File this under: Facing the Pain.
After what shall henceforth be known as "Black Sunday, February 3, 2008" (at least here), I'm back and seeking some perspective. "Perspective," of course, is something that victors don't need and rarely offer. It's left for those who lost to find other reasons to be happy, or at least not despondent. Perhaps by the end of the post I'll get there.
Naturally, I'm crushed. But it was pretty clear from the get-go that the Giants really came to play and that the game would be a battle. And it was fierce. Big Blue played with the ferocity of the underdog with nothing to lose and a big chip on its shoulder. And the better team won.
I'd like to offer my congratulations to the Giants defensive front four. They absolutely crushed the Pats offensive line, and that is the beginning, middle and end of the story of this game. Compared to the performances of Manning and the hitherto unheralded David Tyree, the role of the front four (particularly the middle two) won't be talked about as much. But for my money, they are the full volume--not just part of the story. You can fly up the edges all you want, but if there's a pocket to step into, Brady can clean up. There was almost never a pocket, however, as Koppen, Neal and then Hochstein were routinely knocked back. No room = no time. And the play-calling took too long to adjust--Josh McDaniels only went to three-step-drops, screens and slants late in the third quarter--too late to turn the tempo around.
From the moment Patriots RG Stephen Neal went down with a leg injury in the first quarter, it was mealtime for New York. And I don't know if you could scoop up the picked-over leavings of Neal's replacement Russ Hochstein (pictured below) with a rake and a shop-vac. There's nothing left of that poor guy.
Hang a chain of gold with a blue first-place ribbon around the necks of the Giants' interior D-line. They did what they said they would, and it was the difference in the game.
In the final analysis, there was nothing cheap about this game for either side. No one won or lost via lucky breaks or bad penalties. The Giants flat-out beat the Patriots, who now have some serious self-reflection in front of them. Their defense couldn't get it done when the chips were down, and the offensive line (trumpeted in the media) couldn't get it done at all. On the flip side, the Giants played tough, intense football with tremendous passion. It's hard not to admire them, even from the losing side of the field.
From experience I can say that NYG fans will relish this one for a long time. There was no fraud here, no trickery. NY's offense is simple and the defense is no mystery, either: they just line up and beat you.
On our side, I'll be surprised if we reach the mountaintop next year. There will be one or two defections (Asante Samuel and Stallworth) and some key retirements (Seau, Bruschi, Harrison). Too many holes to plug in one season, methinks. But there shouldn't be much standing in the Giants' way of repeating as NFC Champions -- especially considering the relative youth of that team. Chemistry will be the biggest determinant. It's very difficult to repeat. A lot of the same pressure that eventually bore down the Pats this year accrues to a team trying to repeat, though it plays out over a longer period of time.
In the meantime, love this NY. (Here comes the perspective.) When you come right down to it, we're all pretty lucky. Our teams have established great history: The Patriots have finally carved a place in the game for themselves, and the Giants' recent run is worthy of their deeper history as a storied, cornerstone franchise of the game we love.
Neither of us is the Falcons, in other words.
PS: Justin Tuck is a pain in my ass.
Adapted from a previous post at Big Blue View.