Monday, November 28, 2011
Halftime thoughts: Look away, Giants fans
By Dan Graziano
NEW ORLEANS -- When the Saints tried a fake field goal at the end of their very productive opening drive, you had to figure something was up. And to the chagrin of the New York Giants, that "something" was the Saints' belief that they'd be able to move the ball at will all night on the Giants' defense. The remainder of the first half justified that thinking, as the Saints rolled up 354 total yards of offense and took a 21-3 lead into halftime.
What went wrong? Well, just about everything. The Giants' pass rush, such a key to their 6-2 start and their big win in New England, has disappeared a bit over the past few games. They can't afford to blitz, since it leaves them exposed in coverage, and so the whole defense relies on their ability to get pressure with their front four. For whatever reason, they're not doing that Monday night, and the result is a mismatch between the Giants' linebackers and defensive backs against the dazzling array of passing-game weapons at Drew Brees' disposal.
Can Corey Webster cover Marques Colston? Sure. But even if he completely blankets him (which he hasn't, by the way) and even if Aaron Ross can stay with Jimmy Graham (which he hasn't, by the way), the Giants still need to account for Darren Sproles, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem ... you get the idea. The Giants' talented secondary players could all do the best job they possibly can to take key players out, but somebody's always going to be open for the Saints. Brees completed passes to six different people in the first half, and a lot of them were just too easy.
The Giants aren't playing very well on defense. Ross, for instance, had a major brain cramp when he decided to give Graham a cushion on a play that was run from the Giants' five-yard line. Brees spotted it in an eyeblink and hit Graham for an easy touchdown. But the overwhelming issues are personnel deficiencies. Injuries in the secondary and at linebacker have been major issues for the Giants to overcome since training camp. During the first half of the season, they were overcoming them. Lately, not so much.
On offense, the Giants have moved the ball well against the Saints, collecting 200 total yards in the first half. But Eli Manning threw an interception in the end zone at the end of one drive, and the complete lack of the running game as a legitimate threat is forcing him to have to complete very precise passes in tight coverage. He's done it, for the most part, with the help of receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. But that's a tough way to have to play all night.
As for the interception, yeah, he underthrew the ball. But I'm not sure tight end Jake Ballard would have caught up to the pass had he led him with it. And I think Ballard could have done a better job of fighting Will Herring for the ball, so I'm not putting that one completely on Eli.
The problem is, the Giants' offense is putting everything completely on Eli, as it has all season. And at some point, somebody else is going to have to do something to win them one of these games.