The New Orleans Saints embarrassed the New York Football Giants on Monday Night Football. Scoring 49 points on the Giants, the Saints made it look so easy, the Big Easy. Coming off of their bye week, the Saints were well prepared and played outstanding football. On the other hand, this Giants team looked pathetic, especially on defense. And this is going to be the focus.
After the game, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin exclaimed, "We just weren't able to cover them." Yes, Tom. Your defense was awful. No pressure on Brees. The Giants did not record a sack. With no pressure, open passing lanes for Bress, and off coverage, Saints quarterback Drew Brees put up sensational numbers. Brees was 24/38 for 363 yards and FOUR touchdowns. He also ran for a TD. Besides not being able to COVER the Saints receivers, the Giants allowed a whopping 205 yards on the ground. This Giants defense could not do anything right. Here is the breakdown of the Saints 11 possessions: Downs, TD, punt, TD, TD, TD, TD, punt, TD, Downs, TD. With a defense that has talent, how could they be this horrible? Look at this defensive roster. Ross, Phillips, Rolle, JPP, Prince, and Kiwi are first round selections. Osi, Webster, Joseph, and Grant are second round picks. And star DE Justin Tuck is a 3rd round pick. When you have enough talent and play this poorly, clearly, it is on the coaching. The Giants are underachieving.
Without a doubt, this game is on defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. Fewell is the Goat. Inexplicably, he continues to use his Tampa 2 zone coverage. When you see Moore gash the Giants for 20 yards, when you see Graham gash the Giants for 23 yards, both are in zone and Brees is having his way. This NY Giants blog has been over this time and again: the Tampa 2 does not work for the Giants. In January of this year, Andy wrote the following: What were the Cornerbacks and Safeties being taught to do in Giants training camp this past summer by Perry Fewell? They were specifically told to watch the eyes of the opposing QB. This is what I unapologetically call: BUILT TO FAIL. The methodology preys on the weaker QBs who are unskilled and telegraph their intentions. Add Cover 2 with some zone, stir, mix, and the result is more than a few interceptions. But we know that when the Giants faced the better QBs, the opposing QB's decisions would be faster, with timed routes and knowledgeable awareness of poaching. This was why Pete unaffectionately called the INTs vs the weaker QBs "fool's gold." Additionally, Pete has been on record stating, the Giants personnel does not fit this scheme. Earlier this season journeyman Rex Grossman threw for over 300 yards against the Giants. Grossman is not a top notch quarterback. On Monday Night Football, an elite Drew Brees carved up Fewell's Tampa 2. Like Andy mentioned, we have a defense BUILT TO FAIL.
The turning point of this game was at the end of the second quarter. The Saints were leading the Giants 14-3. With 1:09 seconds left in the first half, the Saints had the ball on their 12 yard line. Although the ball was deep in their own territory, the Saints did have all of their timeouts. But the Giants defense needed to make a stand here. And they did not. Brees hit a wide open Marques Colston for an 11 yard pass. Then Colston scampered down the sideline for 39 yards. With the catch and run, this back-breaking play netted 50 yards. In an instant, the Saints are in position for mpre points. Subsequently, five plays and 34 seconds later, the Saints scored another touchdown. Instead of being down by 11 at the half, the Giants trailed by 18 points. Saints 21 and Giants 3. Without question, this score put this game out of reach.
JPP was the star of this game for the Giants. He hustled his tail off the entire game. His tackle on the fake FG was an impressive play. He ran the width of the field to bring down Jimmy Graham short of a first down. He led the Giants in tackles with 5. Batted down a pass. Even at the end, he did not quit. On rookie Mark Ingram's touchdown run, it was JPP booking down the field. New Orleans Times Picayune Jeff Duncan remarked via Twitter about JPP's effort: I'll say this, if Drew Brees is the best player on the field tonight, Jason Pierre-Paul might be second. Dude is a monster.
Eli Manning had a superb night. At one point he completed 21 consecutive passes. Despite his team's inability to run the ball, Manning threw for 406 yards and two touchdowns. If it was not for his effort, this game would have been much worse.
Victor Cruz: This guy continues to emerge as a star in the making. He makes plays. Cruz caught 9 passes for 157 yards and TWO touchdowns. One of his TD grabs was a 72 yard bomb. Some of these numbers were padded in garbage time, but make no mistake, he is a force.
TE Jake Ballard. On their first possession, the Giants appeared ready to strike first in this game. On the ninth play of this impressive drive, the Giants had a first and 10 on the Saints 18 yard line. Eli's pass to Ballard in the end zone was slightly underthrown. And Saints' linebacker Will Herring wrestled the ball away from Ballard. Herring's interception took the air out of the Giants. Either Ballard has to fight for that ball or punch it out of Herring's arms. As a rookie, Ballard learned the hard way that in that situation, he needed to play defensive back and break up the pass. Instead of the Giants getting points on this drive, they turned the ball over in the red zone. Even in his post game presser, Coughlin was upset the Giants did not get any points on this drive.
Perry Fewell- The last time the Giants played the Saints in New Orleans was 2009. The hapless Bill Sheridan was the defensive coordinator. And on that day, the Giants allowed 48 points. Last night, the Giants gave up 49 points. This is the most points a Giants defense has given up since 1999. In 1999, the Giants gave up 50 to the Redskins.
Few notes: Justin Tuck is playing injured. He was not much of a factor in this game. And last week on WFAN with Mike Francesa, Tuck talked about his problems with lingering injuries.
DE Osi Umenyiora left the game early with an ankle injury. He did not return. At this time, the extent and severity of his injury is unknown.
Three weeks ago, the Giants were 6-2 and in first place in the NFC East. Things were looking good in Giants' land. Even Newark Star-Ledger's Mike Garafolo wrote a piece about Giants GM Jerry Reese being vindicated for sticking to his plan. Then the second half of the season began. With three consecutive losses to San Francisco, Philadelphia, and now New Orleans, the Giants are 6-5.
So here we are. 6-5, trailing the hated Cowboys by one game in the NFC East. Right now, it seems we have to win the NFC East in order to make the playoffs. But before we can talk playoffs, the Giants appear to be headed for another second half swoon. This has been a disturbing trend with Coughlin's Giants. Yesterday, Coughlin bristled at reporters when asked about his team's poor second halves of seasons. "It's not going to be the history, believe me. I know that this is something fanatically involved with all of you but each team is a new team and each team is a new year." Yes. Coughlin is correct. This is a new year. The Giants have five games left. They can reverse this trend by winning four out of their next five games. Can they do it? Or was Monday's woeful performance an indication the Giants are spiraling downward? Your thoughts.
On Friday we did a Q&A Exchange with the Saints, and learned a little bit more about the pulse of that team. Tonight, we will learn more about the Giants, because the Saints will give them a test they have not received yet in 2011.
There were some good comments this past Wednesday, and Paddlepedal offered some observations I want to highlight before the game this evening:
..this year we haven't seen the defensive collapses against high powered teams as in the past couple years. Then again the only high powered offense they have played this year is New England (which was a great effort); against Philly Vick got hurt which brought them back to earth.
The defense shoudn't logically be better this year, given the loss of Thomas and all the linebackers. Right now it looks like they are skating on pretty thin ice, especially with their LBs in short and intermediate pass defense. I hope Amukamara develops rapidly and the LBs who are left can elevate their game.
.. it remains to be seen whether they’ve gotten rid of these defensive collapses, which should only happen rarely if at all to contending teams. We’ll know a lot more after Monday night.
We have seen the better QBs undress Fewell and his zone defense sporadically this season and essentially most of last season. We have seen more man coverage this year, especially from Webster, and that has helped. Why is this evening so important? Because the Brees offense has one feature that Brady's offense did not have- the ability to stretch the field with a good downfield passing game. The Patriots do not have a deep threat that can burn a CB. Tight Ends stretch your Safety, but not with speed.
Here is a reminder about Brees- get in his face and disrupt his vision. He is 6'0" tall and will have trouble seeing down the field if you can keep the middle of your pass rush in front of him. (Think CANTY 6'7" and Tuck 6'5".) And CBs, please press at the line of scrimmage. Like all QBs, he relies on rhythm and that extra half second is just as precious to him as it is to Charley Whitehurst.
We'll say this until we are blue in the face- Gilbride must attack with his offense all night, from the very first possession. What does "attack" mean? It means getting Eli in the flow with high percentage short passes that move the sticks and keep the players on the field. RHYTHM. Yes, just like Brees or any other QB.
So tonight (and next Sunday vs GB) the NY Giants defense will get the full armada from its opponent. This will be a good test of Fewell, of the schemes, of the Linebackers, of the pass rush, of everyone. The Giants defense played well enough the past three games, but these next two games will be the litmus of whether they can compete toe to toe with the best. 38-35. That was the score in Week 17 of the 2007 season. The Giants went toe to toe with one of the best offenses in a generation, and they got the confidence to go up against anyone. These next two games are an opportunity to be measured and to make adjustments. It would be better to go into these games 7-3 or 8-2, but at least with Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit losing this weekend, the Giants' chances for a playoff spot have risen. Play well, play 60, learn, adapt, make the playoffs and anything can happen. If the Giants play 60 and are not ready, at least we'll find that out. But understand this- you are much better off playing these teams in the regular season and getting that test than not playing them. Let's see what this team is made of.
Simms talks NFL with Mike Francesa going into Week 12 on WFAN. He touched briefly on the Giants near the end of his second segment.
1) MIA-DAL. No easy games in the NFL. Cowboys will not dominate you on both sides of the ball. Core group of players in Miami. Miami just not ready to win. Veterans in Dallas were the difference. Opportunities were there for the Dolphins to win, they just were not able to take advantage of them.
2) HOU-JAX. Matt Leinart gets Andre Johnson back at WR. Houston will run nearly the same offense, a lot of play action. Will Leinart be able to make the throws down the field? That is a big question mark for Simms (code for doubtful). Jaguars cannot move the ball on anybody, the Houston defense may be able to outscore the Jaguars.
3) CHI has lost Cutler to the thumb injury. Hanie is not Cutler. Design the plays for Hanie to succeed. Martz is up to the challenge. Phil thinks the Bears should be able to overcome the loss and make it to the playoffs.
4) NE-PHI. Simms says even if Vince Young wins today vs NE, they will still sit him down and put Vick back in the following week. The Eagles ran their offense differently for Young. Young made plenty of mistakes. The Patriots will make him stay in the pocket and force him to make decisions.
5) BUF-NYJ. Bills should not be able to move the ball. Simms admits is that he was wrong about the Bills, felt they were real, no they aren't. WRs can't get past defenders. Tipped balls, fumbles, INTs; the margin for error is too large and the result is mistakes. Cannot rush the passer. Kyle Williams got hurt in the NY Giants game and his loss has hurt the Bills. Without Merriman and Williams, the Bills can't get pressure on opposing QBs. Jets are built around their defense making a stop when the game is on the line, and they have not been able to do that this year. They should be able to stop BUF today.
6) SD-DEN. The Broncos defense is getting better. They gave up 40 to the Packers but it was Aaron Rodgers, who makes throws everyone else can't. Pass rush is real. Three new starters again for the SD OL. SD is built for Rivers to make the plays, and he is doing the opposite. Tebow has to quit being so careful, worried too much about the INT.
7) Who is the best AFC team? It is about matchups. But Simms says it is the Ravens. Can stop any running game in the NFL. Very talented on defense. Flacco turning into one of the best deep throwing QBs in the league. Tory Smith improving greatly. BAL lacks consistency. They were flat for the Rams. They try to beat you w talent. OL is solid but not great. They can have some breakdowns you don't see from top echelon teams.
8) NYG, NYJ. Coaching staffs have to make proper adjustments in their offense with proper allocation of amount of pass vs run, depending on the team and the matchups. NYJ and NYG have not done this well this year. The Giants weakness in being unable to run the ball hurts them. Bradshaw's loss is huring the Giants; he is underrated and people are starting to open their eyes to how good he was, now that the Giants need to run the ball without him. Simms (Showtime) picks the Saints over the Giants.
UltimateNYG NY Giants blog did a Q&A Exchange with Saints Nation to preview the game this Monday night. Their answers to our questions are linked here.
1) How are the Saints going to win a Super Bowl when their defense is so porous?
Who said they are going to? It's going to take a Giants beating the Patriots in the 2007 season type miracle to take out the Packers. They are clearly better than everyone else by far this season. The reality is the Saints aren't going to fix their defense per se, but they are going to need to generate more turnovers. That's the key, and that can be done. In that department they've been a little unlucky. Fumbles haven't gone their way
and they've dropped an inordinate amount of interceptions. It's sickening, really. I don't know what the NFL record for dropped interceptions is, but get me a stat guy. The Saints have to be approaching it this season. Anyway, we'll see, but I think the Saints and myself as a fan/blogger approach every game as "winnable" as long as Drew Brees is healthy and under center. They may not always be the favorite, but I firmly believe the Saints are good enough at their best to beat any team in the NFL on any given Sunday with the offense they have. Once you get into the playoffs it's all a crapshoot.
2) The Saints are 0-10 this season on coin tosses. Has this had any effect on the team getting out slowly without an early lead on offense?
Actually they're 0-11 if you count the overtime coin toss against the Falcons two weeks ago. It definitely sucks because most of those opening drives haven't been three and outs, so the offense many times has gotten the ball down 3-0 with 11 minutes left in the first quarter. Sometimes down 7-0 with 8 minutes left. I read somewhere that the odds of that happening are like 0.4%. Awesome. At this point I'm not convinced they'll win a toss all season. This is getting beyond ridiculous. It's gotten to be a bitter/comical topic amongst fans.
3) Do you agree with our draft analyst Wonder's assessment that Jimmy Graham is the best receiving TE in the NFL?
Hmm, good question. He's up there for sure but he's still raw. What's scary is how good he is with so little experience (he only played college ball 1 season). I think Gonzalez and Gates in their prime are better, but Graham is still getting better and those two are past their prime. It's a close call but yeah, he's definitely in the discussion.
4) The Secondary appears to be the weakest link on the defense. Which player should the Giants target?
Actually their corners are probably the strongest part of the defense. Jabari Greer is one of the most underrated corners in the league and he always matches up against the opposition's best receivers and usually does an amazing job. The only problem is these guys can't seem to catch. Again, they have dropped a ridiculous amount of interceptions this year. The Saints go a very strong three deep at corner. Tracy Porter and Patrick Robinson are both very good as well. Malcolm Jenkins, the free safety, is a former corner as well that's very good. Roman Harper, the strong safety, is good at playing the run, blitzing, and being in the box, but he's the one you can definitely victimize in coverage. He's been burned repeatedly by top notch tight ends. Teams with premiere receiving tight ends are nightmare matchups for the Saints. Lucky for them Jake Ballard is not one of those. The linebackers are somewhat poor in coverage, too, so having Bradshaw catch passes out of the backfield would hurt the Saints if he plays.
5) Can you make up your mind who your RB is? Is it Ingram? Thomas? Sproles was a top signing for dollars vs impact. What is your identity behind Brees?
Haha, the Saints are very much a running back by committee team. That's part of why they've been the #1 offense in the NFL 4 out of the last 6 years, and in the top 3 every single year since Sean Payton came on board. It's all about exploiting matchups and giving your offense more variety to confuse the defense. It's a brilliant scheme and there's a reason most teams can't stop it. Each of those guys you just mentioned are good at doing very different things so they each have their place in the system. Sproles is your change of pace speedster that must be accounted for because he's a big time playmaker that causes nightmare matchups. He's the guy that runs sweeps and catches flares, or matches up in the slot against a linebacker and beats him 9 times out of 10. Ingram and Ivory are your physical downhill runners, and Thomas is more of a jack of all trades that specializes in setting up his blockers, executing delays, screens and being patient with his runs.
6) The NFL is worried about Brees passing the ball. Why should the Giants care whether or not the Saints the run the ball and fake playaction?
So you're suggesting a good defensive strategy is to completely ignore the run and get your rushers upfield, risking gashing runs from the Saints at times? That's actually not a bad idea. The Saints are definitely a pass first team and they set up the run with the pass, not the other way around. The one challenge Sean Payton has always struggled with is finding good balance, and at times his lack of commitment to the run in hindsight has cost them. I definitely think there's a very good chance that the Saints would pass even if you dared them to run all day long by using some combination of rushing four/five and dropping everyone else into coverage on very play. You might be on to something.
7) If Sproles is in the game, we think the Giants need a nickel back shadowing him instead of a LBer. Why haven't other teams defensed Sproles this way?
Not enough, that's for sure, but yes, the Saints are seeing it more and more. And guess what, that's been relatively effective at slowing him down. The only problem there is at least with LBers Sproles was never going to break a tackle. He's small so he's going down easily regardless, but he's physical enough that I could see him breaking more tackles with a cover man on him. But yes, I agree, anytime he's in the game you need to have a nickel man on him. The risk there, though, is if the Saints decide to run with Sproles. That's one less physical LB in the game and the Saints have very big and physical receivers that block well (Colston, Henderson and Meachem) and you just made their job easier. But yes, I agree with you that's probably the way to go. There is going to be some inherent risk in any scheme because you can't really completely shut down this offense. You just have to maximize your chances at getting stops by focusing on their tendencies. Obviously if the Saints recognize what you're trying to eliminate they can exploit other areas. That's the risk you take.
8) How do you think the Saints can stop Nicks, Manningham and Cruz?
I actually don't feel too bad about that. Greer, Porter and Robinson are all three excellent cover corners. I think this is a good matchup for the Saints in that department. Teams with explosive tight ends, big strong physical runners and/or explosive receiving backs are the offenses that tend to cause the Saints the most problems. If Bradshaw remains out I don't really think the Giants have any of those things. I do worry about Brandon Jacobs a bit, but he's not as good as he used to be.
9) Your prediction?
The thing I respect and fear the most about the Giants is their ability to rush the passer with 4 lineman. The Saints' tackle play has been spotty this year. I'm terrified of sacks and/or turnovers that will hurt the Saints and severely impact the team's chances. That's where I think, most of all, the Saints will need to focus. Do not allow Brees to get hit where he would throw a bad pick or fumble. Fortunately no one is better at getting the ball out quicker than Brees. Saints 34 Giants 24