Meltdown at the Meadowlands. I had known of course that the Giants were bound to lose a game sooner or later but I didn’t expect it would be against Philly. I knew that the Eagles were a much improved team of late with Donovan McNab having regained his confidence and Brian Westbrook his form ,but the Giants had been so focused that I thought they would win this one too. Particularly since it was at home. What a disappointment. Whatever the reason ( Plaxico?), they looked absolutely flat. The final score was not indicative of how thoroughly they were outplayed. They got a gift TD on the blocked field goal just before the half and the last TD was too late to be a serious threat. Almost every player performed below par. The offensive line was leaky, the receivers dropped passes, the running backs were so-so, the defensive line didn’t pressure McNabb … I could go on and on. What was surprising was the coaching miscue by Steve Spagnolo in which he packed 10 players on the line of scrimmage and , consequently, Westbrook was able to go all the way once he squirted through the line.
Let’s hope that this was a one-off and that the Giants are able to regain their intensity and focus going forward. They are certainly going to need it becuse the next three opponents are Dallas ( away), Carolina and Minnesota. Dallas will be a desperate team, fighting for its playoff life ; Carolina will be motivated because it can get home field advantage if it beats the Giants and Minnesota is in a dogfight to win its division. Two additional worries are : Brandon Jacob’s knee and the lack of a home run threat now that Buress is gone.
Dallas is going down, down, down. What a collapse against the Steelers ! The way the Cowboys completely outplayed the Steelers for 3- 1/2 quarters, I was sure they were going to win. In fact, when I was called away at the end of the third quarter, I didn’t go back to the game. What a surprise to find later that night that the Steelers had won,and in regulation too ! I have to agree with Tony Romo that this loss was on him. It is mystifying how he plays so well at other times but makes these costly miscues in crunch time , and particularly in December. However, owner Jerry Jones should learn to keep his mouth shut. I know he was smarting from the loss but what was the point in questioning Marion Barber’s decision to sit out the game ? All it did was to alienate his star running back, one of the cornerstones of the Cowboys future. Jerry Jones reminds me very much of George Steinbrenner. Both men opened their checkbooks to build winning teams but have an exaggerated opinion of their smarts. They think of ‘their’ players as cogs in a machine and have no real enjoyment of the game . I don’t see the Cowboys beating both the Giants and the Baltimore Ravens and if they don’t run the table , they are almost certainly out of the playoffs.
The team I fear most. No it’s not the Titans. Or the Steelers. Yes, the Titans have a stout defense and Giants cast-off Kerry Collins is playing out of his skull but they seem vulnerable. In a big game , I expect Collins to unravel. As for the Steelers, the defense is formidable but Rothleisberger is playing hurt and has been less than impressive this year. The team I fear most is the Ravens. Even though the Giants beat them, the Ravens seem to be the biggest threat in the AFC. The defense with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed is fearsome and now that the offense has a decent QB in rookie Joe Flacco they are a threat to anybody. I remember how they dominated the Giants in the Super Bowl a few years ago : and that was Trent Dilfer at QB ! I’m glad the Giants will not have to face them unless both teams make it to the Super Bowl.
The other team that worries me is the Carolina Panthers. They looked frighteningly good against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last night.The defense is not quite as scary as that of the Ravens( though they are plenty good) but the offense is more potent. Delhomme ‘s game is not pretty ; he just gets the job done. Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad are breakaway threats and , in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart they have a pair of RBs to rival those on the Giants. The regular season game in week 16 should be a real test for the Giants and an indicator of how far they can go in the playoffs.