Monday, January 14, 2008

The Perfect Storm

Yesterday's Giants/ Cowboys game could very possibly have been the perfect storm for the Media.

Either way, they would get to kill a Quarterback after the game. If the Cowboys won, the Media could go after Eli Manning for his continued struggles. If the Giants won, the media could go after Tony Romo for his much-ballyhooed vacation with Jessica Simpson.

The game itself played out exactly as I had expected it would. This was the perfect example of the "weird game" I talked about on Friday. The Giants raced out early, but their offense was, for the most part, fairly stagnant except when they absolutely needed to move the ball. Otherwise, the story of the game was the Giants defense, who was kept on the field for the majority of the game thanks to three exceptionally long Cowboy drives. For most of the first half, they couldn't stop the run, and they let Romo complete tons upon tons of short passes, and chew up the clock on the way to a pair of touchdowns. Then, they did the same to start the 3rd quarter, driving down for a Field Goal. The Giants kept themselves in the game with a pair of lightning strikes from Eli Manning to Amani Toomer (who has been playing out of his mind lately), one on a long TD pass on their first drive, and their most pivotal 47-second Touchdown drive to tie the game right before halftime.

After that, the Giants defense finally began to wear down the Dallas offense, specifically the offensive line. Between Andre Gurode's inability to hear a snap call, and Romo getting frustrated, the Cowboys inevitably self-destructed, slowly but surely, as the 2nd half drew on. The Giants managed to parlay a great punt return by R.W. McQuarters (ex-49er) into the leading touchdown, and the final 12 minutes of the game played out in the fashion of USA 4, USSR 3. Dallas would get opportunities, and be unable to cash them in. Romo began to whine, and his teammates committed some damaging penalties. One particular sequence saw Dallas run 9 straight plays from between both 40 yard lines, not being able to advance any further because of penalties on both sides, and dropped passes, finally being forced to punt the ball away. And on the final drive, Romo overshot his receivers badly on two plays before finally throwing that last interception to McQuarters for the death knell.

Frustrating, bizarre and weird. The definition of the 4:30pm Sunday game, and the right team won this game. And the media got to rip apart Tony Romo for losing his concentration on his vacation with the Simpson Family in Mexico, because that's clearly the reason he played poorly. Even Terrell Owens, never one to keep his mouth shut, brought it up without even being asked about it, going so far as to burst into tears over the attention being brought to his Quarterback and his dopey vacation that nobody really should care about at all. But it's funny to watch Owens go to pieces over it.

Meanwhile, the early game on Sunday held quite a bit of intrigue in its own right. The San Diego Chargers, who I figured would get blown out, held the line exceptionally well against the Colts, managed to slow the game down despite losing LaDainian Tomlinson (That's LaDainian Tomlinson, not L.T.) early in the game and Philip Rivers in the 3rd Quarter. The Chargers defense kept the pressure on Manning, who only seemed to be able to hit on the longer passes, and then scored three massive turnovers, one which kept them in the game at 7-0, one which kept the game close at 10-7 before halftime, and the final one at the end of the Colts last desperation drive, all the while cobbling together the winning TD drive with James Spader at QB. That was really the "Holy Shit" game of the weekend, because I don't know anybody who was giving San Diego a chance. Yes, with this upset, it takes all the steam out of the Colts/Patriots AFC Championship game that everyone wanted to see (sort of like the Cowboys/49ers games in the 90s), but don't discount the Chargers next weekend either. I'll still go on record saying the Patriots will win, but assuming that Rivers and Tomlinson can play (and I assume they will), and Gates is a bit healthier, they can make a game out of it. Rivers matured by leaps and bounds over the last 2 weeks, and his brash, unflappable attitude appears to be something the team is able to rally behind.

The Saturday games pretty much held to form. Ryan Grant gets all the credit in the world for bouncing back after having perhaps the worst first 4 minutes of a game ever, and Brett Favre pretty much plowed Seattle into the snow in one of the trademark dominant performances that he made his name for.

Saturday evening in New England was perhaps a closer game than I thought. Jacksonville kept themselves in the game for most of the first half, but they could not slow down New England's offense, and Tom Brady basically took the game over in the 2nd half and New England was able to surge away at the end.

So, this leaves us with a pair of most intriguing matchups next weekend. I think I've already stated who I'm leaning towards, but I'll have a full slate of picks on Friday, for Championship Sunday, the final true weekend of the Football season. Meanwhile, everybody in New York can prepare for the Giants Tsunami that is sure to happen all week long.

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