The Giants were left in the dust all day.
I wrapped up a rather protracted preview to this game by stating that "...no matter which team wins, you can be sure the one that loses will be heard from come the playoffs. And that's really what everyone should be looking for in this game - legitimacy."
The Saints solidified their legitimacy. There's no questioning the fact that they've sured up their defense - the secondary in particular - and are now prepared for the long haul on both sides of the ball.
It was obviously a big day for former Giants Tight End Jeremy Shockey who's four receptions for 37 yards including a TD all came within the first 17 minutes of the game. He was fired up, and more than willing to showboat it a bit (along with others on the Saints) in celebration of the debauchery taking place. New York simply had no answer for Shockey, Lance Moore or Marques Colston - there were nothing they could do to respond to the dancing or jawing. Give credit where credit is due; Sean Payton's team showed up to play today. They viewed this game as a "statement", and they served notice to the rest of the league today that they are top dogs.
When the revelation comes
The Giants secondary was clearly a source of concern for Tom Coughlin heading into this week's matchup in New Orleans.
There's nothing that New Orleans showed today that isn't expected from them week in and week out. Perhaps the team they did it against was surprising, but no one questions the firepower. Drew Brees (20-33 for 369, 4 TD's) was spectacular; even though he got a little help from the sloppy play of Giants safety C.C. Brown and CB Kevin Dockery, his accuracy was perfect and his reads of the defense were on the money.
The revelation for the Giants today is quite simple; the solution however is not. This team's pass defense is in trouble without safety Kenny Phillips (on I.R.) and CB Aaron Ross, who's yet to see the field this season while dealing with a hamstring injury.
Phillips is just a second year player, but there's no way he would have let Robert Meachem catch that touchdown in the second quarter. C.C. Brown was flying in from Meachem's right side and was seemingly in perfect position to make a play on the ball, but inexplicably ran behind Meachem instead of in front of him. A simple read on the pass that should have resulted in a broken play - and could have resulted in an interception - ended up being a touchdown that for all intents and purposes put the game out of reach. Out of reach in the 2nd quarter.
Kevin Dockery (in just his second game back from a hamstring injury) and Brown appeared to be crossing each other up all afternoon; Dockery was fading off his coverage expecting Brown to take over, except Brown wasn't there most of the time. The frustration spilled out following the 3rd quarter touchdown by Colston (who had a monster game with 8 receptions for 166 yeards) - when Dockery turned to Brown with his arms outstretched in a "where the hell were you?" sort of way. The conversation between the two continued on the sidelines afterwards.
Considering the manner in which Drew Brees had picked them apart and demoralized them by the end of the first half, Coughlin has to be concerned about how he's going to tighten things up in the weeks ahead - or at least conceal the deficiencies a little bit. The days of Jamarcus Russell, Matt Cassel & Byron Leftwich are over, boys.
Oh, when the sun refuse to shine
No one expected the Giants to contain Brees or come close to maintaining the 104 YPG average they've built through five games by smothering the talented receiving corps of the Saints. But defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan's plan seemed to admit the fact that they couldn't stop Brees; there was absolutely no pressure on the Saints QB today, giving him all the time in the world to pick and chose his targets. For the most part, the Giants rushed the front four - that was all. DE's Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora could not penetrate from the outside due to the strong play of tackles Jermon Bushrod & Jon Stinchcomb. After the game, Uminyiora said "Pretty much were able to do what they wanted to do. ... If you give him (Brees)and that offense enough time, that's not good and that's what happened today."
The linebackers dropped back in pass coverage to assist the depleted secondary to no avail. Even when it was apparent by the start of the 2nd quarter that Brees was going to have his way with the passing game, Sheridan stuck with the four man rush. In my view (and granted, I'm no defensive coordinator) it might have been adventageous to send the house a few times and at least get Brees thinking this wasn't going to be a cakewalk. Coughlin said in his postgame press conference, ""I don't know that we ever hit him..."
Revealed today was the fact that Bill Sheridan may not be quite as adept at making the crucial in-game adjustments necessary to give his unit a chance to redeem itself. It's what made former coordinator and current Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo such an essential ingredient in Big Blue's successes over the past three years; the Giants would not have stayed with the same look to start the 2nd half as they did today. They would have blitzed, and blitzed and then blitzed some more. Spagnuolo knew that when something wasn't working one way, it would only have a chance if it was tried another way.
Bill Sheridan needed to pressure the QB today. He needed to recognize that his pass coverage was a 350-lb lineman with greased palms trying to pull himself to the top of a gym rope - and that he needed to make adjustments today. The simple fact is that he didn't. That's fine when you're ahead by 21 points; it's not fine when your down by 21 points.
When the rich go out and work
As bad as things got today, the offense wasn't necessarily part of the problem. Despite fumbling the ball on a blind-side hit and throwing an ill-advised pass under pressure which led to an interception, Eli Manning didn't play poorly. He overthrew a couple of passes in the early goings; Eli was probably hyped up over the magnitude of the game, as well as being home for the first time as a pro (he grew up just 2.5 miles away from the Superdome). He was still a leader on the field, even when things seemed hopeless. He was animated with Ahmad Bradshaw following his interception, urging him on to recognize the blitz from the defensive backfield and get his head in the game.
Manning has taken some flack for now being the highest paid QB in the league, but he's making an honest effort at earning every dollar of it. At one point in the 4th quarter - when the Giants were down 41-20 - Manning took the snap at the Saints 10-yard line, scrambled out of the pocket and rolled back about 15 yards to avoid the rush of defenders. He sprinted across the field to the left and threw across his body on the run - a dart in the end zone to Brandon Jacobs, who he somehow found nestled amongst a crowd of blue and white jerseys. Had the score not been nullified by a holding call, it would have pulled them within two touchdowns with over 12 minutes remaining.
Oh, how I want to be in that number
For a team that has been used to landing on the good side of stats and numbers, the Giants were slapped in the face and given a dose of their own serum today. The Saints bested them in time of possesion by almost 13 minutes and won every offensive category in terms of total yards, number of offensive plays, and rushing & passing yardage.
When the scales tip so violently in the oppositions favor so quickly, the 'expected' flies out the window. The Giants could have made this more of a game today but they ran into a better, more prepared team. It's that simple.
The Giants could possibly meet up with New Orleans again in the postseason; as I said at the top of this article, "...no matter which team wins, you can be sure the one that loses will be heard from come the playoffs." This does no more to hurt the Giants chances at taking the NFC East title than a loss to any other team, because we all knew they weren't going undefeated. What it does is give them a golden opportunity to experience the harsh reality of what they're capable of at this point in time when facing an elite opponent. I'm sure that Coughlin, the players and the rest of the coaching staff will not sleep well tonight if at all. "Harsh" is the preferct word to describe their current reality.
Manning was quoted after the game as saying, "It's not the way I imagined it all week, but if you play football long enough you encounter all sorts of games and situations. I look at it as a loss. We need to go back to work this week, fix some things and try to improve."
To quote the end of my previous blog entry - where I took the liberty of rewriting George Orwell's Animal Farm to suit my personal needs - "All losses are equal, but some losses are more equal than others". This loss is very equal. They are capable of turning this around and grabbing a few more W's before reaching the bye week, but they are going to need to make adjustements - first a foremost with their secondary and overall defensive game planning.
They have to. "Legitimacy" is on the line.