EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) – It didn’t look, sound or feel like home. Then again, it will be that way all season for the New Orleans Saints.

The New York Giants had no complaints, though. Playing before 68,031 of their fans Monday night in the comfort of their own ballpark, the Giants beat the displaced Saints 27-10 in one of the most bizarre “home” settings in sports history.

NFL nomads with no stadium after the damage to the Superdome and New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Saints were given a home game here by the league. Historically more successful away from home under coach Jim Haslett (25-16 going in), they couldn’t overcome critical mistakes in falling to 1-1.

While they could be excused if their minds are elsewhere, Saints players have insisted their focus is fully on football on gameday. It looked that way in last week’s upset of Carolina. It looked decidedly different Monday night.

In the first half alone, the Saints committed 11 penalties for 72 yards, including an illegal contact by Sedrick Hodge that negated a third-down sack and set up the Giants’ third touchdown.

Efforts to make this resemble something akin to home appeared minimal at Giants Stadium, where, surprisingly considering the local team’s popularity, about 10,000 seats went unoccupied. The people in the filled ones generally were dressed in Giants blue and, except for mild applause when the entire Saints squad came onto the field before the coin toss, they rooted for their guys.

One end zone had SAINTS painted in white and there were a few Saints banners scattered along the blue bunting on the lower level. Other than a www.saintshurricanefund.org sign on the message board, everything about the night said New Jersey, not New Orleans.

At least the Saints’ other seven home games will be played closer to home: four in Baton Rouge, La., and three in San Antonio, where they train. For this one, they had to dress in the cramped visitors’ locker room, with a makeshift Saints sign hung above the entrance.

The Giants (2-0) benefited in every way from the NFL’s decision, beginning with the opening kickoff. The Saints tried some trickery and it immediately backfired. Michael Lewis handed off the return to Fred McAfee, who fumbled at the 10, with Chase Blackburn recovering. Three plays later, to tumultuous cheers for the “visitors,” rookie Brandon Jacobs barely squeezed into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

Hardly the start the Saints needed, and it didn’t get much better. The Giants moved 76 yards in 11 plays to a 14-0 lead on Tiki Barber’s 6-yard reception. Barber took a middle screen and dived to the goal line, colliding with teammate David Diehl as he scored.

But the Saints are nothing if not resilient, and they came back with an 86-yard drive that was almost all Joe Horn. He had two catches of 15 yards before beating a zone for a 21-yard touchdown. It was Horn whose cell phone antics in a game against the Giants two years ago drew him a measure of fame – and a $30,000 fine.

Hodge’s penalty three plays after Carlos Emmons’ interception led to Barber’s 12-yard run for a 21-7 New York lead. While the Saints got closer on John Carney’s 21-yard field goal near the end of the half, their miscues continued in the second half.

Aaron Brooks’ fumble set up Jay Feely’s 39-yard field goal, making it 24-10. And when his pass deflected off Donte’ Stallworth to safety Brent Alexander, who returned it 26 yards, the Saints were reeling.

Carney, who kicked the winning field goal last week at Carolina, even missed a 29-yarder, hitting the left upright. Feely then made a 30-yarder for New York.

When Horn fumbled as he was stretching for the end zone with 3:40 to go – the Saints’ fifth turnover – most of the fans headed home, quite happy to see the visitors’ victory.

AP-ES-09-19-05 2308EDT

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