EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo is becoming fond of talking about finding a path to victory. On Sunday, his 2-0 Giants found a path to victory over the New Orleans Saints that pretty much no one predicted before the game.
The last four times the Giants had met before Sunday, the winning team had scored, 48, 49, 52 and 52 points. New Orleans had won three of those games.
With Drew Brees still quarterbacking the Saints and New Orleans fielding a make-shift secondary due to injuries, including a scary one during the game to P.J. Williams, a high-scoring game again seemed to be in the cards.
Only the game didn’t turn out that way.
A Giants’ offense that piled up 417 total yards (368 passing by Eli Manning) spent most of the game getting in its own way when it was in position to score.
- The Giants had three first-half fumbles, one each by Victor Cruz, Manning and Shane Vereen. The Cruz fumble, after a 40-yard catch-and-run, gave the ball to New Orleans at the Saints’ 16-yard line. The Vereen fumble ended a drive inside the Saints’ 40. The Manning fumble, gave New Orleans the ball at the Giants’ 25-yard line.
- The Giants failed on a fourth-and-goal at the Saints’ 3-yard line in the first quarter. Odell Beckham had his hands on a Manning pass in the back of the end zone but couldn’t reel it in.
- Josh Brown missed a 53-yard field goal in the second quarter.
- In the third quarter, the Giants reached the New Orleans 20-yard line following a 32-yard pass from Manning to Sterling Shepard. Holding penalties on right tackle Marshall Newhouse and left tackle Ereck Flowers pushed the Giants back to the 40-yard line, and they ended up settling for a 48-yard Brown field goal.
- Early in the fourth quarter, the Giants could only get a field goal after getting a first-and-goal from the one-yard line.
The Giants defense, though, kept coming up big.
Again and again, the Giants’ defense turned back Brees and the Saints. The longest drive of the day for New Orleans was an 11-play, 59-yard drive that ended in a 38-yard field goal by Will Lutz.
Brilliant work in the secondary by Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple was part of the reason. Tremendous work around the line of scrimmage by Landon Collins (6 tackles, one sack) was part of the reason. A creative Steve Spagnuolo game plan that led to a pair of sacks of Brees by members of the secondary (Collins, Leon Hall) was part of the reason.
The biggest defensive stand of the game for the defense came after a Manning fumble set New Orleans up at the Giants’ 25 with 9:19 left in the half and the score still 0-0. That incidentally, was the first time since the first quarter of a 2011 meeting (three games ago) that the Saints and Giants had played a scoreless quarter.
The defense didn’t give up anything, though. After a Saints penalty and three unsuccessful plays, the Saints lined up for a 48-yard field goal.
Special teams then came up big.
Lutz’ kick appeared to be low, and Johnathan Hankins reached up and swatted it down with his left hand. Jenkins, coming hard off the right edge, scooped the ball up and raced 65 yards for the Giants’ only touchdown of the day.
“I just heard the hand hit the ball and I just went looking for the ball and it was a perfect bounce and I just scooped and scored,” Jenkins said. ”We thought we could get one because the wings open up wide and then turn their backs, so our special teams coach (Tom Quinn) preached all week that we could possibly get a blocked field goal and it happened.”
The offense finally did it part at the end.
After failing for most of the day, the offense had a final chance to deliver with 2:54 left in the game and New Orleans having tied the score, 13-13, on a 47-yard field goal by Lutz.
The Giants had two objectives. Score AND try not to give the ball back to Brees and the Saints. They accomplished both.
“We didn’t want to give Drew the ball back,” McAdoo said. “He is a heck of a player, a future Hall of Famer, and if you can end the game with a kick, you end the game.”
A 9-yard run by Vereen and a 13-yard pass interference call drawn by Beckham on Sterling Moore got the drive started. On third-and-1 from the Saints’ 4-yard line with 2:11 to play, Manning found Shepard (eight catches, 117 yards) for six yards and a first down at the New Orleans 38.
After a deflating drop inside the 5-yard line by Beckham, Cruz made the offensive play of the game. He out-wrestled cornerback Ken Crawley for a deep ball at the 1-yard line. With 1:32 left and the Saints out of timeouts, the Giants were able to use a trio of kneel downs to set up Josh Brown for the 23-yard game winner as time expired.
The Giants are 2-0, and the truth is they have now won two straight games that they probably would have lost in recent seasons. Thus, back to McAdoo and that “path to victory” he likes to talk about.
It doesn’t matter how you win. It just matters that you do win. The Giants’ offense was not good at all on Sunday. Turnovers, Drops. Penalties at bad times. Only 64 rushing yards on 32 carries (2.0 yards per attempt). Lots of negatives, and we would be absolutely destroying the Giants’ offense if they had lost this eminently winnable game. But, they didn’t.
After snatching defeat from the jaws of victory all too often the past few seasons, the Giants will take any “W” they can get, even an imperfect one.
“It’s a lot of fun to be a part of. There’s a lot of people making plays all around. It’s so much fun to watch. It’s so much fun to be out here with all types of play makers. Everyone is making plays. Left, right, defense, special teams. Just making plays when we need them,” Beckham said. “We’re 2-0. Can’t get better than that.”
Yes, they are. For the first time since 2009, in fact. Save the nitpicking — and the talk about Josh Norman and the Washington Redskins — for later, and celebrate that for now.