they had a heavy reliance on multiple back and tight end sets. Only 20 of the Saints' 69 plays featured more than two receivers, which might be a low in the Payton tenure. By their standards, this is about as vanilla as the Saints get on offense. They used only five personnel groupings and spent almost half of their plays in a base pro set (two receivers, one tight end, one fullback, one running back). The distribution of playing time between the backs and receivers was nearly perfect, with snaps spread evenly amongst the respective position groups.
Here's the breakdown of the reps at each skill position: WR - Henderson 44; Colston 43; Meachem 43; Moore 20. TE - Graham 55; Gilmore 19; McQuistan 5. RB - Sproles 25; Thomas 23; Ingram 23. FB - Collins 34.
Here's a look at the Saints' personnel packages on their 69 offensive snaps:
Pro (2WR/1TE/2RB) - 31 out of 69
Posse (3WR/1TE/1RB) - 20 out of 69 plays
Ace (2WR/2TE/1RB) - 9 out of 69
Pony (2WR/1TE/2RB) - 5 out of 69
Tank (1WR/2TE/2RB) - 3 out of 69
Fake FG - 1 out of 69
Duncan's analysis explains several things here. In the NFL, coaches look for mismatches. Then they develop game plans to take advantage of team's shortcomings. In this case, Payton devised a plan to take advantage of the Giants lack of quality linebackers. Recall in 2009, as a result of Payton's scheme, the Saints were able to rout the Giants, 48-27. In that game, the Saints undressed the Giants defense. After the game, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin remarked, “I don’t know that we ever hit him. At this level, if you’re going to stop the pass, you’ve got to get pressure. You’ve got to force the quarterback not to throw it on his tempo.” So two years later, the Giants still could not knock down Brees. And the Giants could not cover the Saints receivers.
Regardless in the change of Giants defensive coordinators, whether it is Sheridan or Fewell, the Giants have gotten embarrassed twice by Payton's Saints. One thing is clear, in both games, Saints receivers have been wide open in the middle of the field. This has been problematic because the Giants have a dearth of quality linebackers. Here at UltimateNYG, we have been steadfast about GM Jerry Reese's lapse in judgment about the linebacker position. Over the last 5 years under Reese, he has not considered drafting a linebacker a priority. Although he did draft the oft-injured LB Clint Sintim in the second round of the 2009 draft, he appears to be a bust. One second round selection has been drafted in five years. As a franchise, they are in trouble because they just signed former Giant LB Chase Blackburn. Hence, the Giants front office's flawed thinking about how to build a defense has blown up in their face. This flawed thinking, where the team continues to draft defensive linemen and secondary players to the exclusion of linebacker, has hurt this team. It was particularly painful on Monday night, as the Saints amassed 577 yards and 49 points.