So I guess the Giants are in the Super Bowl.
That’s the word on the street, anyway.
Picked up the New York Post on Friday and didn’t get past “Britney Rushed to Nut House” on page 3, so the football game was off the radar. Maybe if there had been a 36-page color Super Bowl pullout or something. Oh, wait, THERE WAS ONE OF THOSE.
If you’ve ever bitten the testicles off a lamb (as Giants offensive lineman Grey Ruegamer apparently once did while helping some Basque friends neuter sheep on their ranch), the world is going to know about it. Let’s see Tom Brady work that into a Stetson cologne ad.
It’s amazing how much copy can be generated by one game; I like to think that it can be partly explained by the sheer giddy disbelief that this team is even in this game with this chance to stop a feat of immeasurable significance in NFL history.
Even if I had the necessary Buddhist discipline to eradicate “I’m freezing at peewee hockey” from my mind, I’m not sure I’d be able to wrap my head around the concept that the wild-card Giants are the world’s last chance to hang a loss on the New England Patriots.
Nice team, nice season, but they sure weren’t supposed to be here.
How did they do it?
Near as I can tell, it had nothing to do with sweeping, grandiose moves like trades or a strategy overhaul, and everything to do with subtle shifts that require patience, sacrifice, trust and real toughness.
You love Tiki Barber, you love/hate Jeremy Shockey, but as many observers have speculated — and some Giants have reinforced — it seemed like a calm came over this team once they were out of the picture, most notably to quarterback Eli Manning.
Right before the playoffs started, a friend asked me if I liked the
Giants, and the answer went something like this: “Naaaahh. I just don’t trust Eli Manning. You never know which guy is going to show up.”
Surely motivated by this stinging appraisal, he went out and got the Giants into the championship game.
It gives hope to just about any NFL team (not so fast, Miami) that everything you need can coalesce at the right time.
It took some doing, but the
Giants finally started to respond to a kinder, gentler Tom Coughlin, to new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme and to their much-maligned quarterback, who has been burdened by his brother’s shadow and criticized for not being the forceful, commanding presence that is everyone’s stereotypical
image of an NFL quarterback.
When Manning complimented Barber for making “a smooth transition” into a TV career at the beginning of the season, it was beautiful.
But the Giants aren’t going to win today.
The Patriots are masters at recognizing what you’re giving them, and only too happy to take it.
You can point to Randy Moss’ numbers in the playoffs and say he’s been a non-factor, but when you gameplan to take Moss out of the picture and New England picks you apart everywhere else, who wins?
Wes Welker has 16 catches for 110 yards in two playoff games, and a team that led the league in sacks — the Giants — was torched by Brady to the tune of 32-for-42, 356 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in week 17.
But the Giants believe they’re
going to knock the stink into Brady and win, and they have
every right to. Stranger things have happened.
More from The Daily Gazette: