Going into this game, I was using this as a gauge of where we stand in the NFC. A win meant we are the at the head of the class, a close loss meant we can hang with anyone and just needed a few breaks to go our way, and a bad loss meant we have some work to do. Well after watching the first three quarters (I couldn't bear it anymore after that), I had to change my opinion. Although this loss looks bad on paper, it actually wasn't as bad as the score indicates. A few observations on plays that could have turned this game around for us.
1) On the first drive for the Saints, Corey Webster has a sure pick go in and out of his hands that could have at least taken the crowd out of the game initially and set the tone for the game. Instead it comes out of his hands and into Lance Moore's for a first down (it was third down at the time) and the drive resulted in a touchdown.
2) On the 2nd drive for the Giants, a wide open Steve Smith is overthrown by Eli for a sure touchdown. We hit that and again we are looking at building momentum and putting more than three on the board.
3) The officiating was terrible. This ends up being several situations, so they get their own category with it's own numbering
a) The kicker for the Saints, Morestead grabs at Hixon's shoulder to tackle him and pulls him down by the jersey. Great play...saved a touchdown. On our kickoff coverage, a linebacker takes a guy down the same way and there is a 15 yard horsecollar penalty (I was calling it horse$h1t, but whatever)
b) Later on that same drive, Corey Webster and Marques Colston feet get tangled and Webster is called for pass interference, but on the other side Roman Harper (#41) doesn't turn around on a play where either Manningham or Nicks was underthrown (third quarter), runs into the receiver before the ball gets there and no call is made.
c) The pick call on Hixon who was running a fly pattern and the defensive back (not sure who) ran into his path. Smith wasn't running an out where a pick would have been helpful...he ran an in. Now that play was an incomplete, but without the pick, illegal contact could have been called
d) When Eli fumbled and I think Scott Shanle (#55) picked it up and was tackled and he refumbled it but it was overruled, the ball clearly started to come out BEFORE his knee hit the ground. Boss recovered in the endzone and it would have been a touchback. Then we are in the locker room at worst at 27-17.
e) The phantom holding call on O'Hara that negated a touchdown to Brandon Jacobs. They only rushed three and I was watching everyone on the replay and NO ONE held anyone. I know when a play goes on like that, there is a good chance of that happening, but this was NOT the case.
Now I know Saints fans will argue that the pick Eli threw to Sharper was negated by a roughing the passer call, but that call was legit. I forget who hit him, but when they hit the quarterback and start raising their hands in the air like they didn't do anything, they usually have. On all my above questionable calls, the announcers (Troy Aikman usually hates the Giants) even said that they were calls that they disagreed with. It doesn't take away from the fact that Eli made a bad throw and Sharper made the play that he always makes against Eli, but the defender's roughing the passer negated what should have been a pick six.
4) Bradshaw picks up that block like he's supposed to and Eli has time to make a good throw - no interception.
5) We started throwing the ball deep way too early. In the second and third quarter we had at least 4 third and less than 5 that we went for it all. Get the first and try that play on first down or second and short. I think Gilbride might have given up on our gameplan too soon.
All in all, I took away a lot of positives:
1) The defense really stepped up in the second half and made the adjustments they needed to (how many of you were as relieved as I was to see them stop the Saints on their first drive of the second half). The offense didn't play as well in the second half as they did in the first and the defense got tired.
2) We moved the ball well when we weren't throwing deep and taking what the defense gave us. Eli was connecting on the short routes and the speed of the DBs for the Saints kept them from completing those deep passes.
3) This was only one game and if I remember correctly, how you do against an opponent in the regular season has NO bearing on the playoffs (see the Giants Super Bowl run of '07 beating Dallas, Green Bay, AND New England who all beat the Giants in the regular season...Dallas twice). We need to go 2-1 in the next three to continue our command of the NFC East.
Just for clarification, I am in NO WAY saying that the refs cost us the game, but I AM saying that certain things play out differently and we could have been right in it to the end, so although it looks like a blowout on paper, each teams play was much closer than anyone on SportsCenter will realize or talk about.