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After Further Review: Five takes from Saints loss to Giants

NFL New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Ceasar Superdome
NFL New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Ceasar Superdome(Lucas Barrios | Lucas Barrios)
Published: Oct. 3, 2021 at 9:20 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take One: Saints don’t close

At the 9:24 mark of the fourth quarter, the Saints led 21-10 and possessed the ball. At that point, they had just forced a Giants punt and had all the momentum. It looked like their third victory of the season was inevitable. A few first downs and the game would have been done.

Instead, they sputtered.

They went three & out and were forced to punt the ball back to the Giants. On the very next play, Daniel Jones connected with Saquan Barkley down the sideline for a 54-yard score. The two-point conversion cut the Saints lead to three.

On the ensuing drive, the Saints inexplicably let the play clock run down and were flagged for delay of game, turning a 2nd & 9 into a 2nd & 14. Two plays later, they had to punt the ball back to the Giants.

Jones then methodically moved the ball on the vaunted Saints defense to set up the game-tying field goal.

Jones did it again in overtime. The drive ended in a Barkley touchdown run, and ended the football game.

Overall, it may not qualify as a complete collapse, but Sean Payton knows his team has to close out games. They had every opportunity to do so Sunday, and couldn’t deliver.

That’s why the Saints are 2-2.

Take Two: Questionable decisions

Situationally, there were some questionable decisions made in the game.

In the first quarter, the Saints were marching. On the tenth play of the drive, within field goal range, the Saints faced a 4th & 3 at the Giants’ 29-yard line. After an initial alignment, Jameis Winston called a timeout. Instead of going for three and getting on the board, Payton chose to go for it. Alvin Kamara’s run came up just short ending the 5:40 drive with no points.

In the second quarter, the Saints faced another 4th & 3 at the Giants 40. It’s a tricky part of the field with a long field goal, a shorter punt, or going for it being all viable options. Payton decided to try the 58-yard field goal with Aldrick Rosas, who missed the kick. On the very next play, Jones went deep to John Ross for the first score of the game. Payton said after the game that he regretted not punting the ball there.

Midway through the third quarter on a 2nd & 2, with the Saints up 14-10, Barkley ran for two yards to move the sticks. Payton thought Barkley was short and challenged the spot. The ruling was confirmed, and the Saints lost a valuable timeout. Given how far back the Giants were in their own territory, and that is what second down, not third down, it seemed like an unusually high-risk play for Payton with very little reward. At best, they win the challenge and the ball gets moved back a few feet, but the Giants would have still had a very manageable 3rd & inches.

All in all, Payton wasn’t as sharp as he normally is with in-game situations Sunday.

Take Three: Better than their record

The biggest thing that jumped out on tape to me after watching the Giants while prepping for this game, was how much better they were than their winless record.

That team should have been 2-1, instead of 0-3 heading into Sunday. New York has some serious talent on their roster.

It showed up against the Saints. Despite missing two of their top wide receivers, and a starting offensive lineman, the Giants were up for the challenge. They came back to beat the Saints in an environment that’s not easy for visitors to play in.

Take Four: Defensive struggles with explosive plays

Of all the things that transpired Sunday, the one thing that was least expected was Jones shredding the Saints defense for big play after big play. In all, the Giants had seven plays of over 20 yards.

Jones finished 28/40 for 402 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He was the best player on the field. His ability to consistently connect on explosive plays is what kept his team in the game and allowed them to win it late.

The Saints had clear coverage busts on Barkley’s touchdown catch and the Golladay catch that set up the game-winning touchdown.

On the final drive of regulation, Paulson Adebo and Malcolm Jenkins had both missed a tackle that turned a 10-yard gain into a 28-yard gain and set up the game-tying field goal.

This defense has been touted as the best of the Payton era. Against the Giants, they did not live up to that reputation.

Take Five: Other Observations

• Jameis Winston had his best day throwing the football. He finished 17/23 for 226 yards and a touchdown. Winston was accurate and decisive most of the day. At one point, Winston connected on 11 straight passes. In saying that, there is a legitimate debate about where the trust factor is between he and Payton. When the Saints took over at the 9:24 mark of the fourth quarter, Winston only threw three more passes the rest of the game. On 3rd & 14, after the Giants cut the lead to 21-18, Payton called a swing pass behind the line of scrimmage to Harris, instead of pushing the ball down the field and try to get a first down and win the game. Through four games, it feels like this pair is still figuring each other out.

  • Barkley won the game for the Giants, but nearly lost it with a fumble in overtime. Somehow, the Giants managed to recover the ball.
  • Where was the Saints pass rush Sunday?
  • I counted five broken tackles on Taysom Hill’s first touchdown run. It was an incredible individual effort on that play.
  • Hill’s interception was a bad play and bad call. First, he was late on the throw. Second, he threw a jump ball to the shortest player on the field. Third, it should have been Winston making that pass, not Hill. On the play before, Winston hit Kenny Stills for a touchdown, but it got called back due to a Adam Trautman holding penalty. At that point in the game, he was in rhythm.
  • Speaking of Trautman, he’s struggling right now. There were big expectations for him this season. Thus far, Trautman has not met them.
  • The Who Dat nation brought the energy Sunday. It was good to have them back.

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