Okay, okay , I’ll admit that I never thought that the Giants were going to win yesterday’s game against the Patriots.They were lackluster the previous week in ekeing out a win over the then -winless Miami Dolphins . And , against the Pats yesterday , they were missing their starting running back ( Ahmed Bradshaw) , their best WR ( Hakeem Nicks) and their starting center ( David Baas). Add to that the fact that the Patriots were playing at home where they had won 20 straight games and you can understand the reasons for my pessimism. All credit to the Giants for pulling off such a stunner.
Like most games involving the Giants , it wasn’t pretty. Almost the entire first half had the teams marching up and down the field with nothing to show for it on the scoreboard. When the Giants went ahead in the second half my hopes began to stir and ,when they got to the Pats 2 yard line after a NE turnover , my excitement reached a fever pitch . What a letdown when Eli Manning inexplicably failed to call a time out and the Giants took a delay-of-game penalty. When Eli tossed an end zone interception on the next play,it was a crusher and I came down from my high. Then as New England went ahead with less than 2 minutes left , I was ready to toss in the towel but Eli was magnificent as he marched the Giants up the field to the go-ahead TD with only 15 seconds left. Shades of Super Bowl XLII ! Deja vu all over again , baby ! as Yogi might have said.
Great as the win was it has not blinded me to the Giants flaws. They are a good team for sure but they are not among the élite ; they can’t be mentioned in the same breath as Green Bay or New Orléans . True, they will get better as all their injured players return but they still have their weaknesses. The pass rush is great but the secondary still gets torched regularly for plenty of yardage even they do not give up many TDs. The running game is not that reliable though that could be the result of operating behind a patchwork offensive line . Most alarmingly , the team is not consistent ; it seems to play to the level of the opposition.But enough of that . For now I just want to revel in yesterday’s win and hand out the bouquets.
The first one goes to GM Jerry Reese who had been reviled by Giant fans for not making any big name free-agent acquisitions and for not re-signing reliable slot receiver Steve Smith ( who went to the arch rival Philadelphia Eagles, no less) and emerging TE Kevin Boss. With the season at the halfway point , those two defections would seem to be unimportant.We’ve already seen Victor Cruz step into Steve Smith’s shoes and TE Jake Ballard catch the winning TD yesterday. The offensive line has been rebuilt on the fly with scarcely a hiccup and the DL is one of the best and deepest in the entire NFL . There are also a number of no-name players who have stepped up and contributed mightily when the starters have been sidelined by injury. Reese has stood firm against demands for a new contract by disgruntled DE Osi Umeniyora and that couldn’t have been easy. Osi is a great pass rusher but also a big mouth who I think may be gone next season unless he changes his attitude big time . GM Reese had also been criticized for his recent drafts, unfairly so . DE Jason Pierre Paul is an emerging force and Hakeem Nicks has already proved his worth . Injuries have slowed the progress of others such as WR Ramses Barden , CB Prince Amakumara and LB Clint Sintim but they have the talent to be heard from in the future. Most of all I appreciate the fact that this is a happy clubhouse with the players pulling for each other. Here there are no prima donnas like Albert Haynesworth or Chad Ochocinco.
Credit should also go to Coach Tom Coughlin who seems perennially to be in the hot seat but who just as regularly has his club up for the big games . This may be the last year in his NFL career and I hope he goes out on a high note . Last but not least , QB Eli Manning derves kudos from Giant fans for the way he has answered his critics . I don’t think there are many people out there who question his ” élite ” status. He may not be in the same class as Peyton , not yet anyway, but he seems far more likeable , and deadly in his own right .
The Giants enter a really rough stretch now with games against San Francisco , Philadelphia , New Orléans , Green Bay , Dallas( twice) N.Y. Jets and Washington . Except for the Redskins , none of those teams is a pushover. I’d be happy to see the Giants go better than 4-4 but after yesterday’s win , I wouldn’t count them out in any game , especially if their injured players return and contribute. Go Giants !