Joe Judge had faith in the Giants’ defense, but his critics had evidence.
Trailing by 11 points with less than 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Giants punted on a fourth-and-8 from the Saints’ 48-yard line. So, fans and media alike lit up Twitter with first-guesses of the coach playing too conservatively yet again by trusting his defense to make a stop despite too many early-season examples to the contrary.
Score a win for Judge, the embattled defense and the Giants, who forced two fourth-quarter punts in a 27-21 overtime victory at the Superdome.
“We’re always going to play everything aggressively,” Judge said. “Sometimes, our aggressive may seem different than somebody else’s. We may punt the ball and somebody says ‘That’s not being very aggressive,’ whereas I look at it as saying, ‘I’m going to be aggressive with the coverage units and aggressive with the defense to make a stop.’ You can say keeping the offense out there may be the most aggressive play. Sometimes, that’s just foolish.”
Even the Giants radio broadcast — featuring former Super Bowl-winning players Carl Banks and Howard Cross — teed off on the defense as “emotionally mute” and pleading for someone to get physical after the whistle just to break up the Saints methodically moving the ball down the field in the second half to build a 21-10 lead.
But Azeez Ojulari and Lorenzo Carter combined to stuff Taysom Hill — who had embarrassed the defense by running through tackles twice earlier in the game — on a third-and-2. The Giants’ offense responded with a first-play touchdown by Saquon Barkley.
The defense allowed two first downs before coming up with the next stop on a third-and-14 with 3:07 remaining. It led to the game-tying field goal and flipped the script enough that the Saints inexplicably went into a shell with a chance to win after the Giants tied the score with 36 seconds left. One incomplete pass from Jameis Winston and coach Sean Payton was content with handing fate to the coin-toss gods.
The Giants finished with one tackle for loss and zero sacks — indicative of a season-long problem generating negative plays — but the late stops marked a step forward.
Until then, the Giants had allowed seven scores (41 points) on eight possessions in the final four minutes of halves over the first 3 ½ games. The defense never took the field in overtime.