John Mara Leads Team Back To
THE LAND of GIANTS
Pre-Game Post: A Transcendental Championship Game
NEW YORK GIANTS FOOTBALL: "Did Ya See Us Last Night Pop? I Told You I Got This. And You Would Have Been Proud of Mom Too."
It wasn't freezing this time like on that night in Green Bay four years ago; just extremely wet. The game wasn't played in the legendary frozen tundra of Lambeau Field either. Although the Media chill Tom Coughlin suffered this season would have broken a lesser man. But he, and we, have been there and done that. Instead, Sunday night's setting was a blast from Big Blue's past. The New York Giants went back to a place where they made history once before by willing their way through one of the most tightly contested upsets in NFC Championship Game history.
This Sunday's game was another classic played in one of today's grandfathers of football stadiums against the 49ers. The contest evolved similarly to the game played twenty-one years ago replete with stout defense, fumbles, and field goals. In 1991, Lawrence Taylor recovered a Roger Craig fumble. Matt Bahr then nailed a 42 yard field goal sending the Giants to Super Bowl XXV. Twenty-one years later, the Giants returned to a rain-soaked Candlestick Park this time; recovered a fumble; and kicked an NFC Championship winning field goal....again. Only this time it was a new generation of Giants that broke the hearts of San Francisco and propelled them into another Super Bowl. Unlike that team of twenty-one years ago, this edition needed overtime to finalize victory, which just made it sweeter; and colorfully more historic. But for more than a dozen or so Giant players and the Head Coach, STILL HERE since the 2007 season, they are now trying to get Lombardi Trophy number two; just like that NFC Championship team of 1990-91 was.
In the unlikeliest of manners, the Giants beat the 49ers with Special Teams. San Francisco was supposed to be a superior team than us in that respect. One the one hand, they were that good. On the other, Giants' Special Teams have always had their problems. And for portions of the game, it seemed as if the Niners held a huge advantage in that respect. But in classic confrontations such as this one where mistakes were held to a minimum, the team who made the last mistake lost.
*Thank You - Steve Weatherford whom I've jokingly but routinely dubbed our pseudo-MVP this season, for continuing to have a great season punting the ball. When it comes to matters of field position, he's been more than just a punter. He's been a force. Once upon a playoff era, Bill Parcells would have been proud of his kicker on a night like this. This Sunday, Ol' Tom Coughlin was the beneficiary of his fine performance. And glory be to Weatherford for getting that last snap down!
*Thank You - Devin Thomas for his effort to get down field after getting pushed out of bounds by two 49ers blockers, and for having the presence of mind to recover a live ball touched by the Niners.
*Thank You - Jacquian Williams, the rookie, similarly for his down field punt coverage, and for sticking his hand exactly where it needed to be when the Giants needed a big break most.
*Thank You - Lawrence Tynes for planting one sure foot into the soggy Candlestick turf and using the other foot to keep kicking Big Blue forward.
That 49ers' defense was as tough as advertised. They completely dominated the Giants' Offensive Line all night long - (more about that later today!) They totally took away the run right up until the very last few rushes by Ahmad Bradshaw which set up Tynes' field goal. How good was the Niner Defense? The Giants held the ball more than ten minutes longer than the 49ers and ran thirty-three more plays than San Francisco. Yet we only out-gained them in total offense by twenty-four yards.
They beat, battered, pummelled, and pounded Eli Manning. Sometimes Eli saw the rush coming. Sometimes he didn't. It didn't matter because he knew the rush was coming regardless, and that it was going to hit him; and that it was going to happen throughout the game. Eli took hits; many hits; hard hits; and looked downright dishevelled at times. He got sacked six times. But he never fumbled. Eli never even blinked with the Niners and the rain continually in his face. He just kept staying tough and launching footballs into the heart of San Francisco. Fifty-eight times Eli tried defying mother nature and the Niners. Thirty-two passes found safety in the wet hands of his receivers. By the end of the night, Eli Manning had thrown for 316 rain-drenched yards. The Niners could have had interceptions, but missed their chances. Instead, what they got were two more touchdown passes from The Aw-Shucks Kid. In yet another great Championship Game, Eli stood out as the game's greatest player.
But none of this happens without another Herculean effort by the Defense. The stats say San Francisco did so much more with their possessions than the Giants did with theirs. With less time of possession and less plays from scrimmage, the Niners wracked-up almost as many yards as Big Blue. The Giants may have given up over one-hundred yards rushing between Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, and still more through catches out of the back field. But they were controlled yards. Instead, the Giants stymied San Francisco by dominating third down. The Niners were held to one first down in thirteen tries. And other than two TD passes to Vernon Davis, Alex Smith, the 49er offense, and Vernon Davis himself, could muster little else.
Chase Blackburn played huge. JPP was a Wall of One. And pass coverage was outstanding; save two plays. Over the last few weeks, the Secondary has become a blanket. In turn, the Secondary's success is coming from the Giants ability to maintain quarterback pressure with four guys. Led by Justin Tuck, they flushed Alex Smith from the pocket, batted some passes, hit him often, and sacked him three times. Together with overall good tackling, the Defensive effort was just enough to get the Giants through regulation, overtime, and off to Indianapolis to play in another Super Bowl.
The night ended perfectly as Terry Bradshaw was forced to look at winning coach Tom Coughlin in the eye yet again. That was always Bill Parcell's favorite part; proving the naysayers- "The Commies" - "the subversives from within" ..., wrong. But even before that, the re-education of Terry Bradshaw had begun. The Family would have their say first. Watching John Mara; the man who believed in Tom Coughlin; and his Mom; - Mrs. Duke - Mrs. Ann Mara - THE MATRIARCH - just destroy Terry Bradshaw and telling him Where to Stick It was the most satisfying part of the whole night. Don't Worry Pop. I Got This!
Now That's GIANTS FOOTBALL!!