The holiday season is upon us, and both the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints were in a festive mood at MetLife Stadium on a soggy Sunday afternoon, although the crew from Bayou Country was a little more giving than their counterparts from the Big Apple. Turnovers and poor play from the Saints’ special teams, resulted in a decisive 52-27 Giants’ victory.
After rookie running back David Wilson returned the opening kickoff 58-yard to jump start the Giants offense at the Saints’ 45-yard line, Big Blue squandered that opportunity by going three and out, after a false start by David Baas on first down.
The Saints then returned the favor as quarterback Drew Brees hit wideout Marques Colston with a 30-yard completion on 3rd and 5 at New York’s 17-yard line, but Colston fumbled, and the ball was recovered by Antrel Rolle on the Saints’ 48-yard line.
The Giants’ prosperity was short lived, however, as Eli Manning badly underthrew wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan, and Elbert Mack intercepted the pass and scampered 73-yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Saints’ lead.
The gifts continued coming as David Wilson took the subsequent kickoff and sprinted 97-yards to tie the score at 7-7. Wilson would become a more important factor later, in both the return game and getting touches from the backfield.
Meanwhile, the Saints were able to move the ball on their subsequent drive, taking possession on the Giants’ 27-yard line and moving it to New York’s 48-yard line, but fullback Jed Collins fumbled after a short gain. The loose ball was scooped up by defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who returned it down to the Saints’ 35-yard line.
This time, the Giants took full advantage of the turnover and field position, when Manning threw a 6-yard strike to tight end Martellus Bennett on second down, and New York took a 14-7 lead.
New Orleans’ multiple weapons came to the forefront on their next drive when a good mix of runs and passes drove the ball from their own 7-yard line down to the New York 14-yard line. But the drive stalled there, and Garrett Hartley came on to hit a 32-yard field goal to narrow the Giants’ lead to 14-10.
After another stellar kickoff return by David Wilson, who sprinted up the left sideline for 54 yards before being knocked out of bounds by kicker Thomas Morstead, Big Blue was once again in business in Saints’ territory. New York moved the ball effectively against the NFL’s 32nd ranked defense until an illegal motion call set them back five yards and the drive stalled on the New Orleans’ 17-yard line.
Then the Giants’ red zone woes continued as kicker Lawrence Tynes missed a 37-yard field goal and another opportunity was lost.
After the missed field goal, the Saints drove the ball 67-yards downfield with less than five minutes left in the half, keyed by 34-yard sprint by halfback Darren Sproles. New Orleans then tried to lure New York offsides on a 4th-and-2 on the 8-yard line, but Brees ended up calling a time-out. The Saints settled for a 25-yard Garrett Hartley field goal with 1:57 in the half and trimmed the Giants lead to 14-13.
But the Saints left New York too much time on the clock before halftime, as Manning lead the Giants on a methodical 9 play, 69-yard drive and hit Dominik Hixon with a 5-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left in the half to give the G-men a 21-13 halftime lead. Victor Cruz got loose along the right sideline for a 35-yard gain to setup the score.
The Giants continued to be on the receiving end of New Orleans’ generosity in the third quarter, when safety Stevie Brown intercepted Drew Brees at the Giants’ 41-yard line and returned it 20 yards down to the Saints’ 21-yard line. A mix of 2 passes and 2 runs then allowed David Wilson to bull his way in the end zone and put New York ahead by a 28-13 score.
The Giants began to try and put the game out of reach on their next drive when the defense held the Saints on their 18-yard line, and Thomas Morstead’s punt was returned by Hixon for 10 yards to the Giants’ 38-yard line. The G-men then made quick work of getting the ball into the end zone when they took only 6 plays to hit pay dirt via a 25 yard Manning to Hakeem Nicks touchdown.
But the Saints would not go quietly, and it took the New Orleans less than a minutes to answer the Giants’ touchdown, when Darren Sproles rumbled in from 13-yards out. The 75 yard drive was keyed by a 62-yard catch-and-carry by receiver Lance Moore down to the New York 13-yard line. The score cut the Giants’ lead to 35-20 with 7:20 left in the third quarter.
As the Giants were driving to begin to put the game away, Manning made another ill-advised throw as he locked-in on Martellus Bennett and allowed Isa Abdul-Quddus to pick him off at the Saints’ 32-yard line. Two Mark Ingram runs for 23 yards, and a 27-yard pass to Jimmy Graham put the Saints in business at the Giants’ 17-yard line. Two plays later, Darren Sproles hauled in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Brees and the comeback was on with just under two-minutes left in the third quarter.
But a late comeback was not in the cards for New Orleans, as another special teams break-down once again cost the Saints, when Morstead’s ensuing kickoff was returned by Jerrel Jernigan 60 yards down to the Saints’ 25-yard line as the third quarter was winding down. Manning then hit Victor Cruz for a 10-yard touchdown pass as the G-men successfully answered the Saints’ challenge and grabbed a 42-27 lead, early in the fourth quarter.
The Saints’ next possession started out promising with a Brees to Joseph Morgan connection for 44 yards. But Brees threw into double-coverage and the resourceful Stevie Brown intercepted the pass and scrambled 70 yards to the Saints’ 22-yard line. The Giants settled for 39-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal and a 45-27 lead.
Rookie running back David Wilson closed out the scoring with a 52-yard touchdown run with 5:20 remaining in the game accounting for the final margin of victory.
It was the first time the Giants had surpassed the 50-point plateau since the 1986 season finale against the Green Bay Packers when they won by a 55-24 score en route to their first Super Bowl title.