An October matchup consisting of two undefeated teams generally leads to an exciting affair. Prior to last Sunday, the New York Giants had won 18 of their last 21 road bouts and boasted a 5-0 record and elite rankings all across the board.
Meanwhile, the Saints were 4-0 and had been similarly dominating throughout the 2009 campaign. Number one offense vs. number one defense, and a variety of stars on each side of the ball to boot. A sure-fire can’t miss game for even a casual football fan.
Only problem was it didn’t work out that way. All that did happen was a 48-27 thrashing that conjured memories of the 45-7 beat down the Giants took from the Saints in the midst of a dreadful 0-8 stretch to close out the 2003 season.
Some say it was over at halftime. I say it was over before it even started.
I’m not going to sit here and make excuses for the Giants, who got manhandled on both sides of the ball. But I will say that the challenges that lay ahead for the Giants this Sunday will prove to bear more about the team than this past weekend.
Through five games, all of which impressive wins, the Giants hadn’t established an identity. It sounds like an oxymoron but it cannot be disputed. On both sides of the ball, no weaknesses had been exposed. And with the injury bug running rampant around this squad, it was no secret that the Giants were from perfect heading into the showdown in the Superdome.
This, coupled with a fresh and motivated Saints team coming off a bye week, proved to be too much for the Giants to overcome. The Saints were a great team who were clearly fired up to reclaim a spot amongst the NFL elite for the first time since 2006.
Conversely, the Giants had proven to be a good team while compiling victories against lower level teams. The only problem was their intensity was on cruise control. And their standards for their opponents were as low as the ratings for The T.O. Show this past summer.
“It was like going from J.V. to varsity the way they were playing offensively," said defensive tackle Barry Cofield of playing the Saints.
While many believed the game in New Orleans would be the revealing test for the Giants, Sunday night’s clash with the Arizona Cardinals will prove to be the team’s first true challenge for Big Blue.
Now that their weaknesses have been exposed, how will they adjust? When the Cowboys running game carved up the Giants in week two, they responded by shutting down the Buccaneer ground game and entire scheme offensively in a 24-0 blowout.
Except that was a step (or two) down in competition. The Cardinals pose similar problems as the Saints, with arguably better players at the skill positions.
And unlike last year, Kurt Warner is getting the ball off rapidly to his playmakers and letting them do the rest. Once again, the Giants defensive line won’t be able to bail out the Giants secondary. It will be up to that depleted unit to shut down one of the league’s most potent passing games.
There are no more excuses if the Giants defense fails to step up. The blueprint to beat Bill Sheridan’s defense has been revealed and the Giants will have the same amount of time to sure up their weaknesses as the Cardinals do to expose them.
By 11:30 Sunday night, we will find out how good this defense really is.