Sunday, February 05, 2012

N.Y. Giants ~ This One is for THE DUKE

From the desk of:   DO IT FOR THE DUKE  ~  Super Bowl XLVI Edition

Wild Card Round

Divisional Round

NFC Championship


New England Patriots



Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots stand in our way again.  For the second time in four years, the Giants will play them for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.  This time the Patriots are looking to exact revenge.  For in Super Bowl XLII, a mere neophyte out-miracled a three-time Champion and certain Hall of Fame quarterback named Tom Brady.  That wasn't supposed to happen.  Not to Tom Brady.  Not after marching the Patriots down field late in the game and throwing the go ahead touchdown to Randy Moss.  The incredulity of Eli's ensuing game winning drive continued all the way through to the onset of this season.  The simple word "Yes" was resoundingly considered preposterous that Eli Manning should answer a question and suggest that he was indeed in an elite class of quarterbacks along with Tom Brady.

Eli then went on to have the best season of his career.  So yeah, aw shucks...  The neophyte grew up a little since 2007.  And he was last seen in San Francisco absorbing far more punishment than the beating the Giants laid upon the great Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLII.  Two weeks ago Eli still managed to throw two touchdowns and pass for over 300 yards with rain, wind, and Forty-Niners in his face all night.  Yet, the topic on conversation over the last two weeks was how Eli Manning stacks up against the legend of Tom Brady.

That 49er game is something to think about.  Even with Vince Wilfork storming up the middle, I don't think New England will be bringing-it like San Francisco can and did.  Instead I believe Coach Belichick will sell out on coverages, as the Patriots are very average on the Corners.  That would swing two things in the Giants' favor.  It increases Eli's time in the pocket, and opens up the running game.  What Belichick does so well however, is he keeps QB's guessing at the line.  Belichick may even try to tackle Nicks and Cruz into submission.  Where have we seen that before?  But Eli can foil all that by just taking off on his own; something he's been doing with increased frequency and success these last five weeks.

There's no secret, New England will give up yardage and they will give up points.  And for the Patriots, there's the rub.  Eli is a much more dangerous proposition for the Patriots than he was four years ago.  He is much more polished than he was back then.  And Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz have more than proven to be a lethal tandem this season.  Furthermore, the three together are now converting third downs at their highest rate of the season.  With "now-veteran" Mario Manningham, and the return of Jake Ballard, the Giants have enough to score with the Patriots.  As a reminder, the Giants were without Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw when these teams met in Week Nine.

Can we run the ball?  Sure we can, and yes we will.  Brandon Jacobs was taken right out of the NFC Championship Game by the 49ers and additionally and rightfully so by the Giants' Offensive Coordinator.  His abilities just didn't suit that game.  But in this match up, he fits right in.  And he may play a bigger role than anyone realizes.  I believe center David Baas will have trouble with New England's Vince Wilfork.  But instead of getting help from the Guards; Kevin Boothe or Chris Snee; the Giants might fight a big body with another big body; that being Brandon Jacobs.  Employed imaginatively, Jacobs can provide a world of difference while Ahmad Bradshaw takes care of the rest.

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These two previous posts cover all my thoughts regarding the Giants' Running Game:
In these posts, I discussed behind which portions of the Offensive Line the Giants have had the most success running the ball this season.  And the fact is the Right Side has been our best side all season.  There has been short but consistent yardage to the Left.  But up the middle behind David Baas, there's been nothing to speak of.  I also discussed how David Baas might very well be a liability at Center playing against Vince Wilfork.  David Baas is undersized, and while under duress last week, he  consistently delivered low snaps against the 49ers.  To me the solution is to start Kevin Boothe because a) - he instantly gives the O-Line more size when he plays Center and Mitch Petrus plays Left Guard, and b) - he instantly provided Eli with superior snaps out of the shot-gun when David Baas missed a few plays against San Francisco.

*     *     *

But getting back to the "bigger game story", way too much has been made about whether Eli Manning is in Tom Brady's class.  Where ever you stand in the debate, it all comes to a head today.  For many and whatever their reasons, Eli Manning being named MVP of Super Bowl XLII meant nothing.  And now suddenly, it means everything.  But if you've always been behind your quarterback like a good Giant Fan should, there is no debate.  Eli Manning is a Giant.  Tom Brady is a Patriot.  I like our guy, and have the utmost confidence he can beat their guy Sunday evening.  And I believe our Defense will do more to disrupt Tom Brady than the Patriots can affect upon Eli.  I can't make it any more simple than that.

Eli has over a dozen Giant team mates returning with him from that game played four years ago.  Many of these Giants - very key Giants; like (Eli); Osi; Tuck; McKenzie; Snee; and Diehl; Bradshaw and Jacobs; and Webster and Ross; have all made it through this battle before.  They did it together as a team.  And Tom Coughlin has always stressed that; be a team.  So it goes without saying, Eli will not do this alone.

Tom Brady is back as well, and seemingly a little more angrier than the average Minuteman.  He wants revenge for what happened four years ago.  Unlike Eli, Brady returns with fewer of his old Patriots in Arms from four years ago.  And there in lies the Patriots biggest deficiency this season.  It's not that they return with less players from four years ago.  They come into this game with one man on a mission.  For two weeks all I have heard is how Tom Brady is a great many things, and how he's trying to chase down immortality by going down as the best quarterback ever.  When the talk turns to the Patriots, it invariably turns to Tom Brady.  There is also the high level of uncertainty surrounding The Gronk.  And so it strikes me that all the Patriots' issues are singular issues; individual issues.  Where as the Giants seem all together now, healthy, and shy of any individual dilemmas.

In the face of all the injuries that seemingly tried derailing Big Blue's season this year, never once did anyone take pity on the Giants, or on the Defense, or Coach Perry Fewell, or on Osi or Tuck, or anyone in the Secondary, or Michael Boley, or least of all, Tom Coughlin.  This team was considered dead and buried.  They just kept plugging in the next replacement and continued playing football.

And this morning I finally get it.  The Giants have been shooting off at the mouth this past week.  The way they've been carrying on, it sounds like they don't care who's taking snaps from center for the Patriots.  And it sounds like they could care even less about Tom Brady's legacy.  When you have a team like the Patriots down, you keep them down.  They did it four years ago, and again in Week Nine this season.  And Bill Belichick knows the Giants can do something his team can't.  The Giants can get to Brady with four guys.

Super Bowl hype week is just a mind game.  And what you heard this week was a Giants team rallying around their quarterback.  In the face of all the adversity these Giants dealt with this season, the Aw-Shucks Kid from the south got them to this game again.  And now that all his Defensive team-mates are healthy and having fun again, their rambunctiousness showed this week.  This unit is chomping an the bit to make sure Eli Manning shines brighter than his larger than life counter-part today.  Because all Eli ever tried to do was be successful on the next play call and get his guys a win.  Because all he did two weeks ago was keep getting up and trying to beat San Francisco when many of his mates where getting overwhelmed in from of him.  All he did was just keep getting up and kept the Giants going.  Now Eli has led them all the way to another Super Bowl appearance.  And today,  Eli's team mates want to do something for him.

They're back.  Eli and the worst team to win the NFC East are back to show what they think of all the naysayers this season.  Jerry Reese said we were a playoff team and John Mara believed in this Coach.  And here we are in the Super Bowl.  The Matriarch; Ann Mara; told Terry Bradshaw what she thought of him and all the doubters.   Now the Giants will show what they think of the Patriots.  And yeah, they showed up with a chip on their shoulder.  And why not?  Who believed in this team before the Band Wagon rolled down their block?  Now they all want on.  But it's too late.  To a man, the Giants are already ALL IN.  If you weren't on board before, there's no room for you now.

New England?  They have the great Tom Brady, a legendary Coach, and a busted Gronk.   There's safety in numbers and the Giants have them.  On the morning of February 5, 2012, all the Giants' problems are behind them now.  After a rocky road, this team is finally in tact.  This is our best and I like it.  All that's left is to play today's game.  THE DUKE would have liked this team too.  John Mara said Super Bowl XLII was for all the Giants Fans who stayed with the team since the days they played at the old Polo Grounds.  Well, today, this one is for Ann, and The Duke.  All this team needs to do now is go out there and Play Like Giants.

Let's go Giants!

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