Giving up 33 points usually has people asking what was wrong with the defense. For the Giants, though, the questions came on the opposite side of the ball following their loss to the Saints. That is the Drew Brees factor.
After forcing a three-and-out to begin the game, the Giants held the high-flying Saints to four field goals in the first half of their Week 4 matchup at MetLife Stadium, smothering them on third down and in the red zone. One of those Saints drives was kept alive by a fake punt, another helped by a disputed horse collar penalty on cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Nevertheless, the Giants kept Brees and company out of the end zone. The problem was that New Orleans did the same thing to Eli Manning and his weapons.
And then the levee broke in the fourth quarter when running back Alvin Kamara scored his second and third touchdowns of the game. The 2017 AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, who led all running backs in receptions heading into Week 4, hurt the Giants on the ground on Sunday with 19 carries for 134 yards and the trio of scores.
“We didn’t make enough plays,” Giants coach Pat Shurmur said after the 33-18 loss. “The first drive was good, we went down and scored and then for a while there, we weren’t hitting on some things. Then we had penalties that kept us behind the chains, and we didn’t’ move the ball. I thought early on especially, and really throughout the game, the defense battled. We’re talking about 12-7 at halftime, that’s within one score and we had a fumble and after the first drive didn’t do much. So, that’s good, then we came back out and really didn’t make enough plays to get back into it.
“Then at the end of the game there, just do what you do at the end of the game, try and fight your way back into it and it didn’t work. We’ve got to coach better, we’ve got to make more plays, and we’ve just got to keep fighting, and we’ve just got to work our way out of it. Credit to them, they did what they had to do to win, and we didn’t.”
IT WAS OVER WHEN: Just as Saquon Barkley’s one-yard leap into the end zone seemed like nothing more than window dressing on a lost game, that same window opened a crack for the possibility of some late magic. Ted Ginn Jr. muffed the ensuing kickoff at the one-yard line, recovered it at the two, and lunged to the three, where he was tackled. With the Saints pinned back and 3:40 left in the game, the Giants needed one more stop and then a touchdown from the offense and a two-point conversion to tie the game. Well, Brees slammed it shut right there, hooking up with Josh Hill for 21 yards and a little breathing room on the next play. Two plays later, cornerback Donte Deayon was called for passing interference on third-and-eight, and three plays after that Kamara broke a 49-yard touchdown run.
“Defensively our job is to stop them as many times as we can and I thought we did that for the most part except right here at the end of the game,” linebacker and defensive co-captain Alec Ogletree said. “We didn’t drop the field like we should have and it’s just something that we got to get fixed.”
18 VS. 34.3: That is the number of points the Giants scored compared to how many the Saints were giving up per game entering Sunday. Big Blue looked as if it were going to capitalize on the seemingly favorable matchup, scoring a touchdown on the opening drive for the second week in a row. However, the Giants didn’t get back on the scoreboard until a field goal with 2:02 remaining in the first half, and didn’t find the end zone again until 3:44 left in the game.
“This is a team that scores 40 points a game and we were holding them,” said wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who had seven catches for 60 yards. “They get down to the red zone a couple times and we hold them to three points, that’s incredible for this team. As an offense we have to capitalize on that. We have to be able to come out and score and put drives together like we did on the first drive. It was like that the first drive and that was it. We can’t have that on any day, especially when you are playing a team like the Saints with a high-powered offense.”
WHAT THE LOSS MEANS FOR THE GIANTS: A week after grabbing their first win of the season on the road, the Giants returned home only to fall to 1-3 on the season. They stay in the NFC South in Week 5, traveling to face the 2-1 Carolina Panthers, who will be rested coming off an early bye week. The Washington Redskins were also idle in Week 4 and sit atop the NFC East at 2-1 after the Philadelphia Eagles fell to .500 after an overtime loss in Tennessee. Dallas, meanwhile, improved to 2-2 on a game-winning field goal as time expired against Detroit.
“You just keep working,” Shurmur said. “You just keep working and you play your way out of it and you coach your way out of it. Period. That’s what you do, and that’s the reality of it, and that’s what I trust our guys and our coaches will do.”
WHAT THE WIN MEANS FOR THE SAINTS: With only one remaining unbeaten team in the NFL, the 4-0 Los Angeles Rams, the Saints are the next best thing at 3-1. After losing a shootout to Tampa Bay in the season opener, New Orleans has won three games in a row and will look to make it four against Washington on “Monday Night Football” in Week 5.
“First off, I thought we played well today in a lot of areas,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “We felt the battle at the line of scrimmage was going to be important — we felt we won that. We made the big play on special teams, I thought that was important — we stole a possession there. I was proud of how we played defensively — we had one drive, really, the starting drive and then toward the end of the game, but I thought we played one of our better complementary games — time of possession, turnovers, all those things kind of went in our favor, and when you do that, you are probably going to win more than you lose.”