Giants' high-priced defense needs to slow down Saints' Brees
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) The New York Giants' big-bucks, revamped defense found a way to hold off the Dallas Cowboys in the Ben McAdoo's debut as coach. Facing the New Orleans Saints on Sunday will show whether spending more than $100 million to help Steve Spagnuolo's unit was cost effective.
The Giants (1-0) aren't going to be facing Dak Prescott, a rookie making his first NFL start.
It's Drew Brees this week. The 37-year-old leads the league in passing and comes into the season with 10 consecutive years of passing for more than 4,000 yards, with no less than 4,870 in the last five, which includes three 5,000-yard campaigns.
If those numbers don't impress the Giants, all they have to do is recall last year: Brees passed for 511 yards and tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes in a 52-49 win.
''I don't even remember that,'' Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie quipped.
He does, though.
''When you are playing a guy like that who has been doing it for a long time, you know he has a good arm and has some good receivers who can definitely take the top off a defenses, and you have guys who understand football, and the way he throws and gets it out quick,'' Rogers-Cromartie said. ''Man, it's going to be tough.''
It's also going to be tougher for Brees. He will be seeing a lot of new faces.
Defensive tackle Damon Harrison and end Olivier Vernon are new, and end Jason Pierre-Paul did not play last year because of his fireworks accident.
Middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard is new, as are cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple, safeties Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe, who was on injured reserve last year.
''I would say while it's the same scheme for the most part, Steve Spagnuolo, there's a lot of good players over there that seem to be playing really well,'' Brees said. ''I don't really look at last year as any type of indication as to how this is going to go. I think they're much improved. They're playing really well right now. I have a lot of respect for coach Spagnuolo and his scheme. I'm sure they're going to be ready for us. We need to make sure we're ready for them.''
New Orleans put up 34 points last week as Brees passed for 423 yards and four touchdowns. The Giants edged Dallas 20-19.
SECONDARY CONCERNS: With Delvin Breaux going out for six to eight weeks with a broken leg, the Saints are relying on a trio of cornerbacks with only one regular-season game to their name: starter P.J. Williams and reserves DeVante Harris and Ken Crawley. However, a pair of recently acquired veterans could suit up in New York - Sterling Moore and B.W. Webb, who both practiced this week. Moore knows the Giants well from playing three seasons in the NFC East with the Cowboys (2012-2014). He also played against the Giants last season with Tampa Bay.
GIANTS DEFENSIVE BACKS: The Giants limited Prescott to 227 yards passing and no touchdowns. His longest pass was 21 yards.
''I feel like we have guys that can match up,'' said Janoris Jenkins, who held Dez Bryant to one catch for 8 yards. ''We have Eli Apple and DRC. We can match up all the way around the board with anybody as long as we play within the system and play within the scheme.''
Jenkins said Brees is a `'blast from the past,'' noting he throws deep and works the hash marks most of the time.
POUND IT: Running backs Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen combined for 113 yards on 24 carries in the opener for New York. Expect them to get the ball more after seeing the Saints give up 167 yards on 26 carries in the loss to the Raiders.
MORE BREES: Brees looks as good at 37 as he did at 27, if not better. He's coming off his 14th career 400-yard game, which tied him for first for such single-game production with Peyton Manning in NFL history. His touchdowns included a thread-the-needle throw over the middle to Brandin Cooks, and a Saints-record 98-yarder to Cooks with a pass down the left sideline. That one was so well-timed the speedy receiver never seemed to break stride. With 36 yards passing, Brees will move into third in that category, eclipsing Dan Marino's 61,361 yards.
BACK TO NORMAL: Giants receiver Victor Cruz returned in style from a series of injuries, scoring the winning touchdown in his first game since October 2014. This will be his first home game since that season.
''The only thing that is indicative of things being back to normal is you guys not asking me about my body anymore,'' Cruz said, ''and asking me about how I am feeling. But yeah, for the most part it just feels like business as usual, getting out there, playing football again and worrying about our next opponent.''
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL