Monday, February 04, 2008

GIANTS 17, Patriots 14


New York Giants, Super Bowl Champions.

Woo hoo!

The Monk had to master the most difficult of balancing acts yesterday -- keep from screaming and yelling his head off whilst Monkling 1.0 slept in the next room as the Giants pulled off the greatest Super Bowl upset in The Monk's lifetime (Super Bowl III predates the Monk).

Make no mistake, the Giants WON the game much more than the Patriots lost. The teams had the same number of turnovers (1 each) and were rarely flagged (nine total by Mike Carey's notably flag-free crew -- his games are not penalty-fests). So the advantages each team obtained had to be earned.

Here's earning it: (1) the Giants allowed 14 points to the Pats -- more than 22 below the Pats' season average and fewer than the Pats had scored in any game all year; (2) the Pats, who averaged 411+ yards per game, had their second-worst offensive output (274) all year; only the 265 yards in horrid conditions against the woebegone Jets was a worse day for the P-men; (3) the Giants sacked Tom Brady 5 times (more than any team did this year) and hit him on about 15+ other attempts -- the key to the game was whether the Giants could put Brady on his a**, and unlike the teams' regular season matchup and the Pats' 31-20 win over the Jags in the playoffs, Brady did not have time to find his receivers; (4) the Giants outgained the mighty Pats' offense 338-274; (5) Brady threw for 266 yards on 48 passes but the Pats gained 229 yards on 53 pass plays (counting sacks) -- 4.3 yards per pass play and 5.4 yards per pass; Brady averaged an NFL best 8.3 yards per attempt this year; (6) the Patriots did not have a play longer than 19 yards; (7) the Giants' defense covered the team's two worst mistakes (other than the Pierce pass interference) -- it forced a three-and-out possession after Eli's deflected interception and held the Pats on downs after the illegal substitution penalty early in the second half that restarted a Patriot drive; (8) Remember this fact for all times: the Giants are the second team in Super Bowl history to come from behind and score the game winning TD in the last minute (San Francisco, SB XXIIII) -- and they did that against the best team to reach the Super Bowl since at least the 1990 Bills.

No fan of the Giants could fault the team. This defensive group (#8 overall) is not the dominant league-destroying unit of the '86 or '90 teams, yet it continually excelled against the three best offenses in the league.

Consider what the Giants did with a secondary that is not within the league's top 10. The Giants' defensive strength is their front seven -- the pressure that the line can put on the opponent, and the ability of the linebackers to make tackles. To win the NFL crown, the Giants' defensive line had to match up against Tampa (no big deal) and then three of the best offensive lines in the NFL, which (not coincidentally) fronted the top three offenses in the league -- Dallas (#3), Green Bay (#2) and New England (#1). The Giants held all three under their season averages for yards (and points) and only the Cowpatties broke the 300-yard mark. Moreover, during their last three games, the Giants faced the top three QBs in yards per attempt (Romo - #2, Favre - #3, Brady - #1) and held all far below their season average. Romo averaged 5.6 yards per attempt in the playoff game, 8.1 during the season; Favre's split of 6.7 v. the Giants but 7.8 during the season is deceptive -- without that 90-yard TD, he averaged 4.3 yards per attempt.

The win over the Pats is the best of the bunch -- the Patriots have three Pro Bowl offensive linemen and have raised the subtle hold (i.e., the one that officials don't catch) to an art form. But neither Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins, Pro Bowl tackle Matt Light nor Pro Bowl center Dan Koppen could control their assigned defenders. Giants DE/DT Justin Tuck ran circles around Mankins and Koppen; Giants Pro Bowl DE Osi Umenyioura crashed down the blind side of Brady's protection all day; and the old man of the D, Michael Strahan, created his own brand of havoc. Against Green Bay and New England, Umenyioura had two of the most effective no-sack games a defensive end could have; against Dallas, he crushed All Pro tackle Flozell Adams down the stretch after Flo had controlled their matchup all season.

And after all the kudos to the defense, give this credit: ELI MANNING is The Man. Not just due to 9-14-152, 2 TD in the fourth quarter, but because he outplayed the three top QBs in the league not related to him in consecutive playoff games. Phil Simms perennially completed 56-58% of his passes and had a QB rating in the high 70s -- he has two Super Bowl rings. Eli may not be deadly accurate (career high 57.7% in '06) or mistake-free (55 INT since '05, rating between 73.9 and 77), but he has frequently come through in the clutch (see at Philadelphia, 2006; at Washington, Chicago, Green Bay, 2007) and, most importantly, he can lead a winner. The Monk has liked his operation of the two-minute drill for years . . . another trait Simms had. And in the two biggest drives of the postseason, the Giants rode Eli's arm to the end zone -- late first half against Dallas, end of game against the Pats.

Now he's a champion and a Super Bowl MVP. And he will be forever.

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