Let's review Sunday's pinball game between the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints, a 52-49 Giants' loss, in our traditional "Kudos & Wet Willies" style.
Kudos to ...
Eli Manning -- How in the world do you have the kind of career game that Manning did on Sunday and lose? That's unbelievable. A career-high six touchdown passes, twice rallying his team from 14-point deficits. Manning completed 30-of-41 passes for 350 yards, no interceptions and a passer rating of 138.2. Manning was brilliant, maybe as good as he has ever been in a regular-season game. Yet, the Giants lost.
Odell Beckham -- Eight receptions in nine targets, 130 yards, three touchdowns. Beckham beat the Saints for a 50-yard score, had a pair of 2-yard touchdown receptions and a 38-yard catch-and-run. What was different this week? Beckham, for the first time in the past few weeks, actually got to practice in the days before the game. It showed.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- Rodgers-Cromartie was the only truly praise-worthy defender on the field for the Giants. He made a key third-quarter interception on perhaps the only bad ball Saints' QB Drew Brees threw the entire game. He also forced a fumble with a big hit on Willie Snead that Trumaine McBride turned into a 63-yard touchdown run.
Robert Ayers -- A quarterback hit, four hurries and a +$.6 Pro Football Focus grade. Ayers never got to Brees for a sack, but he was the only Giant who created anything resembling pressure.
Rashad Jennings -- Only two carries for three yards in teh first, but eight carries for 51 yards to go with two pass receptions for 31 more in the second half. Orleans Darkwa didn't play in the second half after injuring his back, and the veteran Jennings ran better than he has all season.
Wet Willies to ...
The defense as a whole -- You can find an individual play here and there, like the pressures from Robert Ayers and the fourth-quarter tackle of Marques Colston by Jayron Hosley that kept Colston a yard shy of a first down, but this was an embarrassingly inept effort by the Giants' defense.
No pressure on Brees. Saints' receivers running WIDE open all day with confused Giants' defenders chasing helplessly. Very little in the way of run defense. Why, by the way, did the Saints ever bother to run the ball? They had no need to. The Giants had no chance to stop Brees when he threw the ball.
The Saints totaled 614 yards of offense. The only time a Giants' defense has given up more than that came way back in 1943, during a game in which Sid Luckman of the Chicago Bears threw seven touchdown passes. Brees passed for 511 yards, the most ever allowed by a Giants' defense.
Brees threw 50 passes and was never sacked. That's the most passes an opposing quarterback has thrown against the Giants without being sacked since Joe Montana threw 52 passes for the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 1, 1986. The Giants only managed to hit Brees three times, four if you count the roughing the passer penalty on Damontre Moore. The penalty, incidentally, was Moore's only stat in 14 snaps.
Safeties Landon Collins and Brandon Meriweather were awful. Without watching the film and getting some help from someone more knowledgeable about defensive schemes and individual player responsibilities than I am it's impossible to know who was at fault on each play. When receivers are running uncovered down the middle of the field constantly or getting behind everyone as often as New Orleans' receivers did on Sunday, you know the safeties for the Giants were awful.
At corner, Hosley and Trevin Wade played like what they are. That would be backup players you would really rather not have on the field for extended snaps. Unfortunately for the Giants, they are playing extended snaps. Wade and Hosley were targeted 11 times and allowed 11 completions for 216 yards and four touchdowns.
Without Jon Beason and J.T. Thomas III, the Giants' linebackers were ineffective. Maybe some of the confusion on defense was due to Jasper Brinkley (22 snaps) seeing real action at middle linebacker for the first time. Aside from a couple of plays from Jonathan Casillas, Giants' linebackers couldn't cover anyone in the middle of the field, and couldn't get anywhere near Brees when Steve Spagnuolo sent them on occasional blitzes.
Brees did precisely what you had to fear a quarterback of his caliber would do to the Giants. He exposed them as defenseless.
Damontre Moore -- Another game, another penalty. That's 17 in 38 career NFL games. This one was another roughing the passer call. There's just no excuse, no defending him.
The last punt -- Should the Giants have just asked Brad Wing to punt the ball out of bounds, making sure New Orleans had no chance at a return? Maybe. Probably. I don't know. Wing had been kicking rockets all day with punts of 62 and 57 yards. He hit this punt a solid 46 yards hit it outside the numbers. The Giants have been rock solid in punt coverage all season and should have been able to cover this one. For whatever reason, though, there was a Mack-truck sized hole right up the middle of the field. Veteran players who should know better, Craig Dahl and Zak DeOssie, are the first two Giants down field but are both out of control. Dahl runs right by Saints' returner Marcus Murphy. DeOssie also misses the tackle. Disaster ensues.
Blame Tom Coughlin. Blame Tom Quinn. Blame Wing, if you want. The punt was good enough and, as Coughlin indicated, should have been covered. Two players who have made a career on special teams were there to make the play and didn't make it. So, Giants lose. I have one question. Why was Dwayne Harris, the team's best gunner, on the sideline watching on this play rather than in the game. Gunner Geremy Davis got double-teamed and taken out of the play. Could Harris have beaten that double team and made a play? I know Harris was dealing with ankle and knee sprains, but he played offense and returned punts. Don't know why he was off the field on that critical play.
Kwillies to ...
Brad Wing -- Two great punts of 62 and 57 yards, the 62-yarder being downed inside the Saints' 5-yard line. A poor punt from the Saints' 47 that ended up as a touchback. Then, whatever happened on the final punt. Maybe Wing should have taken it on his own to knock the punt out of bounds. I'm not going to kill the guy for the face mask penalty. Put a punter in position to have to make a tackle and you are asking for trouble. Trouble is what happened.
Dwayne Harris -- You have to love the toughness and return ability Harris brings to the Giants. He averaged 29 yards on three kickoff returns. He played the second half despite knee and ankle sprains and caught two touchdown passes. He gets a "Kwillie," though for not reeling in what looked like a catchable ball that would have given the Giants a first down with 20 seconds left. Instead, they punted. Then, they lost.