The turnover machine, otherwise known as the New Orleans Saints, showed up at MetLife Stadium Sunday.
The Saints continue to give games away with costly giveaways, so many that Santa Claus would be proud, given the time of the year. They now have 11 turnovers in their last three games. Drew Brees has 10 interceptions in his last three games and leads the league with 18 picks. Speaking of 17, the Giants scored 17 points off Saints turnovers. The Saints have turned it over 11 times in their last three games.
Things did not start well for the Saints. They would not end well, either. This was a true team effort.
How bad were the Saints? This was the first time the Giants scored 50 points in a game in 26 years. They beat Green Bay 55-24 on December 20, 1986.
Field position was pitiful for the Saints. They started from or inside their own 20 seven times in the game. Meanwhile, the Giants started eight possessions in Saints territory, an alarming, amazing statistic. The average starting field position for New York was the New Orleans 49-yard line. Talk about short fields! The average starting field position for New Orleans was their own 19-yard line. Talk about long fields!
David Wilson returned the opening kickoff 58 yards to the New Orleans 44 on opening play of game, a harbinger of things to come for Wilson and for the Saints.
Then, Jabari Greer read a throw from Manning perfectly and simply dropped an interception on what should have been an easy play.
Brees connected with Marques Colston for a big play down the middle for 30 yards, hitting him in stride but Will Hill hit Colston, who fumbled, and Antrel Rolle recovered for the Giants at the New Orleans 45-yard line.
Fortunately, the Saints defense was up to the task. But it did not matter.
The Giants finished drives, scoring touchdowns. The Saints failed to finish drives, kicking field goals. Eli Manning had a season-high four touchdown passes.
The Giants set a franchise record for kickoff return yards. Special teams are about preparation, discipline and remaining in your lanes but they are also largely about attitude, about wanting to fly down the field, break down, absorb contact, do your job and make a play. The Saints clearly lacked discipline and attitude, directly resulting in the loss. The Giants had a franchise record 287 kick return yards, a mind-boggling figure.
The timing was terrible. When the Saints offense played well enough, the special teams were horrible. When the special teams tightened up, the defense failed. When the defense played well enough, both other phases stunk.
The Saints amassed 487 yards of offense--and lost by 25 points.
Here are my first takes on New York's easy 52-27 blowout of the Saints.
**Elbert Mack stepped in front of a poor pass by Eli Manning intended for Jerrel Jernigan in the flat, intercepted it and returned it 73 yards for a touchdown to give the Saints an early lead. It was a very poor decision by Manning. Jernigan was not only covered, he was bracketed, with defenders in front and behind him. It was Mack's second career interception return for a touchdown.
**Rookie David Wilson then returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown to tie the game. The Saints kickoff coverage teams were absolutely horrendous. Both of his big returns were middle returns. The guy was untouched. There was no one near him. And Roger Goodell wants to eliminate kickoffs? He was at this game. I wonder what he thought about the exciting plays the Giants made in the return game? After the Saints pulled within 14-10, Wilson returned the next kickoff 52 yards. Three kickoff returns, 207 yards. Do the math. That is nearly 70 yards per return. That is beyond pathetic. The worst part is that no one came close to touching the guy until tackles were made. He later returned one 20 yards. He would finish with four returns for 247 yards and rushed 13 times for 100 yards and two scores. A star is born, at least for this week.
**The Saints had not lost a fumble on the road heading into this one. That changed quickly. The comedy of errors by New Orleans continued when Jed Collins caught a flat pass, was stripped of the ball by Rolle and Linval Joseph recovered. Collins then compounded his mistakes, committing an obvious hold on Rolle on a big run by Joe Morgan.
**Troy Aikman said during the national telecast on Fox that Mark Ingram reminded him of Emmitt Smith. Wow!
**Martellus Bennett whipped Curtis Lofton on the six-yard touchdown pass from Manning which gave the Giants a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter.
**Brees slightly under threw Henderson on a deep ball that could have been a touchdown--he was open. Cory Webster of St. James and LSU was able to tip it away to prevent the big play. Another missed opportunity.
**Darren Sproles was injured on a punt return late in the first quarter. He came back and ran for 34 yards on a sweep on a play which Jermon Bushrod and Morgan had great blocks.
**Zach Strief went to the locker room midway through the second quarter.
**Patrick Robinson made a nice play on a throw to the end zone by Manning, tipping it away, though he had a shot at the interception.
**The Saints opted to pitch it to Sproles on third-and-1 from the Giants six-yard line. Naturally, seeing Sproles in the backfield, New York did not expect him to run inside. They predictably were waiting on him and stopped him for a one-yard loss, resulting in a field goal which left New Orleans down 14-13.
**Jabari Greer was confused on a 35-yard completion from Manning to Victor Cruz. He jumped the inside receiver first, leaving Cruz to get open deep to set up a Giants score before halftime.
**Domenik Hixon beat Jabari Greer on the six-yard touchdown connection just prior to halftime. Perfect throw, good route.
**New Orleans had 227 yards and just 13 points in the first half. Did not add up. The Saints rushed for 101 yards in the first half to just 13 yards for the Giants. The Saints committed six penalties for 50 yards in the first half. Add that to the two turnovers and the terrible kickoff coverage and you had your eight-point deficit.
**Things got worse immediately to start the second half. Antrel Rolle got a hand on a ball intended for Jimmy Graham and Stevie Brown interecepted it and returned it to the New Orleans 18-yard line. Brees seemed determined to get Graham involved and the tight end was not open on the play. The Giants immediately capitalized, with Wilson scoring on a 6-yard run to make it 28-13.
**Patrick Robinson, who had improved to play well for the last month, reverted to his early season form in this one. Inexplicably, Robinson was running side-by-side with Hakeem Nicks but had no idea that the ball was coming his way. Nicks caught it and had an easy 25-yard touchdown pass.
**The Saints answered quickly as Brees found Morgan for 62 yards which set up a 13-yard touchdown by Sproles, his first touchdown rushing on the season, to make it 35-20 with 7:21 to play in the third quarter. Bushrod had a good block on the play as Sproles had a huge hole on the sprint draw play. It took the Saints just 52 seconds to score.
**When Brees hit Sproles on a 9-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter, it was his first touchdown pass in 91 attempts. He now has nine interceptions and just two touchdown passes since the turning point of the season occurred, a pick-six by Ahmad Brooks of the 49ers to tie the game a couple of weeks ago. Remember that? It seems like a long time ago. The Saints were 5-5 and leading San Francisco at home right before halftime.
**Jernigan then returned a kickoff 60 yards to the New Orleans 25 --and that came on a pooch kick. Thomas Morstead regularly produces touchbacks
**Johnny Patrick was embarrassed by Victor Cruz on the 9-yard touchdown pass to make it 42-27. Patrick tried to play bump-and-run and completely whiffed as Cruz sidestepped him and broke wide open for Manning's fourth touchdown pass of the game. Patrick was in for Mack, who was shaken up earlier. Too easy, much too easy!
**Brees then put the game away with another lousy decision, throwing deep into coverage where Stevie Brown was simply waiting on it and picked it off and returned it 70 yards all the way to the Saints 22-yard line. Many of his interceptions have come when he has tried to go down the field. Many have targeted Jimmy Graham, who attracts perhaps the most attention from opposing defenses. Right after the pick, Brees then appears on a Pepsi commercial. Bad timing! Brees did have five completions of 25 yards or more.
**Wilson then ran a simple toss sweep left and romped untouched, 55 yards for a score. Talk about a coming-out party! This rookie looked like an All-Pro. Of course, the Saints attitude did not appear to be one of extreme resistance, at that point.
**The mistake-prone Saints had 10 penaltikes for 81 yards.
**Kudos to Joe Morgan, who is proving that he can play in the league and is a legitimate deep threat. He had two catches for 106 yards. He is averaging 44.3 yards per catch on seven receptions this season.
**Thoomas Morstead has kicked a ton of touchbacks this year in the midst of a brilliant season. This game was outdoors, a bit cold and rainy. He had none and it cost the Saints dearly.
The Saints had wiped out the Giants 48-27 and 49-24 in their previous two meetings. Not this time. Guess things have changed a bit.
The end result is a 5-8 record. Stick a fork in this team. They are done. Playing for pride the rest of the way now.
And what of the future and Sean Payton? The Saints have had a couple of weeks to negotiate a new deal with him and we have heard nothing. Based on the way the 2012 Saints have performed, his value continues to escalate. Might as well take down the large blown up picture in the indoor practice facility. Clearly, the Saints are not doing their jobs, at least not very well.
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