Three keys to victory for the Giants on Sunday against the Saints:
1. Keep Brees off the field. Since Drew Brees arrived in New Orleans in 2006, the Saints are 86-35 when they win the time of possession. When they lose it, they are 28-46, including their last trip to MetLife Stadium. So how do you go about this against the NFL's all-time completions leader? Well, let's begin counterintuitively with what the Giants can do on offense. They need to start fast and avoid playing from behind, which they did in last week's victory over the Texans. The Giants scored on all four of their possessions in the first half (two touchdowns and two field goals) of that game, and their average length of scoring drives this season is 8.83 plays, sixth-longest in the NFL.
Getting Saquon Barkley going on the ground is the main way that makes sense in keeping Brees on the sideline and out of harm's way. But there's the rub. Even though the Saints' defense is 30th in yards allowed per game (421.0) and last in points (34.3), it is the stingiest against the run, allowing just 3.0 yards per attempt. So, run or pass, the Giants just need to make sure they stay ahead of the sticks.
2. "One-play mentality" on defense. The Giants and Saints both get a taste of their own medicine this week. New Orleans counters Barkley with their multipurpose running back in Alvin Kamara, the 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year. (The Saints also had the 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year, cornerback Marshon Lattimore.) Kamara already has 30 receptions, third-most in the entire NFL and the most among running backs. Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher preached being fundamentally sound to his players this week "because the multitude of places he can align and motion to and shift to, there's no perfect call to get one guy on him every snap of the game."
Kamara is only the tip of the spear, though. Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas has 38 catches, the most by a player in his team's first three games of a season in league history. Thomas is the first player in NFL history to record at least 10 catches in each of his team's first three games to start a season. Essentially, there are no plays off against an offense that only gets stronger as the game progresses. The Saints have scored an NFL-high 48 points in the fourth quarter, 17 more than anybody else. The key is not letting things snowball, which New Orleans can do in a hurry.
"One thing I love about this group is that we're kind of starting to work ourselves into a one-play mentality as a defense," Bettcher said. "Whether you give up a play or you make a great play, that cannot determine the success or failure of the next play. Every play is independent of itself and if we do that for 60 minutes, at the end of the day we'll have a chance to play good defense at the end of the game and I think we're starting to build that confidence and that identity in the room."
3. Inside push. Saints coach Sean Payton and Brees have been together in New Orleans since 2006, turning the offense into a finely-tuned engine that is all about precision and timing. The Giants need to disrupt that. They were able to get to the quarterback last week in Houston, recording 11 quarterback hits and three sacks, two of which came in the fourth quarter. Getting pressure up the middle is the best way to throw things off for a quarterback, especially a shorter one like Brees.
"Yeah, we certainly want to disrupt Drew as much as we can," Shurmur said. "He's a good player, he finds a way even in games where he maybe starts slow, he'll get into a rhythm and get it going. You'll play 60 minutes a game against him, and we do have to find a way to get some pressure on him. Sometimes, it doesn't really point to sacks. I think sometimes a quarterback of Drew's stature, if you can get inside push, it can be disruptive at times."