After an 0-3 start, a trip to New Orleans began a gauntlet of a schedule for the New York Giants. With the Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and in Week 4, the New Orleans Saints, all on the schedule, worry loomed that the Giants 0-3 start could quickly turn in to a much uglier one.

The Giants quickly put their winless season to rest, however, with an upset win over a quality Saints team in New Orleans. New York didn’t play a perfect game, and trailed by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter. But even with the absences of wide receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, as well as last week’s season-ending injury to starting linebacker Blake Martinez, the Giants were able to earn an overtime victory behind strong play from Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, and a surprisingly deep group of wide receivers.

For the third straight game the Giants have participated in, the outcome was decided on the final play of the day.

Recap

New York came in to this matchup after losing back-to-back games against Washington Football Team and the Atlanta Falcons, both on heartbreaking last-second field goals. While the closeness of these games suggested the Giants may have been better than their 0-3 record suggested, the 2-1 New Orleans Saints easily represented the Giants toughest opponent of the 2021-22 NFL season so far. The Saints were favored by 7.5 points mid-week, New York’s biggest underdog spread of the season as well.

New Orleans was also hosting their first true home game of the season at Caesars Superdome, after Hurricane Ida bumped a Week 1 matchup with the Green Bay Packers to Jacksonville, Florida.

This Week 4, early Sunday matchup began with short possessions and botched execution on both sides. The Giants received the ball first, punting quickly after a Saquon Barkley rush for no gain on first down, a Daniel Jones 4-yard scramble on second down, and an incomplete pass to rookie wide receiver Kadarius Toney on third down.

The Saints picked up 16 quick yards from Alvin Kamara on consecutive plays, but their drive was halted early with a 3-yard tackle for a loss by Dexter Lawrence who blew up Saints running back Tony Jones Jr. in the backfield. The tackle very well may have saved the Giants from giving up points on the Saints opening drive, which pushed as far as the Giants 37-yard line after a poor kick return by the Giants, and a net 34-yard punt after a 9-yard run back by Saints wide receiver and punt returner Deonte Harris.

Jones earned the Giants their first first down of the game on a 13-yard pass to Kenny Golladay, currently New York’s top receiving threat, but back-to-back incompletions ended a drive that started at the Giants own 6-yard line with just one first down pickup.

Jameis Winston, Alvin Kamara, and the Saints offense sustained the first real drive of the game on the ensuing possession. New Orleans pounded their way to a first down with three straight rushes, then expanded their arsenal with an 11-yard catch and run from Winston to the dynamic Taysom Hill. Two plays later, a backfield catch turned in to a Saints first down for the third time already on a 9-yard reception from Harris that actually included 13 yards after the catch.

The Saints promising 10-play, 44-yard drive ended on a failed fourth down conversion, with Kamara gaining two yards on 4th-and-3 at the Giants 29-yard line. Leonard Williams and Lorenzo Carter were credited with the big fourth down stop in the first quarter.

The Giants next drive faced an early setback with a 10-yard offensive pass interference penalty called against Golladay on the first play of the drive, followed by a 4-yard loss on a pass to Barkley. But on 3rd-and-18, Toney was able to catch a Jones pass that traveled just one yard past the line of scrimmage and take it just over the edge of the first down marker after making multiple Saints defenders miss.

Jones found Toney again on the next play for four yards, and two plays later, connected with Golladay for a 27-yard pickup that set the Giants up at the Saints 25-yard line. Barkley pounded the rock for an 8-yard gain followed by a 1-yard rush, Jones couldn’t find anyone on 3rd-and-1, and New York was forced to settle for a field goal attempt early in the second quarter.

Graham Gano had made his last 37 field goals up until this point, the longest active streak in the league and the fourth-longest streak in NFL history. Obviously I’m bringing this up for a reason: while a 35-yard field goal indoors should have been automatic for Gano, the kick sailed wide left to keep the game scoreless with 13:20 left to play in the first half.

Not to be outdone, the Saints also missed a field goal attempt after taking over at their own 25-yard line. The drive’s big play was another backfield catch from Harris, with Winston’s pass being caught five yards behind the line of scrimmage for an 18-yard gain. New Orleans only got the ball to New York’s 40-yard line, where former Giants kicker Aldrick Rosas missed a gutsy 58-yard attempt.

For the armchair coaches keeping track at home: the Saints passed up a 46-yard try on 4th-and-3 on their first drive of the afternoon, but attempted a 58-yard field goal with a kicker whose career long is 57 yards: in the same 4th-and-3 situation. Interesting choices from head coach Sean Payton.

On the very next play, Jones launched a bomb to a streaking John Ross, the speedy former Cincinnati Bengals receiver making his Giants debut. Ross outran the Saints coverage, made the catch right at the goal line, and though he appeared to potentially fumble at the conclusion of the play, the ball ended up in his hands in the endzone either way: touchdown, Giants with just one explosive 52-yard play.

The Saints responded to the Giants 7-0 lead with their longest drive of the day. Kamara kicked things off with an 8-yard rush, Winston found Harris for an 11-yard pickup, undrafted second year receiver Juwan Johnson caught a 5-yard pass, and Taysom Hill even got involved in the action, showcasing his legs and arm with a 2-yard rush and a 6-yard completion to Dwayne Washington.

Hill appeared to advance the ball to the Giants 3-yard line on the 13th play of the drive, picking up 7 yards on the ground, but the gain was called back due to illegal formation. On the ensuing 3rd-and-6 play, Winston hooked up with Johnson in the endzone to tie the game 7-7 with 0:23 left before halftime.

Despite having just 23 seconds left in the quarter, Jason Garrett’s offense didn’t kneel down to end the half. After a 17-yard gain by Barkley and a 20-yard scramble from Jones, the Giants were set up with a decent look at a Hail Mary from the Saints 48-yard line. Jones last-second heave had good power and distance but fell just two yards shy of the endzone: in to the hands of Saints safety Marcus Williams to end the half.

This was Jones’ first turnover since Week 1, ending a two-game streak without turnovers, but the quarterback was simply trying to make something happen before the clock expired. It goes down in the books as an interception, but it was a welcome turnover on a last-second scoring attempt.

The Saints didn’t waste any time n the second half, with Winston unloading a deep 58-yard pass to Marquez Callaway, who like Juwan Johnson is a second-year undrafted wide receiver.

After a 9-yard completion to former New England Patriots wide receiver and college lacrosse player Chris Hogan, the Saints pulled out Taysom Hill once again. The strong and resilient Hill slammed and spun his way in to the endzone after overpowering multiple Giants defenders on an 8-yard rushing touchdown to put the Saints up 14-7 on a 3-play, 75-yard drive.

Toney hauled in a 19-yard pass, one of his six catches of the day, to begin the Giants next drive. Tight end Evan Engram, who entered the game with just two catches after a 63-catch, Pro Bowl season, earned an 8-yard pickup two plays later. Going no huddle, Jones found Golladay on third down for an 8-yard gain, then connected with the former Detroit Lions receiver again on the next play for 17 yards.

Continuing to push the pace, Jones completed a 20-yard pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph at the Saints 3-yard line. Barkley could only muster a yard on first down, and a running play designed to get the ball in Engram’s hands lost three yards. Jones couldn’t hook up with Rudolph on 3rd-and-goal, prompting a successful 23-yard field goal from Gano (potentially the start of a new consecutive field goal streak?) to cut the Saints lead to 14-10.

Just four plays in to the Saints next possession, Winston launched another deep ball, hitting Kenny Stills in stride for an apparent 46-yard touchdown strike. The score was called back, however, with offensive holding called on Saints tight end Adam Trautman.

On the ensuing 1st-and-20 play, the Saints called on Hill again at quarterback. Hill threw a deep ball of his own, traveling over 50 yards in the air, but the pass intended for Harris was picked off by James Bradberry. It was Bradberry’s second interception of the season, after a crucial interception of Taylor Heincke that almost propelled the Giants to victory in Week 2.

The Giants didn’t do much with the turnover, but it still stopped the Saints momentum momentarily. Jones couldn’t hit Engram on 3rd-and-2, forcing New York to punt after a short 5-play, 18-yard drive.

New Orleans didn’t abandon Hill after his interception, first feeding him a short pass from Winston resulting in a 15-yard gain and then allowing him to take a direct snap and power through the line for a 6-yard gain. Kamara, who had an all-around great rushing day, chipped away at the Giants defense with runs of four, nine, nine, four, and four yards on the drive.

On 2nd-and-6 from the Giants 12-yard line, Hill rushed for four yards on a handoff, then on 3rd-and-2, trucked a defender for an 8-yard score, his second touchdown of the day.

Winston and the Saints took a 21-10 lead with 12:09 left to play in the fourth quarter, and the Giants immediate response didn’t quite kick start a comeback. New York picked up a fist down, with a 21-yard catch and run from Jones to Toney, but then stalled as a 1-yard Toney rush attempt, incompletion to Toney, and 1-yard gain by Engram forced the Giants to punt after a 5-play drive that ate a crucial 2 minutes and 45 seconds of game time.

With just 9:31 left to play and 11 points to make up, the Giants had to act fast. Kamara picked up seven yards on first down, but the Giants defense made a stand, allowing just a 1-yard rush on the next play and stuffing Hill on third down. New Orleans still used 2 minutes and 23 seconds of clock despite running just three plays, but the Giants defense did their part to spark a comeback attempt.

For the second time in the game, Daniel Jones and the Giants needed just one electric play to find the endzone. Jones hit Barkley, downfield and not in the backfield, who raced the football in to the endzone with a full head of steam for a 54-yard touchdown in just nine seconds of game time.

To cut the Saints lead to three points instead of four, the Giants opted to go for a two-point conversion. The play-call was hardly surprising at this point: Jones kept the ball, rushed right, and scored the two-point conversion himself to cut the Saints lead to 21-18 with 6:52 left in the fourth quarter.

Winston found Callaway for 16 yards to keep the clock ticking, but the Saints kept the ball mostly on the ground between Kamara and Ty Montgomery. Kamara rushed for eight yards on 2nd-and-8 for a second first down of the drive with under five minutes remaining. The clock stopped on a Winston incompletion intended for Still, and Harris was only able to make up eight yards on 3rd-and-14, getting the Giants the ball back with 3:07 left to play, and at least a field goal needed to extend the game.

Jones kicked off the potential game-tying or game-winning drive with an 8-yard pass to Engram over the middle. His next two completions went to Toney, who enjoyed the best game yet of his young NFL career. But things still looked grim as the Giants faced 3rd-and-7 on their own 38-yard line with 0:58 to go. Jones dumped off a short pass to Golladay, who promptly picked up 23 yards after the catch to keep the Giants chances alive. Golladay spun off his would-be tackler and brought the ball near field goal range for Gano.

After incomplete pass attempts on first and second down, Barkley advanced the ball four yards on the ground to set up a more manageable 48-yard field goal attempt. Gano nailed the kick, tying the game at 21 with 0:31 left in regulation. Winston attempted one deep pass before Kamara rushed for five yards to end the fourth quarter.

Giants safety Jabril Peppers, a day shy of his 26th birthday, correctly called heads on the overtime coin toss and had a hilarious, energetic, NSFW reaction as he immediately chose possession of the ball first.

The Giants offense put up points on their two previous drives, so getting the ball first in overtime did seem like a natural decision.

The drive started with a 17-yard pass from Jones to Ross out of the shotgun, followed by a 2-yard Jones run and another 8-yard completion to Ross, with the Giants opting to go no huddle and keep the Saints defense on their heels. New York was halted momentarily with a 5-yard illegal substitution penalty, but then continued to chip away at New Orleans defense. Barkley caught a pass five yards behind the line of scrimmage and picked up 23 yards from there for an 18-yard net gain that got the Giants in to Saints territory. Barkley caught another pass on the next play, briefly fumbling the ball before it was recovered by Kyle Rudolph.

On 3rd-and-5 from the Saints 29-yard line, the Giants didn’t want to settle for just a field goal. Jones found a wide-open Golladay once again on third down for a 23-yard pickup that put the ball on the Saints 6-yard line.

On 1st-and-goal, the Giants wasted no time, with Barkley plowing the ball in to the endzone for a game-winning 6-yard touchdown run, giving the Giants their first win of the season in thrilling fashion. For the third straight Giants game, the outcome was decided on the very final play of the game.

Statistics and Takeaways

The Giants and Saints played a pretty even game in regulation, even if New York needed to make up some ground late in the fourth quarter. The final statistics skew in favor of the Giants thanks to their 9-play, 75-yard drive in overtime. The Giants finished with 485 yards of total offense, but in regulation, held a narrow 410-405 edge over New Orleans. The Giants did most of their damage through the air, with 402 passing yards and 83 rushing yards. The Saints had 235 passing yards, but an impressive 170 yards on the ground on 39 rush attempts. The Giants were far more disciplined than in past weeks, committing just three penalties for 25 yards while the Saints were flagged five times for 35 yards.

Daniel Jones committed a turnover for the first time since Week1, but I’d much rather see him throw a pick on a Hail Mary attempt than to not even try. Jones completed 28-of-40 passes for 402 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Jones carried the ball four times for 27 yards, less attempts than in previous weeks but a testament that his running abilities are here to stay, as well as scored a two-point conversion on the ground.

Even with Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton out, Jones made use of his available options incredibly well. Kenny Golladay hauled in six of seven targets for 116 yards, with some big third down catches and an impressive 19.3 yards per reception. Rookie Kadarius Toney burst on to the scene with six catches for 78 yards, and in his Giants debut, former Cincinnati Bengals wideout John Ross caught three balls for 77 yards: the bulk of it coming on a 52-yard touchdown reception. After a quiet start to the season, tight end Evan Engram caught five passes for 27 yards, but was mostly used as a security blanket, with just 5.4 yards per catch.

Saquon Barkley continues to heat up, as for the second straight week, he’s set a new mark for his best game of the season. While the Giants traditional rushing game could use some work, Barkley carried the ball 13 times for 52 yards and a touchdown, with a respectable and improved 4.0 yards per carry. Barkley did more damage in the passing game, catching five passes for 74 yards including an explosive 54-yard touchdown reception.

Logan Ryan and Tae Crowder paced the Giants defense with nine tackles apiece. Neither team recorded a sack in the game, a good sign for the Giants offensive line but a bit disappointing for the defense.

Jameis Winston completed 17-of-23 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown. Alvin Kamara was excellent on the ground, with 26 carries for 120 yards, but the Saints two touchdown runs were both pounded in by Taysom Hill (6 rushes, 28 yards, 2 TD.) Marquez Callaway had the most receiving yards for New Orleans with 74 on two catches, but Deonte Harris was the Saints most active receiver with five catches for 52 yards.

Moving Forward

After an 0-3 start, with a gauntlet of a schedule, the Giants 2021-22 season seemed over before it even started. The tough games on the schedule are still there, but getting that first win does wonders for team morale.

Are the Giants a playoff contender after beating the Saints? Not quite, but with three straight games being decided by one score, New York isn’t a bad team. The Giants could be 3-1 if not for porous defense at the end of the Washington and Atlanta games, but this isn’t the time to play Marvel’s “What If?”

The Giants play the 3-1 Dallas Cowboys in Texas next week in an important early-season matchup. If the Giants play like they did in New Orleans, they’ll certainly have a chance to beat Dallas on their own turf. But after squandering Week 2 and 3 games, New York doesn’t have time for moral victories: no matter how well the Giants play against the Cowboys, starting 1-4 could be a death sentence to any chance of competing in the NFC East.

NFC East Standings

  1. Dallas Cowboys (3-1)
  2. Washington Football Team (2-2)
  3. Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants (1-3)

2021-22 New York Giants

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