Mistakes costly as Giants top Saints in ‘home opener’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 21, 2005

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—In a Week 2 game that had a Super Bowl-like atmosphere in Giants Stadium as the NFL raised money for Hurricane Katrina relief, New York took advantage of six New Orleans turnovers as the Giants beat the Saints, 27-10.

The “home” opener for the Saints, part of a unique Monday Night Football doubleheader, featured New Orleans-area musicians Irvin Mayfield, Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr. in pregame ceremonies. Former President George H.W. Bush, who is assisting in the relief efforts, participated in the coin toss. There were Saints banners along the sidelines, the Saintsations dance team was in attendance and the club wore their traditional home black jerseys, but once the game started, the mostly pro-Giants crowd of 68,031 had much to cheer.

New Orleans (1-1) fumbled during the opening kickoff and New York (2-0) turned the miscue into an early 7-0 lead. The Saints never got closer than seven points the rest of the way as they were intercepted three times, lost three fumbles and were called for 13 penalties for 92 yards in the contest.

The Giants turned the takeaways into 17 points as the Saints hurt their own momentum on several occasions.

“About the game, we weren’t very good,” said Saints Coach Jim Haslett. “They beat us up in special teams, we had way too many turnovers and self-inflicted penalties. We actually did okay on defense. We just didn’t get the job done today. Like I told the players in the locker room, we just have to come back from it. We’ve overcome a lot more than that one game. So, that is one game. We have to let it go and we have a short week to get ready for Minnesota.”

Giants QB Eli Manning completed 13-of-24 passes for 165 yards and one TD while RB Tiki Barber, who finished with 22 carries for 83 yards, ran for one touchdown and had a pass reception for another score.

The Saints took the opening kickoff and WR Michael Lewis brought the ball two yards deep out of the end and headed up the right side of the field. At the Saints’ 8, he pitched a lateral to RB Fred McAfee. McAfee was hit at the 12 and fumbled, and LB Chase Blackburn recovered for the Giants at the New Orleans 10.

Three plays later, RB Brandon Jacobs powered in from one yard out for a 7-0 New York lead with 13:25 to play.

On the Saints’ first possession, RB Deuce McAllister passed former RB George Rogers for the top spot (4,268 yards) on the New Orleans career rushing list after a seven-yard gain to the Saints’ 49 with 10:23 remaining in the quarter.

After the Saints were forced to punt on their next possession, the Giants and Manning drove 76 yards in 11 plays, including a key 16-yard reception by WR Plaxico Burress on third-and-11 to the Saints 28. The next play, Manning hit Burress again for 17 to the New Orleans 11. Manning capped the drive with a six-yard strike to Barber for the touchdown with 4:13 to go and a 14-0 lead.

The Saints settled down on offense and Brooks marched the Saints 86 yards in six plays, capped by an acrobatic catch by WR Joe Horn for a 21-yard score with 14:11 to play in the second quarter as New Orleans cut the Giants lead to 14-7.

New Orleans turned the ball over for the second time as Brooks was intercepted by Giants LB Carlos Emmons at the Saints 32 and he returned the pick six yards. Emmons was flagged for taunting after the play and the 15-yard mark off pushed the ball back to the 37.

After an incomplete pass by Manning on first down, the Giants QB was dropped for an apparent eight-yard sack by DE Will Smith. But, an illegal contact call gave New York five yards and an automatic first down at the 32. Manning then went down the middle for a 20-yard pass to TE Jeremy Shockey for a first down at the 12 and Barber went off right guard for the final 12 yards and the TD with 1:54 to go before halftime as the Giants led, 21-7.

The Saints were forced to punt after they got the ball after the ensuing kickoff and caught their first break of the game. P Mitch Berger kicked the ball 49 yards, where it hit S James Butler on the ankle and was recovered by Saints CB Fred Thomas at the Giants 37. Thomas was originally ruled to have first touched the ball after going out of bounds downfield, but a booth replay showed that the ball nudged off Butler’s ankle before it bounced into the hands of Thomas.

New Orleans used seven plays, and with no timeouts after a one-yard catch by Horn to the Giants 3, Brooks was forced to spike the ball on third down and K John Carney made a 21-yard field goal with five seconds before halftime as the Saints trailed, 21-10.

Brooks lost the handle on a snap with 10:24 to play in the third quarter and Giants DT William Joseph recovered at the Saints 46 and he returned the loose ball five yards.

DE Charles Grant was called for roughing the passer after Manning threw incomplete on first down and the penalty gave the Giants a first down at the Saints 26. Later, Manning gave his team a chance at a shorter field goal as he found Shockey for a 15-yard gain to the New Orleans 21 on a third-and-20 play. K Jay Feely came out to make a 39-yard field goal with 7:48 remaining as the Giants led, 24-10.

The Saints offense looked to have their momentum back as Brooks completed passes of 33 and 18 yards to WR Donte’ Stallworth in a span of three plays to the Giants 30. On third-and-six from the 26, Brooks looked to Stallworth again, but New York S Brent Alexander stepped in front of the pass and returned the interception 24 yards to the Saints 49.

The Giants were called for nine penalties in the contest and two came after the turnover as 10-yard offensive pass interference and offensive holding calls resulted in a fourth-and-27 situation and a punt from their own 34 with 2:53 to play in the third quarter.

With another chance to cut the Giants margin to seven points, Stallworth caught a 23-yard pass from Brooks to the New Orleans 49 and four plays later, tightroped the sideline for a 10-yard gain as the third quarter came to a close.

Horn hauled in a 19-yard reception on the first play of the fourth quarter as the Saints had first-and-goal at the Giants 7. An incomplete pass, a delay of game penalty and another incomplete pass forced the Saints to attempt a 29-yard field goal by Carney, whose kick smacked the left upright with 13:24 to play as New York held a 14-point margin.

The advantage grew to 17 points as Manning led the Giants on a 14-play, 68-yard drive which chewed up 6:47 of the quarter, capped by a Feely 30-yard field goal with 6:37 remaining.

On the ensuing kickoff, KR/WR Michael Lewis injured his left knee after a 20-yard return and did not return to the contest.

New Orleans had another opportunity to pull to within 10 points, but Horn, who caught an 11-yard pass, reached out for the end zone pylon and lost the ball for a Giants touchback. The Saints challenged the call, but it was upheld by replay with 3:40 left.

New York got their sixth takeaway with 21 seconds remaining as S Shaun Williams intercepted a pass intended for Horn two yards deep in the end zone.

Brooks was 27-of-45 passing for 375 yards, one TD and three interceptions. McAllister had 15 carries for 47 yards and caught six passes for 44 yards. The Saints had a pair of 100-yard receivers as Horn had nine catches for 143 yards and Stallworth added eight catches for 141 yards. The double 100-yard receivers were the first for the Saints since Horn had 170 yards and Robert Wilson had 122 yards vs. Denver at home on Dec. 3, 2000.

Burress and Shockey led the Giants as each had five receptions for 64 yards.

Each team had less than 100 yards rushing as the Saints had 72 yards and held New York to 92 yards. New Orleans rolled up 422 yards of total offense to the Giants’ 257.

New Orleans goes on the road to face Minnesota (0-2) next Sunday (Noon CT; FOX, WWL 870-AM, Saints Radio Network) in the Metrodome.