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New Orleans Saints knew Giants' formula but couldn't prevent critical big plays

'They were an offense that relied on some chunk plays, and then to capitalize on that. And they got that'

The New Orleans Saints return home to take on the New York Giants in Week 4 on October 3, 2021 at the Caesars Superdome.
The New Orleans Saints return home to take on the New York Giants in Week 4 on October 3, 2021 at the Caesars Superdome.

The issue for the New Orleans Saints defense wasn't that it didn't know what the Giants were capable of doing offensively in the Saints’ 27-21, overtime loss on Sunday in the Caesars Superdome.

It was that New York still was able to hit New Orleans with enough big plays to position itself to win its first game of the season.

The Saints defense, which had done an admirable job of not allowing quick-strike, big plays in its first three games, surrendered one-play touchdowns of 52 and 54 yards – which lasted a combined 17 seconds – against the Giants.

"I don't know necessarily (if what the Giants did offensively was) out of character," Saints Coach Sean Payton said Monday afternoon. "Even if you look at all of last season, the games that they've played well in and had success in, there was one formula offensively: They've had a high amount of explosives. And then the games where they weren't able to do that, they weren't as successful.

"That sounds kind of simple, but they weren't an offense that was eight, nine, 10, 11 plays (for scoring drives). They were an offense that relied on some chunk plays, and then to capitalize on that. And they got that (Sunday)."

It helped New York erase an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Payton said Sunday that he wanted his team to take some things away from the loss.

"In our league, an 11-point lead is really just two scores," he said. "A couple of things we didn't want to have happen in that game were really to eliminate the explosives defensively, and we weren't able to do that. They had a number of big plays, particularly in the passing game.

"It became harder to get pressure when it became more one-dimensional just relative to the timing of the ball coming out or some of the max protections. They were either spreading us out and throwing it real quick, or condensing some formations with more of a shot play.

"And then offensively, there's a couple of sequences where we have a chance to not only shift the field position in our favor but take more time off the clock, and we weren't able to do that. We gave up the big return in the kicking game. There are a number of things, when you get into position to possibly close out a game or put some distance between you and your opponent, we just weren't good enough to do it. It's a frustrating loss, nonetheless it's still a loss. That's really the point I was making (Sunday)."

KAMARA'S WORK: Running back Alvin Kamara finished with a career high 26 carries (for 120 yards) against the Giants, but wasn't targeted for a pass. The last time Kamara didn't have a catch was Game 10 last season, against Atlanta.

On Sunday, a mitigating circumstance was that Tony Jones, Jr., the No. 2 running back, was injured with 10:17 left in the second quarter.

"Everyone's going to 'butch' him and try to disrupt him coming out of the backfield, but when Tony gets hurt, the role changes a little bit," Payton said. "His touches, he had a number of them in the running game, but a lot of the times in the passing game, when your second back is healthy, (Kamara) is playing in three, four different receiver spots. That kind of shifted a little bit with Tony's injury.

"There were a handful of plays that were his plays technically by route and yet, certain coverage looks take you through a progression. But he got his touches – he got a lot of touches in the running game. But obviously not in the passing game and there were a handful of reasons for that, but the biggest was obviously the injury early in the game to Tony."

WINSTON CRITIQUE: Payton sounded pleased with quarterback Jameis Winston's play against the Giants. Winston completed 17 of 23 passes for 226 yards – his first 200-plus yard passing game as a Saint – with a touchdown and no interceptions.

"I was encouraged," Payton said. "I thought he played well. I think the No. 1 thing, we knew we were playing a zone team, a zone pressure team with a lot of safety off the slot pressure, I thought we had a good plan blocking some of those looks and then we felt there some good cavities relative to the passing game. I was encouraged with how he played, I was encouraged with his decisions and I thought that's going to help us going forward."

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