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Sidelines Notes

Giants vs. Saints: Sideline notes and observations

The Giants lost, 33-18, to the Saints on Sunday, a game where the defense gave the offense a chance to win but they couldn't score enough points to have the ball with a chance to win or tie late in the game.

• Much like last week against the Texans, the Giants' first drive was fun to watch. There were no negative plays on the drive, and just one incomplete pass. There were no plays over 11 yards, with the 15-yard facemask on Ken Crawley the biggest gain on the drive. It was efficient and well put together. The Giants didn't have any negative plays on their other two scoring drives, either.

• The Giants struggled to put together drives like that the rest of the game. There were far too many negative plays (penalties, sacks, runs for losses and turnovers) and the offense still isn't at the point where they can regularly overcome them. Avoiding those will be essential for this offense to be more consistent moving forward. 

• After the game, Pat Shurmur and Eli Manning both pointed out how the Saints played a lot of soft zone, and the tape confirmed it. The Saints played man to man defense only a little more than a handful of times, and rushed more than four men only about a half dozen times. They never rushed more than five players and mixed in single and two high safety Cover 3 and Cover 2 defenses. The Saints were not going to allow the Giants to get Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard in one and one situations with their struggling defensive backs to make plays down the field. 

• The Saints' schemes forced the Giants passing game to go underneath with the ball a lot, and New Orleans defenders were quick to swarm to prevent any long runs after the catch. When asked after the game about Saquon Barkley, Head Coach Pat Shurmur said that, "Certainly by the looks of things here, him touching the ball more would be good." The Saints rarely had more than seven players in the box, and Barkley had just five rushes in each half. One way to get opposing safeties closer to the line of scrimmage is to run the ball.

• Despite the Saints' defensive scheme, there were a couple of throws down the field that were missed. Manning air-mailed a couple of passes to Odell Beckham Jr. near the sideline that could have gone for first downs. There was a pass rusher closing in on one of the throws, but he was still able to step into it. Manning would probably also like a do-over on his slant pass to Rhett Ellison in the red zone. He threw it a little high, allowing the defender to come in and knock the ball away. If it was a little lower, Ellison would have had a better shot at it. 

• There weren't many other opportunities, maybe a couple, where there were potential shots, but Manning went to a shallow receiver instead. Once the Giants determined how the Saints were playing their defense, protecting deep, they went to a lot of patterns to free their players in the short areas without producing many available shots down the field. The Saints struggled with their deep ball coverage all season but the Giants were unable to take advantage of it. 

• The offensive line played well enough to allow the offense to function. The Saints got home on too high of a percentage of their five-man rushes but it wasn't close to what the percentage was against Jacksonville, Dallas or the second half against Houston. "I thought they battled against a pretty good – they got us on a couple third down situations," Shurmur said. "Chad Wheeler had 94 (Cameron Jordan) most of the game and he did a pretty good job. They battled, but there were some plays in there. If you brought anybody up here, they would tell you they'd like to have a couple plays back." The Giants gave Chad Wheeler some help from time to time, but for the most part, he held up pretty well. When pressure did come, it was often up the middle. 

• The Giants' red zone defense kept them in the game in the first half, holding the Saints to four field goals in four red zone trips. The Saints only ran it a couple of times once they got near the 10-yard line, and the Giants coverage was excellent. There were a lot of plays of note but I'll list a couple. 

• Alec Ogletree sniffed out the screen pass to Taysom Hill on the Saints first red zone trip, tackling him for a loss. Ogletree played a nice game attacking at the line of scrimmage and didn't allow himself to get exploited in coverage. Two plays after the screen pass, the Giants were fortunate that defensive linemen B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson got pressure on Brees quickly up the middle because Ted Ginn Jr. was wide open in the end zone after Landon Collins and B.W. Webb both covered Alvin Kamara in the flat.

• On the Saints second red zone possession, cornerbacks Donte Deayon and B.W. Webb negotiated a rub route perfectly with Deayon sliding behind Webb and contesting a high pass thrown to Tre'Quan Smith. There was equally great coverage on the next two plays to force a field goal. 

• On the Saints third red zone trip, edge rusher Kareem Martin played a Taysom Hill read option well on second down, and then on third down B.W. Webb crashed down to defend a pass at the goal line.

• On the fourth and final trip, Deayon got close enough to running back Alvin Kamara in the flat to force a Tayson Hill pass to his running back to go just high enough and out of reach. On third down, safety Landon Collins was close enough to tight end Ben Watson on a pass to the sideline to make him lose it when he hit the ground, which resulted in an incomplete pass. 

• Sometimes tackle numbers can be misleading, but that was not the case for Landon Collins. He had 14 and was all over the field, supporting in the running game and playing good coverage on tight ends and running backs throughout the game. I thought it was his most active game of the season. 

• In the fourth quarter, the Giants defense couldn't get off the field despite putting the Saints into some third and long situations. On the Saints first fourth quarter touchdown drive, the Saints converted third downs of 9, 7, 1 and 6 yards. On their second drive, a big defensive pass interference penalty on Donte Deayon on a third-and-eight extended the drive before Alvin Kamara had his 49-yard touchdown run. The Giants forced just two punts all game.

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