To recap, quarterback Eli Manning tossed a career-high six touchdown passes, three caught by receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and two by receiver Dwayne Harris, the latter of whom made both of his catches after being carted off the field in the first half with a sprained knee and ankle.
Even the defense contributed toward the end—just a smidge—as cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie hit Saints receiver Willie Snead to jar the ball loose for cornerback Trumaine McBride's pick-six.
When it was all said and done, the Giants had 416 yards on offense and 49 points, but it just wasn’t enough to beat the Saints, who won the game on kicker Kai Forbath’s 50-yard field goal inside the dome's pristine conditions.
There was some good, a lot of bad and a lot of ugly in this week’s 52-49 loss. As upsetting as it might be, let’s break it all down.
Quarterback Eli Manning
Eli Manning continues to show why he was worth his $84 million contract extension. Doing everything he could to give his team the edge, he set a career-high six touchdown passes and completed 77.5 percent of his pass attempts for 350 yards.
His best play might have come on the Giants’ last score of the game, a 20-yard touchdown pass to receiver Dwayne Harris. Manning, not known for his mobility, avoided a pass rush and somehow found Harris in the end zone for the game-tying score at the time.
With his performance, Manning should be a clear winner for NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors, but because Saints quarterback Drew Brees surpassed him by one touchdown and a couple hundred passing yards—plus he got the win—Manning’s career day will merely be an afterthought.
Running Back Orleans Darkwa
It’s really a shame running back Orleans Darkwa had to leave the game with a back injury, because once again, he outplayed the three guys ahead of him on the depth chart. The team provided an official injury-update report:
Darkwa, who missed the game's second half, rushed for 23 yards on four carries, while Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and Shane Vereen combined for nine yards on seven carries.
If Darkwa’s injury isn’t long term, he needs to get more touches. This insistence on spreading the snaps around to four running backs isn’t working. If the coaches are truly committed to going with the hot hand, then this needs to stop, and Darkwa needs to get more touches until such time when he shows he can’t get it done any more.
Receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Despite getting a lot of attention, Odell Beckham Jr. caught eight of nine pass targets for 130 yards and three touchdowns in front of his home crowd.
Imagine what this young man could do if a consistent, second receiver actually steps up on this team to draw some of the double and, at times, triple coverage he faces away from him.
Special teams giveth, and special teams taketh away.
A week after being the heroes against Dallas, a critical facemask call on punter Brad Wing was all the Saints needed to get into field-goal position in order to win the game in the final seconds.
You can blame Wing if you want for having not only committed the penalty but also for not sending the ball outside the numbers, but the fact remains, if the Giants do a better job getting off blocks, maybe Wing doesn’t get put into that position to make the play to begin with.
By the way, for an explanation of why the penalty was the right call and why after referee Craig Wrolstad changed his mind regarding whether there was a foul, Fox Sports’ Mike Pereira broke it down.
Receiver Rueben Randle
Receiver Rueben Randle’s performance is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re going to get from him, and his inconsistency in stepping up is a problem.
This week Randle’s biggest shortcoming was on that final drive when a first-down pass was slightly overthrown.
Although it did look as though the defender hooked Randle’s left arm a bit by the defender, you can’t help but wonder what might have happened if he had dove for the ball.
If he makes that catch, then maybe, just maybe, it’s a different outcome. We’ll never know, but one thing is for sure: Randle’s five catches (out of nine pass targets) for 55 yards just wasn’t good enough for a team that desperately needs a second receiver to step up and take some of the heat off Beckham.
The Pass Defense
Two things stuck out like sore thumbs regarding the play of the Giants’ pass defense.
The first is in the defensive front. By now, it’s pretty evident that the Giants aren’t going to be atop of the NFL in sacks or quarterback pressures.
While they can point to how quickly quarterback Drew Brees got rid of the ball, why the defensive front didn’t at least get their hands up in an attempt to block Brees’ vision, particularly on passes thrown to the middle of the field, remains a mystery.
The second thing was the number of deep pass plays of 20 or more yards—seven—that the Giants allowed.
Of those seven, three went for 30 yards or more, and five were touchdown passes in what was simply an unacceptable showing.
“He made plays, but most of those touchdowns and most of those big plays were our fault,” said cornerback Trumaine McBride. “We had a lot of communication issues which we can’t have.”
Lovely, right? New Jersey Advanced Media's Jordan Raanan used stats to illustrate just "how bad" the Giants defense was:
The Game Management
Head coach Tom Coughlin made a couple of curious decisions that had spectators scratching their heads.
The first came in the third quarter on a 4th-and-3 with the Giants down 35-28 and at the Saints’ 47. Instead of going for it, Coughlin opted to punt, with the ball going for a touchback.
Why not, in that situation, try to draw a defensive penalty—Saints cornerback Brandon Browner, who had three penalties called against him, seemed like another-penalty-waiting-to-happen. Or why not try to draw the Saints, who finished with 12 penalties in this game, offside with a hard count, or maybe even hope that on a deep-pass attempt to Beckham, maybe someone interferes with him?
Coughlin and the Giants took the safe route by punting, and of course Brees and the Saints would score on that next possession, providing that it didn’t matter if they were pinned at their 1-yard line or given the ball at midfield—the Giants defense wasn’t going to stop them.
The second head-scratcher came at the end when Coughlin saved his timeouts instead slowing down the Saints offense. To recap, New Orleans got the ball with 7:11 left in the game and chewed up 6:35 off the clock, leaving the Giants with 36 seconds.
The Giants could have easily stopped the clock on the ensuing possession by throwing short passes to the sidelines, but instead the Giants ran two of their three plays to the middle of the field in what was simply poor clock management.
Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced.
Follow me on Twitter, @Patricia_Traina.