EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Three wins in a row. To quote Major League II: "Ok, guys. We've won two games in a row. If we win tonight, it's called a winning streak. IT HAS HAPPENED BEFORE." Now obviously our Gmen are in a far more optimistic situation than the sequel's fictitious tribe was, but I'll take any excuse to use that quote. The film wasn't exactly the greatest of sequels, but people tend to forget it still had some great one-liners. Similarly, last Sunday's game might not have been the prettiest we've played this year, but there were certainly a lot of positives to take away from it. I'll get into those a little later.
As much as I hate to give credit to anyone associated with anything Boston, there's a quote of Bill Belichick's that always stands out to me as defining how champions should treat the game of football: "Stats are for losers." To winners, the only numbers that matter are those in the win-loss column. Fantasy football, rankings, and individual accolades aside, in-game stats are little more than a crutch for people to talk about how a player or team has performed, without having to really watch them. Statistics in football serve the same purpose as statistics in the real world – a reliable way to predict trends based on past performance, nothing more. They're not the same thing as a fortuneteller. Once everyone accepts that, they'll be able to observe and enjoy games the way coaches, players, and true NFL minds do, knowing what to really focus on. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening anytime soon.
But enough about that. Let's get to Sunday's big win over the Lions.
A Packed Tavern
JJ and I went back to Rick's Tavern in Santa Monica to check out the game this week. For a Giants' fan, it's a safe bet to be an enjoyable place to watch the game. The one issue I have with it, and this isn't really the bar's fault, more the fault of it's location, is that it's situated on a street that requires you to feed the meter, even on Sundays! That's just not right. What's worse – it's 2-hour max parking, meaning at some point in the game you have to go out to your car to add more change. But in retrospect it's really not that big a deal. Man, was Rick's crowded last Sunday! The back area was all Giants fans, but I was still surprised how many non-Giants fans were there to watch their respective games in a New York sports bar. The front of the bar was lined with Saints, Patriots, and Ravens fans. As a matter of fact, despite the fact that I never really saw her, I almost fell in love with a particularly loud Saints fan. In a packed house, her yelling stood out far among the rest. What's best, she actually knew her football! When she yelled at the TV, she was making legitimate arguments, not just screaming profanities with no arguments to support them. If only she was watching the Giants game…
The fellow G-maniacs sitting around us were very enjoyable company, which really added to the experience. There was only one (almost) issue, and it was more my superstitious nature than anything anyone else did. There was a medium-sized group of fans at a table near us, and at some point near the end of the third, beginning of the fourth quarter, they had a couple friends show up. When they came, two of the guys got up, and their seating arrangement (which had worked well for the G-men so far) got all rearranged. Shortly after, nearing the thirteen-minute mark of the fourth quarter, Calvin Johnson beat Terrell Thomas and Antrel Rolle for an 87-yard touchdown pass. I was almost tempted to lean over and ask them to go back to their previous seating arrangement, but I held my tongue. And the G-men held their lead, while adding to it later on. So it all worked out.
Almost Too Close for Comfort
For the first 2-and-a-half quarters, the game progressed pretty much as I thought it would. I figured it would be a very close game for most of it, and then we'd pull away towards the end. The latter never really happened.
Offensively, we looked good when we needed to. Eli had a couple of touchdown passes, and more importantly, zero interceptions. Ahmad and Brandon ran the ball very well. Ahmad got the yards we needed on the ground, and Brandon forced his way in on two tough touchdown runs that book-ended the game. And congrats to Travis Beckum on his first career touchdown reception! Only two aspects of our offense really worried me. The first was a few throws that Eli let get away from him. On our first offensive possession, Nicks was wide open deep down the middle of the field, and had Eli not overthrown him it would have been an easy six. There was another throw he missed short to Mario Manningham early in the second quarter, which was overshadowed by an illegal hands-to-the-face call against Suh. Way to take one for the team, Shaun O'Hara's face! If Eli can simply settle down and make all his passes (granted that previous example was also forgotten due to a great deep TD pass to Mario later in the drive), there'll be no reason not to include him among the league's elite passers. The second concern I have is, once again, the play calling. Maybe it's just me, but I feel like this offense could easily be one of the most dynamic big-play offenses in the league (we certainly have the necessary skill players), if only the play calling allowed for it. We have to have the guts to put teams away late, instead of always playing so conservatively. I've heard of a prevent defense, but it sometimes looks like we're playing with a prevent offense once we have the lead. Can't make that a habit.
Our defense did its job pretty well, minus Calvin Johnson's big game and making Drew Stanton look like Willie Beaman. We knocked a quarterback out of the game for the third straight week, completely shut down Jahvid Best and their running game, and had some great hustle plays. The Deon Grant fumble recovery, for one, was HUGE. The recognition and recovery was 100% on Deon, and it shouldn't go unnoticed. It came late in the fourth quarter, with us holding on to a slim four-point lead, and the turnover led to our final score, which really put the game away for good. Final note on the defense, you can't say enough about how well Osi's played so far this season. He's looking faster, stronger, and smarter than he did a couple years ago when he supposedly "peaked." Excited to see what more he has in store for us this year.
Again, our special teams were kind of all over the place. Matt Dodge had a rough start with the fumbled snap, but did a great job the next time he had an opportunity, pinning them deep in the shadow of their own end zone. For the most part, Darius Reynaud returned the ball pretty well. Didn't love what I saw out of Shayne Graham on the kickoffs however. There was one, near the end of the first quarter, which would have been an illegal procedure against any other team. Luckily, we were playing the Lions, and their returner decided to jump and grab the kickoff before it bounced out of bounds. Good thing there's a bye week coming up soon.
Non-Gmen Thoughts of the Week:
- Man is Cliff Lee good against the Yankees in the postseason. When it comes to facing the Bronx Bombers in October, Cliff Lee makes Curt Schilling look like Byung-Hyun Kim.
- That being said, don't sleep on the Yankees. There are plenty of games left in this series, and I've got all the faith in the world they'll pull this one out. Go Yankees!
- Regarding how best to upgrade the penalties for helmet-to-helmet hits after this past weekend's head-hunting fiasco, I really like what hockey fans are proposing – if a player makes an aggressive cheap shot, you eject him from the game and make his teammates play one man down for at least the remainder of the quarter. That should force the issue. To expand a little on what Rodney Harrison said Sunday night on NBC, these players make too much money for fines to really change the way they approach the game. What really matters to them is the ability to play and help their team out on the field. So those are the areas that need to be addressed when it comes to issuing penalties that will get their attention.
Back to Business in the Division
It took a while to get here, but the Gmen finally have their first divisional match-up coming up in the form of a huge Monday night showdown in Dallas. I hope everyone talks all week about how Dallas will be extremely dangerous since they lost their most recent "desperation game," which would I guess make this one a "super duper double-secret desperation game." You think that stuff really matters when it comes to a divisional game in primetime? Not even a little bit. When we play Dallas on Monday nights, it's always a wild ride, and both teams always show up to play. Just can't wait to see our Gmen kick them while they're already down, thus pulling even further ahead in the division.
Big week ahead of us, Giants' fans! To talk all things Giants (or even a little Yankees, since we're in the midst of playoff baseball), you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find me on Facebook under the name "Gmen Superfan." Look out, Jerry. We're coming for you. Until next week, GO GMEN!!