What will it take for the Giants to win on Sunday?
If recent history is any indicator, quite a lot.
The winning team in the last four games between the Giants and the Saints has scored at least 48 points, marking the first time in NFL history two opponents have had such high-output victories against each other. The losing team in those four games has averaged over 31 points per game.
All of which points to, well, lots and lots of points.
“You have to expect that they’re going to be able to score just because they have that ability,” Eli Manning said. “[Drew Brees] put up 40-some-odd points last week [Actually it was 34 in a one-point loss to the Raiders]. A bunch of times when we’ve played them, it’s been high scoring. We have to know that offensively and do our part. We have to make sure we’re scoring touchdowns and put us in a position to win.”
Sometimes that doesn’t even help. Last year Manning had one of the greatest games any Giants quarterback has ever enjoyed. Or, in this case, not enjoyed. He completed 30 of 41 passes for 350 yards and six touchdowns in a 52-49 loss.
“That was another one of many last year where I thought we had a great chance to win a football game and couldn’t quite figure out how to win it,” Manning said. “Hopefully if we get to that situation this year, we can try and win it.”
Ideally, they won’t be in that situation. The Giants defense, which was shredded by Brees’ seven touchdown passes, appears to be in much better position to stop the Saints, or at least slow them down somewhat.
“I wouldn’t expect it to be that high scoring with this defense that we have,” Odell Beckham Jr. said. “Just from going up against them every single day, it’s not easy to come out with seven points every single time . . . It’s going to be tough for teams to put up numbers like they did [against] this defense.”
But if they do, Beckham said the Giants offense can play shootout ball, too.
“If it has to go down to that,” he said, “guns blazing.”
Saints coach Sean Payton said he doesn’t expect another game like last year’s. Nor does Ben McAdoo. Both noted the changes to each roster and coaching staff as a reason for the expectation of less scoring. But for those who lived through last year’s defensive disaster, it’s a memory that continues to haunt them.
“We weren’t good at all, defensively, in any phase of the game, at any part of the game,” linebacker Jonathan Casillas, a survivor of last year’s disaster, said this week. “We didn’t tackle that great, we blew coverages, we let people run free. Do you want me to keep going? It just wasn’t a good showing. That was one of those games where you look back and you don’t watch the film because you are just disgusted by it.”
The defense played well against the Cowboys and a rookie starting quarterback. Now they go against the most tenured quarterback playing this weekend (only Tom Brady has started more games at any position among active players).
Casillas was a teammate of Brees’ in New Orleans, so he knows what to expect. And more importantly what not to.
“When you say you know what he is going to do, that is kind of a false statement because he is so good with the ball,” Casillas said. “You know he is going to pass it and you think you know where he is going to go with it, but he is so good at putting it in places where he knows he is going to go and he is good at adjusting, as well.
“It’s crazy how he is getting better every year,” Casillas continued. “He’s still throwing for 5,000 yards like he is a young kid out there and it looks like he is having fun like he has always been doing. It is going to be interesting this week because you know what he is going to do, but you really don’t know what he is going to do.”
Last year’s game between these two teams at the SuperDome was about as close to what those two-hand-touch games on the Manning front lawn just a few blocks away must have been like. It came down to a last-second field goal and, like most Giants games in 2015, a series of last-minute gaffes.
Casillas admitted the defense let the offense down in that game. Duh. But he would not apologize for it. Instead, he said, he wants the defense to show that it will do better.
“You look at one side of the ball, straight Giants offense, you’re like: That had to be a big win, not that you lost by three points,” Casillas said. “It was just a bad performance and something that we can’t have this year. We were lucky that we scored that many points because of such a great quarterback we have on our side. But, defensively we were atrocious last year and we can’t do that ever again because we’re not going to win no games like that.”
The last four meetings between the Saints and Giants have seen astronomical points scored and passing yards. Here’s a look at the production between the two teams and their two starting quarterbacks:
Year Total points Result Brees passing yards Manning passing yards
2015 101 Saints, 52-49 505 350
2012 79 Giants, 52-27 354 259
2011 73 Saints, 49-24 363 406
2009 75 Saints, 48-27 369 178