Monday, January 21, 2008

A Victory for the Ages

I know I picked the Giants to win in Green Bay last night. That doesn't necessarily mean I thought they would actually do it.

In a game that played out almost exactly as I thought it would, the Giants prevailed in the NFC Championship, in Green Bay last night, in a game that they could have won or lost 20 different ways.

The Giants won because their defense, which rose to the occasion in Dallas and Tampa Bay, came through with another outstanding effort, holding Ryan Grant to 29 yards rushing, forcing Brett Favre to beat them, and eventually forcing him to make a critical mistake.

The Giants won because Eli Manning, who proved himself about as steady as the Mets Bullpen in September 2007 throughout most of this season, continued his incredible turnaround, and conducted the Giants offense like it was he, and not Favre, bound for the Hall of Fame.

The Giants won because Plaxico Burress, who has played out the entire season on a crippled ankle, came through with a sterling performance equal to the magnitude of the game itself.

And the Giants won because, as a team, they were able to overcome a few individual mistakes that might have done in a lesser team (McQuarters' 2 fumbles, Madison's foolish Un-necessary roughness penalty, Tynes' 2 missed FGs) and never quit until Lawrence Tynes' 47-yard kick hooked through the uprights. They believe in each other, even when it seems like nobody else does.

I watched the game with a friend of mine, a Jets fan, and after the game, all we could do was look at each other and say, "Man. What a fucking game!" Watching the game, we were both reminded of past playoff failures by our own teams. He had flashbacks to a game 3 years ago, the Doug Brien game in Pittsburgh, when the Jets kicker missed a pair of Field Goals late in the game. I flashed way back to Matt Bahr in 1990, when these same Giants denied the 49ers of a Three-peat.

It seems so strange to think that the 2007 Giants are going to the Super Bowl. After an uneven season that didn't seem to inspire confidence in anybody, the Giants somehow righted themselves and caught fire at the most opportune time, riding a wave that will take them all the way down to Arizona for Super Bowl XLII.

You could tell that the Giants came to play an inspired game from the outset. With the temperature holding steady between -1°F and -4°F, the Giants looked warm and toasty, while the Packers, playing in their element, looked like the team that was cold. The Giants were able to move the ball at will on offense, and their defense was able to keep the Packers off balance. But for a few plays, specifically Driver's 90 yard TD, and a pair of Packers drives in the second half that were extended by bad penalties and a freak play, the Giants basically dominated the game.
But after running the ball and running down the clock to set up Tynes at the end of regulation, it didn't look good. I kept thinking that they needed to get closer, or take a shot at the End Zone. My friend was screaming about Doug Brien. Then, Tynes hooked the 36-yard FG as the clock ran out. And things really did not look good when the Packers won the coin toss before Overtime, following Tynes' second missed FG.

But as things have gone for the Giants this month, the Giants have been able to overcome the negative. And Favre's pass on the second play of Overtime was an underthrown flutterball that was easily intercepted by Corey Webster, setting up the final drive, and setting up Lawrence Tynes to charge past his coach, onto the field to make that last Field Goal to put the Giants into the Super Bowl.

3 straight on the road in the Postseason. 10 wins in a row on the road. Who the hell even plays 10 road games in a season?
The Giants did it. And they're absolutely where they deserve to be. This is a proud, proud day for the Giants and their fans, and they deserve all the congratulations they're getting right now. They earned it.
And they've earned another shot at the 18-0 New England Patriots, the prohibitive favorites right now. The Patriots basically did the absolute minimum they had to do to beat San Diego. But then, San Diego was pretty much hamstrung when Tomlinson had to go out of the game. The Chargers defense played inspired, picking off a shaky Tom Brady 3 times. But the offense failed to finish off drives, settling for Field Goals instead of Touchdowns, and that was the difference. The Patriots were able to hammer away and hammer away until there was no time left, holding the ball for the final 9 minutes of the game and knocking the Chargers off the dance floor.
It's a rematch of a most intriguing game that took place Week 17. Get ready to hear an awful lot about that, about the undefeated Patriots, about Eli Manning emerging from his brother's long shadow, and every other stupid human interest story that can be cooked up.

But you won't hear anything about Brett Favre this week.

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