Sean Payton/Drew BreesI'm not sure which guy to credit, and they probably both deserve it, but the Saints had the absolute perfect game plan for the Giants. CC Brown had proved himself a liability in coverage, and they used their spread offense perfectly to abuse both Brown and nickel back Kevin Dockery all day. They created match up nightmares in the LB corps against Jeremy Shockey and Lance Moore, while isolating Aaron Rouse and CC Brown on big receivers on deep routes. The Giants don't have a lot of weaknesses, but the Saints offense used their bye-week perfectly, and absolutely killed us in our Achilles heel.
New Orleans' Offensive Line
Granted, they frequently used a 6th offensive lineman and ran play-action out of that running formation, but they protected Drew Brees perfectly. This goes into the game-planning mentioned above, but that max-protect into the spread style worked great against the Giants' vaunted pass rush. I doubt Brees even had to wash his jersey after this game, as New York barely laid a finger on him. Part of this falls on Bill Sheridan, who I'll address in the Lowlights, but I have to credit the Saints O-line for a job well done.
New Orleans' new Defensive Coordinator has always been good, but he was absolutely on fire yesterday. As soon as the Saints were playing with the lead, he brought pressure from everywhere, as the Giants were forced to throw (which partially falls on Kevin Gilbride, who I'll address in the Lowlights) constantly. Williams used his personnel to perfection, confusing the Giants' protections and simply outplaying New York's offense. Again, they were helped by the Giants' shoddy game plan, but I have to credit a job well done.
Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw
Despite an otherwise putrid performance by pretty much the entire team, hidden in this awful loss was the fact that the Giants actually ran the ball pretty well. Jacobs (4.7 YPC) and Bradshaw (4.8 YPC) were actually fairly effective against the Saints defense. They don't play defense, though, and it's not their fault the Giants gave up on the run game from their first offensive snap.
Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride
Gilbride obviously forgot how to game plan for an offensive juggernaut in the last 1.5 years since taking down the '07 Patriots. Everyone on Earth knew the plan for the Saints should have been "Control the clock, control the tempo, run early and often to keep Drew Brees off the field." So on the Giants first possession, they throw the ball the first 3 snaps, break off a great 7 yard run on second down, then throw deep on 3rd and 3. I've been on Gilbride since before he got the OC job, and I still hate him. He game plans like crap, goes for the deep ball at horrible times, and gives up on the run way too easily. He obviously got spooked by the Saints ability to score, and got baited into an ill-fated shootout. He should have shown more faith in his runners, who played well, and stuck with playing NYG football. 17 called runs to 36 called passes, even in a blowout, is not how this team will win games going forward.
Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan
I'll admit, even I was drinking Sheridan's Kool-Aid after some dominant defensive performances, and had failed to notice the lack of blitzing and extra pressure he promised to increase this offseason. Against a Saints team you knew was going to come out slinging it, Sheridan insisted on only rushing his front 4 most of the game. My brother made the perfect observation at half-time, noting that "they may as well blitz the linebackers, because they're not helping at all in coverage." And he's absolutely right. While we couldn't afford to blitz safeties (though the way CC Brown played, he may as well have not been in coverage), the linebackers should have been used more to blitz the A-gaps (between center and guard). Umenyiora and Tuck were getting up field well, but the lack of push up the middle let Brees get very comfortable in the pocket. A few LB blitzes up the gut may have slowed them down a little, and like my brother said, it's not like they were covering anybody. Sheridan needed to take more chances in this game, and seemed to scare himself into dangerously conservative play-calling, something Spags never would have allowed.
Safety CC Brown
To put it mildly, Brown got beat like a drum on Sunday. It seems like every big catch or touchdown, you saw CC Brown waving harmlessly at a ball that landed squarely in a receivers hands. That, or he was making up ground a couple seconds to late to make tackles on underneath routes he should have seen coming a mile away. I don't think anyone expected this big a drop off in coverage ability from the Safety position after Kenny Phillips went out for the year. The Giants can't live with that kind of performance, as you know every big offensive team the Giants play the rest of the year (and there are a lot) took note of that match up problem. More to come in the Notes.
I know he's still getting back to form after last year's knee surgery, but he was playing a backup left tackle on Sunday. Osi got credit for 3 total tackles, but he needs to destroy Jermon Bushrod in that game, and was turned into a non-factor in the pass rush. I don't know if he's still thinking about his injury, or if he's still rounding into shape, but he needs to step up in a big way if this team is going anywhere in the post-season.
First, I need to start with something that's been bugging me for a few weeks, and that is how badly the Giants have botched their response to Aaron Ross' hamstring injury. When he re-injured it, and apparently pretty badly, at the end of training camp, he should have immediately gone on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list, which would sideline him for 6 weeks, and more importantly open up A ROSTER SPOT for a mid-level veteran CB who could have helped them tremendously. Rod Hood was available until about a week ago, and there are any number of decent-but-not-great vets to be had. They would only need to lease one for the 6 weeks Ross was on PUP, and our secondary wouldn't have been as badly exposed against the Saints. I don't care how deep a team is, what quality their backups, being down a starting corner against a great passing team will always hurt you.
Second, the Safety position clearly needs to be addressed. With games against Arizona, Philly, San Diego, Minnesota, and other quality passing teams, we can't stand pat with CC Brown covering deep on the field. Either Michael Johnson, who is athletic enough to cover a bit, needs to move into coverage and Brown goes into the box, or the Giants need to swing a trade before tomorrow's deadline. My proposal, which is an easy one, is this:
CC Brown and a 4th round pick to the Rams for OJ Atogwe. This is beautiful for a few reasons. First, Atogwe is a very good coverage Safety, and Brown clearly isn't. Second, he's the Rams' Franchise player, so he's only under contract through the end of the year. If Kenny Phillips looks like he'll be back next year without problems, the Giants can let OJ walk at the end of the year, and heck, the Rams could re-sign him if they want. If he plays well, they can keep him as insurance in case Phillips is slow in his recovery. Besides, the Rams stink this year, and they would probably be happy to unload a guy they're likely to lose anyway in exchange for a pick or two and a player. It also helps that the Rams coach is Steve Spagnuolo, who might not object to doing business with the team that got him is current job.
Whether it's Atogwe, a free agent, or my grandmother, the Giants need to address the lack of coverage ability in their Safeties. If Johnson is the only one who can do it, then he needs to be that guy. They can't go the rest of the year hoping that CC Brown and Aaron Rouse learn to do something neither one has ever been particularly good at.
Let me know what you think!