Fourth-quarter performances are a big reason why the New York Giants are 1-0 and the New Orleans Saints are 0-1 going into their matchup Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The Giants came from behind to beat the Cowboys 20-19 on Eli Manning's 3-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz with six minutes left in last week's game in Arlington, Texas. The Saints squandered an 11-point lead as Oakland gained 210 yards and scored 22 points in the fourth quarter to prevail 35-34 last week in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Being on opposite ends of fourth-quarter comebacks left the two teams in different mindsets coming out of the first weekend of the season.
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“Not at one time did I feel at any point in the game that we doubted that we were going to win the game,” said Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas, who was a member of the New Orleans team that won the Super Bowl at the end of the 2009 season. “Even though we were down late in the game, and headed into the fourth quarter, I didn't feel at any time that there was any doubt by anybody on the team, offense or defense.”
Drew Brees, who had his 14th 400-yard passing game and threw four touchdown passes against the Raiders, said he wouldn't be surprised to see this game decided in the final moments also.
“Fifty or more percent of games in this league come down to the last possession,” he said. “You'd say that just based upon that it is a strong possibility, that the last team that has the ball last has a chance to win.”
New Orleans couldn't slow down Oakland in part because it didn't cause a turnover and did not sack Derek Carr.
“We have to be better in that area (rushing the passer), and sometimes it's going to come from more than a four-man rush — or a pressure,” coach Sean Payton said. “But I think that it's more difficult on the back end if the quarterback has time and is able to sit in the pocket and get to his third and fourth receivers, and that happened a little bit in the second half (against the Raiders).”
The Saints and the Giants have had an unusual series of high-scoring games against one another in recent seasons. In the last four meetings, the winning team has scored 48, 49, 52 and 52 points, including New Orleans' 52-49 victory last season in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
It's the first time in NFL history that two teams have played four consecutive games in which the winner scored at least 48 points each time.
In last year's meeting, Brees threw for 505 yards and tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes, in outdueling Manning, who passed for 350 yards and a career-high six touchdowns.
“You've got to expect they're going to be able to score because they have that ability,” Manning said of the Saints offense. “The bunch of times we've played them it's been high scoring. So we've got a new offense. We've got to do our part, protect the ball, sustain drives, convert on third downs. We've got to do our part and try to make sure we're scoring touchdowns.”
Both teams lost a defensive player to injury in the opener. The Giants lost linebacker J.T. Thomas after he suffered torn ligaments in his left knee and they placed him on injured reserve. His roster spot was taken by kicker Josh Brown, who served an NFL suspension in Week 1.
New York also released Brown's replacement, Randy Bullock, and re-signed defensive tackle Montori Hughes, who had been waived on the final preseason cutdown.
“They have gone out and signed some guys and made some improvements, I think both to their front and to their secondary,” Brees said of the Giants. “They have some good young talent. I just see them playing really well together.
“Bottom line you can't look at last year's (game) and say that's the type of game it's going to be. I know our defense would take exception to that and I'm certain that theirs would as well. It's going to be a hard-fought game and it's an NFC game and their home opener, so there is a lot to play for.”
This game marks the first home game for Ben McAdoo as New York's head coach.
The Saints lost starting cornerback Delvin Breaux when he suffered a broken fibula. He underwent surgery and is expected to miss six weeks. Breaux was replaced in last week's game by rookie Ken Crawley, who was guarding Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree when Crabtree caught a game-winning two-point conversion pass from Carr with 47 seconds left.
New Orleans signed cornerback B.W. Webb to provide depth while Breaux is sidelined.
The Saints also released running back C.J. Spiller, a high-profile free agent the team signed before last season who never had an impact and was inactive for the game against Oakland.