Giants quarterback Eli Manning fumbles the ball against the Saints late in the fourth quarter on Sept. 30, 2018, at MetLife Stadium.

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Keidel: Giants Offense's Failures Vs. Saints' Leaky Defense Speak Volumes

Big Blue 'O' Can't Get Into Gear In 33-18 Loss

Jason Keidel
October 01, 2018 - 11:56 am
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Every NFL club is concerned when they face Drew Brees and the pyrotechnic offense of the New Orleans Saints. 

Very few are trembling at the sight of their defense, which had hemhoraged 109 points in three games before they entered the Meadowlands on Sunday. 

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Yet the New York Giants played a plodding, sleepy brand of offense for most of their 33-18 loss to the Saints at MetLife Stadium. It was the kind of game the Giants needed to win, for the dual purposes of improving their place in the standings and sending a message that they are a contending football team. 

The Giants had 60 yards on their opening drive, which ended with a touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Sterling Shepard. Then they stumbled for just 38 yards the rest of the half. They stopped the Saints on their first two drives. Then a gritty fake punt call by Saints coach Sean Payton seemed to deflate the Giants and inflate New Orleans, one play flipping the momentum for the rest of the game. 

But more than momentum, more than clever calls, the Giants never played with any rhythm or precision, particularly on offense, which is where they were supposed to have taken a quantum leap over last season. Armed with heralded rookie running back Saquon Barkley, a fully healed Odell Beckham Jr. and a retooled offensive line, Big Blue was expected to make big strides in 2018.

Manning (31-of-41 for 255 yards with a TD and no interceptions) was statistically tidy. Barkley is one of just a handful of running backs to gain 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first four career games. And Shepard is proving to be more than a second-tier player who picks up the scraps Beckham leaves behind. 

LISTEN: Boomer & Gio React To Giants' Loss

No doubt the Giants are better equipped this year than last. But after four games they have one win and -- you guessed it -- are on pace for a 4-12 season.

If you wonder why I'm not scolding the defense, it's because the G-Men actually played a pretty stout game against the nuclear New Orleans offense. They held Brees to just 217 passing yards on 18 completions. They stifled all-world wideout Michael Thomas to 47 yards on four catches. On four consecutive drives into the red zone, the Giants held the Saints to four field goals. So after three quarters the Saints had just 19 points. 

And after a rare, quick strike into the end zone, the Giants sliced the lead to 26-18 with more than enough time to make one last run to tie the game. But after 58 minutes of keeping the Saints in relative check, and sans the services of linebacker Olivier Vernon, they could not thwart the Saints' offense for one more drive. 

And if you wonder why this slice of cyberspace was against drafting Barkley, all you had to do was look across the line of scrimmage, where third-round pick Alvin Kamara is erupting every week. With Le'Veon Bell toiling in his self-made purgatory, Kamara (18 rushes, 134 yards, three TDs) is blossoming into the best halfback in the NFL.  

The NFL just hired a gaggle of head coaches with high-grade offense pumping through their veins. Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan were the twin faces of the new movement, leading the league to mine the next mind that can baffle NFL defenses. (Even Bears head man Matt Nagy made Mitchell Trubisky look like John Unitas on Sunday.) The G-Men jumped in, poaching Pat Shurmur from the Vikings. But as WFAN's Boomer Esiason asserted all Monday morning, Big Blue is playing with no emotion. The head coach doesn't just make the calls, he also sets the cadence of the team.

Perhaps the most damning dissection of the Giants came from the broadcast booth. Tony Romo, who knows something about NFL offenses, said that the Giants, while improved on the offensive line, still need to "shore things up" and still isn't confident or competent enough to let Manning take a seven-step drop into a safe pocket.  

So after months of OTAs and training camp and preseason games, the Giants still can't block like an NFL offensive line is supposed to, at the most rudimentary level. And the club that won two Super Bowls under Tom Coughlin still hasn't scored 30 points since they parted ways with him after the 2015 season. Ben McAdoo was fired for a slow start and an unimaginative game plan and a flatlined locker room. 

Feels familiar. Like a 1-3 football club after four games. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel​.