Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Saints 49, Giants 24
By Dan Graziano
NEW ORLEANS -- A couple of thoughts on the overmatched New York Giants' third loss in a row:
What it means: The Giants are playing uphill now. They're a full game behind the first-place Cowboys with a couple of very tough games left on their schedule. The two remaining head-to-head matchups against Dallas mean they'll have a chance no matter what happens next week, but they've given away their division lead quickly, and the confidence and momentum they had three weeks ago after their big win in New England has faded.
No answers: The problem the Giants had on defense in this game had nothing to do with scheme or effort or energy or any of the things people usually like to jump on. This was all about personnel -- namely, the Giants' not having enough of it to compete with the Saints and all of their offensive weapons. With the weaknesses they have at linebacker and in the secondary, there's simply no way the Giants could cover Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston and Lance Moore and Darren Sproles and ... well, you get the picture. And when the Saints got close to the goal line in the second half and the receivers were covered, Drew Brees just ran the ball into the end zone himself. This was a mismatch from the start. There aren't a lot of defenses in the league that can handle the Saints' offense even when they're at full strength. The Giants' defense is not and hasn't been since training camp, and it showed up big time Monday night.
Manning can't do it all: Once again, the Giants could do absolutely nothing in the run game. They are, statistically, the worst running team in the league, and they did nothing to change that Monday. The offensive line is opening no holes, Brandon Jacobs can't get yards around the edge anymore and Ahmad Bradshaw is still out with his foot injury. The complete absence of a run game has forced quarterback Eli Manning to carry the Giants' offense, and while he's done a good job of that for most of this season, they can't keep asking him to do everything. Manning hurt himself with an interception in the end zone in the first quarter. But while the Giants were able to move the ball for most of the night, and Manning did finally connect with Victor Cruz for a 72-yard touchdown once the game was out of hand, the Saints were able to get the stops they needed to get because they always knew Manning was going to have to throw.
Bright spots? Sure. There were a couple. Cruz has emerged as a remarkably serious threat at the wide receiver position. He had a monster game even aside from the long touchdown catch -- finishing the night with nine catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns. Jason Pierre-Paul's tackle of Graham just short of the first-down marker on the Saints' early fake field goal was a brilliantly athletic play. And Jacobs did flash his old form on one play -- his 8-yard touchdown run, on which he barreled through defenders the way he used to. Not a good game for Jacobs overall, though.
Where's the pass rush? People keep asking why the Giants don't blitz more, but I think it's because they don't trust their coverage units to play short-handed. So they need to get pressure with their front four to have a chance to run their defense the way they want to run it. Lately, that front four hasn't been getting to the quarterback the way it was earlier in the season. And when Osi Umenyiora left this game with an ankle injury, things got worse. The Giants' defense needs to get sacks in order to stop anyone.
What's next: There's really only one way next week's game could be tougher than this one was, and that's if it were against the 11-0 Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately for the Giants, it is. The good news for them is that at least they'll be home for that game, which is Sunday afternoon.