29 November 2011

Week 12 Rear View: Giants at Saints

To reiterate, every week during the season I'll be posting a summary of the Saints' game, complete with key stats and a "Good, Bad, Ugly" performance review. If you have ideas or feedback, please feel free to submit those to me via blog comment, Twitter, Facebook, email, text, message in a bottle or whatever floats your proverbial boat. 

Also, at four-week intervals, we'll see how the Saints rank league-wide in some important statistical categories. 

Final Score: Saints 49, Giants 24
Record: 8-3
Complete Box Score

Yards Gained: 577
Yards Allowed: 465
Yards/play: 8.4
Yards/play allowed: 6.6

Turnover Differential: +2   [+2, 0], (-3)
First Down Differential: +2   [+31, -29], (+46)
Sack Differential: +1   [+1, 0], (0)
Time of Possession Differential: -3:28   (+30:57)

3rd Down Conversion: 56%, 5/9   (53%, 77/144)
Opponent's 3rd Down Conversion: 45%, 5/11   (36%, 52/145)

2011 Aggregate Point Differential: +110
Average PPG
: 32.9
Opponent's Average PPG: 22.9

* as always, numbers in brackets [x] represent game totals, while numbers in parentheses (y) represent season totals.

The Good
* To date, over the past six seasons in the NFL, there's been no better football player than Drew Brees. On Monday with the nation watching, Brees delivered yet another vintage performance. Since the advent of Monday Night Football in 1970, no player did what Brees did on Monday night: throw for 350 yards and 4 TDs, with a rushing TD to boot.

Another day, another record. Ho hum.  

All night long Brees was at his primetime-best, most notably on a few sequences. First, Brees again showed his peerless mastery of the two-minute offense at the end of the first half. Backed up to his twelve yard line with 1:09 left in the first half, Brees effortlessly guided the Saints 88 yards to a TD in just 34 seconds.

Brees connected with Marques Colston for 50, 13, and 15 yards on the drive and then finished his two-minute masterpiece with a perfectly-executed route to Lance Moore for a ten-yard TD. 

Then midway through the 3rd quarter, Brees doggedly fought off a series of overmatched Giants' defenders before finding Pierre Thomas in the flat for a 15-yard gain. For a player as talented as Brees, that play was a revelatory exclamation of Brees' determination, fortitude, and unwavering desire to win. 

All grit, no quit. A signature Brees moment.  

Brees then emphatically punctuated the drive three plays later with an alert, eye-poppingly deft 8-yard TD run that left Giants' safety Deon Grant hopelessly grasping for air and Brees diving for six. 

If you tuned in last night never having seen Brees play, those two plays combined with the drive at the end of the first half would tell you all you need to know - specifically that Brees' all-encompassing, sublime skill set, his poise and his determination have made him the NFL's most valuable player over these past five-plus seasons. 

* Do the Saints have the best rushing attack in the NFL? While at first glance that question might seem to be hyperbolic and nonsensical, the case can certainly be made.

With an offensive line finally hitting its stride, combined with the deepest and most diverse set of RBs on any team, the Saints rank 4th overall in yards per carry and 8th overall in rush yards per game despite ranking in the bottom-third in rushing attempts per game.

Efficiency at its finest.  

On Monday, the Saints blasted the Giants for 205 yards on 6.8 yards per carry. Pierre Thomas, in particular, again played a fantastic game gaining 63 yards on eight carries (7.9 per) while adding another 47 yards on three catches (15.7 per). 

With Chris Ivory challenging him for playing time, Mark Ingram looked as powerful and explosive as he has all season. While Ingram has been one of the league's better short yardage backs all season long, he finally flashed his big-play ability with an impressive burst down the sideline for a 35-yard TD jaunt. 

That Ingram is both explosive and physical adds an element that positions the Saints' offense to prosper in a variety of environments. With the prospect of playing playoff games on the road in less-than-ideal weather conditions, Ingram's continued growth remains vital to the Saints' postseason chances. 

* The Saints are slowly whittling away their negative turnover margin even though the differential remains in the red. 

In the last two games, both important NFC contests, the Saints have taken the ball away three times while not giving it away once. 

That combined effect as it relates to the Saints' style of play is crucial for victory. As the Saints' highly-efficient offense gains more opportunities to score due to takeaways, the more pressure it places on the opposing offense to keep pace and play a more one-dimensional game, which subsequently benefits the Saints' defense. 

On the flip side, when the Saints' offense protects the ball, it minimizes exposure to the Saints' weaker element - its defense. And though this is obvious, it needs stating. The more the Saints turn the ball over, the more the defense is on the field. The more the defense plays, the more likely they are to be exposed.

Again, I know it's cliche, overstated, and mildly annoying to hear (and write). But when the Saints protect the ball, they are a very difficult team to beat. Here's to hoping that the continued improvement in the turnover differential category remains upwardly mobile for the remainder of the season.   

The Bad
* There really wasn't a whole lot of "bad" on display, but the Saints' defense did get repeatedly chunked by the Giants' offense for 8.3 yards per pass attempt. Eli Manning played an excellent game, abusing the Saints' secondary for most of the night. 

Though a portion of Manning's yardage came while the Saints were sitting back in coverage and protecting the lead, the Saints still egregiously blew a coverage early in the 4th quarter that gave Giants some semblance of hope.

As detailed by the TV broadcast, Roman Harper mindlessly abandoned his coverage assignment and attacked the line of scrimmage on a first down early in the 4th. As a result, when Patrick Robinson "released" Victor Cruz to the next coverage zone, there was no one left to defend Cruz, allowing him to score an uncontested 72-yard TD.

A needless mistake that now looks minor could have been costly as the Giants cut the lead to 35-17 with an entire quarter to play.  

The Ugly
* Penalties? 11 for 104 yards? Holy hell, did the Saints lose their composure? 

First, let me say that the roughing-the-passer penalty on Will Smith in the 2nd quarter was beyond absurd. Just a silly call. 

Second, the "defenseless receiver" unnecessary roughness penalty incurred by Isa Abdul-Quddus (can we all agree to call him "Q" from here on out?) was a clean shoulder-to-shoulder blast, but the refs in today's NFL are going to throw a flag 99% of the time in that situation.

I don't like it and I think the defender has a right to cleanly separate the ball from the WR, but apparently the NFL now thinks otherwise. Adapting to the new norms is paramount, even if the new norms border on ridiculous.   

Additionally, Tracy Porter incurred a mind-bogglingly stupid personal foul by tackling Hakeem Nicks five yards out bounds. And Roman Harper added another needless, though less than violent, defenseless receiver penalty in the end zone. C'mon man.  

That's four, 15-yard personal fouls for those of you counting at home. 

Add in another seven penalties and you have an uncharacteristic display of undiscplined mess from a Saints' team that has mostly been smart and composed under Sean Payton.

Worth Repeating
"Coming in week and in week out we want to win the turnover battle. We are near the bottom in the interceptions on the season. You want to finish on the positive end each game. That’s what we strive to do week in and week out and that’s what we did tonight." - Tracy Porter 


  1. One thing I would like to add to your description of Drew Brees: I am convinced he has ice water in his veins.

  2. That he does. And thankfully so!