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Giants vs Saints: Plays that tell the story of Sunday’s 33-18 loss

Which plays had the biggest impact on Sunday’s outcome?

NFL: New Orleans Saints at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

As quickly as a Week 3 win against the Houston Texans gave hope for the New York Giants, a 33-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints took it away. The defense played bend but don’t break for as long as it could and until the bend was too much and the offense looked like it did during the first two weeks of the season. The Giants now sit at 1-3, a record that brings an average of 6.2 wins and a 14 percent chance at the playoffs.

These are the plays that helped change the loss to New Orleans, by Win Probability Added (WPA) and Expected Points Added (EPA). Explainers here (WPA) and here (EPA).

Both WPA and EPA presented from the perspective of the offense.

Fake punt - 6:59, first quarter

EPA: 3.61 | WPA: 11.6 percent

Taysom Hill made his presence felt in this game. He returned the opening kick, he had four carries for 28 yards taking advantage of the Giants’ struggles against the read option, and was at quarterback for one of those option plays on an Alvin Kamara touchdown. His biggest contribution, though, was his pass on a fake punt midway through the first quarter.

The Saints faced fourth-and-2 from their own 33-yard line, a place where most numbers wouldn’t suggest a typical conversion attempt. But with Hill as a backup quarterback/special teams ace, the Saints trusted him to throw a good pass and they picked up the first down. Instead of giving the ball to the Giants, the Saints picked up the first down, kept the drive alive, and eventually scored a field goal.

Beckham behind the line - 11:47, second quarter

EPA: minus-2.12 | WPA: minus-6.91 percent

Throwing short of the sticks has been a recurring theme for the Giants offense and it popped up again against New Orleans. Per Next Gen Stats, only Russell Wilson (minus-5.4) had an average pass travel further behind the first down line than Eli Manning (minus-2.9) in Week 4. That’s a problem, especially on third down.

On this third-and-11, Manning hit Odell Beckham on a crossing route just 2 yards past the line of scrimmage (9 yards behind the first down marker). After a quick bobble, Beckham was immediately met by defenders and he tried to make something happen, but it turned into an eventual 8-yard loss. The Giants were forced to punt.

Gallman’s fumble - 4:45, second quarter

EPA: minus-6.7 | WPA: minus-20.3 percent

The Giants defense had been holding tight when needed. The Saints had two trips to the red zone at this point, but just two field goals to show for it. However, the Giants couldn’t take advantage of those red zone stops and that would come back to bite them on the biggest win probability swing of the game. It was only 7-6 when Manning dumped the ball off to Wayne Gallman on a first-and-10 near midfield. Gallman was immediately hit by P.J. Williams and the ball was knocked out and picked up by Marshon Lattimore, who almost ran it in for a touchdown if not for the effort of Eli Manning.

Lattimore only got to the 11-yard line, but the Saints would eventually kick another field goal for a 9-7 lead — one they would not relinquish for the remainder of the game. A quick three-and-out by the Giants on the following drive was followed by a fourth Saints field goal to make the score 12-7 just before the half.

Demario Davis sack No. 1 - 11:59, third quarter

EPA: minus-2.36 | WPA: minus-8.36 percent

The Giants allowed three sacks on the day — the fewest since Week 1 — but all three had big consequences, including the final strip sack that officially sealed the game. The first sack came early in the third quarter on a second-and-5 from the Giants’ 42.

With the Giants in an empty formation, New Orleans ran a blitz with Demario Davis right up the middle. Center John Greco was not quick enough to pick it up and Davis blew right through the middle to bring Manning down. The sack turned second-and-5 into third-and-14 and an eventual punt.

Kamara’s kickstart - 10:33, third quarter

EPA: 1.68 | WPA: 6 percent

New Orleans broke its field goal streak on the next drive with a touchdown. All of that was set up by a big run by Alvin Kamara on the first play. The Saints ran a toss to the right that Kamara cut up the field and turned into a gain of 18 yards.

The run preceded a few more big plays — a 15-yard pass to Michael Thomas and a 23-yard pass to Ben Watson — and the seven-play, 80-yard drive was capped off with a 9-yard Kamara touchdown run.

Barkley’s big run - 5:53, third quarter

EPA: 2.33 | WPA: 4.79 percent

The Giants attempted their comeback on the next drive — the catalyst of that was Saquon Barkley’s 28-yard run on a first-and-10 from the Giants’ own 23. Barkley took a play that was designed up the middle, bounced it out to the left edge and wasn’t touched by a defender until he was pushed out of bounds. The run got the Giants to midfield, but the drive would eventually stall for a field goal.

This was Barkley’s fourth straight game of at least 100 yards from scrimmage, but there hasn’t been enough around him for any of it to matter. Barkley had positive EPA on his 10 carries (0.63), but he had a 40 percent success rate and minus-1.87 percent WPA on those runs. Barkley is doing his best, but it’s still not helping Giants win games with the other issues on offense.

Demario Davis sack No. 2 - 14:17, fourth quarter

EPA: minus-2.52 | WPA: minus-5.75 percent

Demario Davis’s second sack of the day had a bigger impact than the first. This one came early in the fourth quarter and on a third down. It was third-and-6 on the Giants’ 35. New Orleans ran a delayed stunt around left tackle Nate Solder. Davis initially looked as if he was going to rush up the middle again, but instead bounced outside around Solder, who could not disengage and pass off Alex Okafor quickly enough. Davis made his way into the backfield, took down Manning again, and forced a punt with the Giants trailing by nine.

Conversion to Kamara - 12:41, fourth quarter

EPA: 2.49 | WPA: 6.31 percent

There was a chance at a stop on the next drive. New Orleans faced a third-and-9 from their own 27, but a quick swing pass to Alvin Kamara gained 11 yards and kept the Saints offense on the field. Linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong had a line on Kamara, but he slowed down when he neared the back and the hesitation was just enough for Kamara to speed past him for a first down.

With the drive still alive, the Saints drove down the field and scored on a four-yard Kamara run to bring the score to 26-10.

Deep to Shepard - 4:18, fourth quarter

EPA: 2.49 | WPA: 6.31 percent

The Giants weren’t completely done, though. They answered with a touchdown drive of their own — 10 plays, 75 yards in 3:03. The most impactful play of the drive was a strike to Sterling Shepard on a third-and-9 from the Saints’ 21. It was easily the best throw Manning made all day.

Shepard ran a corner route from the middle of a bunch on the right side of the line with Rhett Ellison and Russell Shepard. The formation allowed Shepard to get a step on cornerback Ken Crawley and Manning placed the ball beautifully over the defender to get Shepard down to the 2-yard line. Barkley would score on a leap over the line one play later.

Kamara clinches it - 2:16, fourth quarter

EPA: 4.88 | WPA: 2.98 percent

With four minutes and three timeouts remaining, the Giants kicked deep to the Saints hoping for a defensive stand to get the ball back. That stand quickly turned into a sit. On a third-and-8, the Saints got a first down by a defensive pass interference penalty charged to Donte Deayon. Then on the sixth play of the drive, Kamara took a handoff right up the middle, thwarted a poor tackle attempt by Curtis Riley, and went 49 yards for a game-clinching touchdown with the final score of 33-18.