While I was vacationing in Orlando, Florida at Disney World, I was surrounded by a sea of black and gold. There were countless Saints fans proudly wearing their Saints shirts or jerseys. The Who DAT Nation is still celebrating their Super Bowl victory. As I was waiting on long lines, I thought about the Saints journey to the top of pro football’s summit. What made them successful?
1. They played physical football especially on defense. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams demands toughness and physical play. “We want to be a tough defense, we want to be a smart defense, and everywhere I’ve been able to play, we’ve been pretty nasty,” Williams said. “We’ve been able to play with good aggressiveness. Those are the things that I think win you football games, tough close football games — that’s toughness and intelligence.”
2. They had a balanced offensive attack with an excellent short controlled passing game.
3. They had superb takeaway/giveaway ratio. They were a +11 which placed them third in the NFL.
What can the Giants organization learn from the Saints success?
After the Giants disappointing season was over, Giants GM Jerry Reese answered this question.
Q. Do you think this team lost its physical, tough identity?
A. That was part of what the problem was. I thought half the time we were a physical team, the other half we were not physical. That is one of my three things. The first thing you have to do when you play in the National Football League, you have to go out there and be physical. That is the number one thing that you have to do. You have to go out there and match the physicality of the other team. If you do that, you give yourself a chance to win the game. The other thing is bad fouls. You can’t have a lot of unnecessary penalties and those things. You have to play as a team. If you do those three things, you will be in a lot of games, you will win a lot of games. It all starts with the physical play. That is what is most important in my eyes. We were physical half the time, I thought.
Therefore, not being physical enough was part of the problem. Right after the season ended, the Giants made defensive coaching changes. These new coaches as well as head coach Tom Coughlin will demand physical play. During this offseason, Reese will reshape his roster. On both sides of the ball, Reese will obtain and acquire smart, tough, and physical players.
On offense, we can only hope offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride modifies his approach at attacking opposing defenses. Last season RB Brandon Jacobs was hobbled by a lingering knee injury sustained in week one. OL Rich Seubert and Kareem McKenzie were banged up. Result- the Giants running game, as well as the offense, was inconsistent.
In 1987, the Giants had similar problems
. The Giants’ running game disintegrated that season, partly because Nelson missed the entire season and Chris Godfrey (knee) missed half of the season. Opposing defenses started overplaying the run by putting a safety on the line of scrimmage, and Joe Morris was not the effective runner of old. Parcells was ready to mix in more passing to the backs.
If Gilbride uses the run and the short passing game to the backs, tight ends, and wide outs, this will offset defensives loading the box with eight or more defenders. Recall his good game plan against the Redskins at FedEx Field. He needs to continue this type of game plan in 2010.
In 2009, the Giants were a dismal negative SEVEN in the giveaway/takeaway ratio. This placed them 24th in the NFL. On defense, Reese will have to acquire playmaking defensive backs and linebackers to improve the current defensive roster. The Giants recorded only 13 interceptions while the Saints had an impressive 26 picks. For the Saints, creating turnovers was the difference maker. Despite being out gained by Minnesota and Indianapolis, the Saints won the turnover battle in both games and won both games.
Going forward, let us hope the Giants take these factors into consideration as they prepare for the upcoming season.