Hey, Philly, you like apples? We just shocked you on your home turf - how do you like them apples? As Brandon Jacobs said, "they can continue being the Dream Team and keep dreaming." What a huge, huge victory for our beloved Gmen! Our owner, John Mara, admitted this was the team's biggest regular season win in a while. And it really was. So many important things were confirmed and realized for our squad after the win, both physically and mentally.
To take another quote from a member of the Giants' organization, here's what Justin Tuck had to say about the W: "I do believe in them and I did before we won this game, but now there's no doubt whatsoever that when we play our style of football, we can beat anybody." I get chills writing that. All true-blue Giants' fans can stand up and grin proudly. For the haters, worriers, excuse-makers, and doubters, go find another reason to complain about the Giants. This win is for those who believed in the Gmen, regardless of the injuries. Who knew that when the time came for guys to step up, Jerry Reese had built a deep enough roster with players who would step up in a big way. Pat Hanlon probably won't stop grinning from ear to ear until kickoff next Sunday. Good for us. Let's get to it:
The Home Crew, together at last…
Fortunately, the west coast Fox affiliate was carrying the Giants-Eagles matchup as their early game. So I got to watch the game at home, which is a huge deal when it happens to start at 10:00 am. JJ was there, as was my roommate Joe, and his dog Vandy. The full crew was together at last, and the results were great. And despite Tony Siragusa (or as I like to refer to him, the most useless person in all of televised sports), I knew it would be a good day when Fox opened their telecast at "the Linc" with Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston in the broadcast booth as opposed to Troy Aikman and Joe (do I really have to be here?) Buck.
It was a great, overwhelmingly stressful viewing experience from start to almost finish. Wouldn't have it any other way. I was screaming at the top of my lungs even before game time, sure I was waking up our upstairs and other nearby neighbors, and not caring one bit. I had the old "Proud to Be (a New York Giant)" song cued up on my iTunes for every time the Giants scored. Remember, the awesome song they used to play before kickoff at all the Giants' home games, with different members of the team singing along on the video boards? Don't know why they stopped doing that. The song still gets me amped. And I got to play it a whole lot on Sunday.
I must admit that JJ had a bit of a scare on Sunday. It's not easy for everyone to be on time for such an early game on a weekend morning, and JJ was a little bit late. Also, Joe had to run out to the store for a bit, so for most of the 1st quarter it was just Vandy and me. When the Giants picked Vick off early and scored on the next possession, I couldn't help but think that so far this season Vandy really had been giving JJ a run for his money. Fortunately we scored again just after JJ arrived, so any notion of there being a luck discrepancy vanished with that play, and our very well-played second half. Now for the nitty-gritty from Sunday's big win:
Big Blue in "Cruz Control"
Several things had to happen on Sunday for the Giants to come away with a win. We had to protect Eli, avoid turnovers, hit Vick hard and often, and the young guys had to step up. Those things happened, and we won. Not a coincidence.
Offensive game ball - Victor Cruz. Talk about a young guy stepping up when he had to. Everyone (myself included) thought that with all the injuries to our receiving corps, we would have to run the ball extremely well to even stand a chance in this one. I don't think anyone saw this coming, and what a great story for the kid. Growing up in Paterson, N.J. right near the Meadowlands, I felt like I could have easily been watching an old high school buddy playing out there. It's so cool to see a hometown hero develop right before our eyes in such a huge game. In the first quarter, he broke three tackles for his first career NFL touchdown, in the meantime fooling Nnamdi Asomugha (yes, THAT Nnamdi Asomugha) so badly that I think the guy had to run back onto the field in the middle of halftime to grab his jock. To add insult to injury in the fourth quarter, Cruz made a tremendous leaping catch in heavy coverage on the goal line for the go-ahead touchdown, pulling the ball away from, among others, Nnamdi Asomugha. What an incredible performance. The determination in his eyes, willing himself to break tackles and score on the first-quarter touchdown catch, captured the thought in every Giants' fan's heart - if we wanted to win this game, we were going to have to go out and TAKE IT. (Honorable mentions - Ahmad Bradshaw, Eli Manning.
Defensive game ball - Jason Pierre-Paul. This guy is a BEAST. Every game we've played, he's been huge in. And never more so than this past Sunday. In the first quarter, he made a huge sack that got our offense the ball back to let us take a two-score lead. In the second quarter, with the Eagles knocking on the end-zone's door, he made a big play by tipping a pass which Kenny Philips almost turned into an interception. At least we held them to three instead of giving up six. One of many clutch red zone stands. He capped off his incredible game with another sack in the fourth quarter, after which he left the field with an injury. Fortunately, it turned out he only had a cramp, and is okay. When Michael Vick closes his eyes to go to bed, the look on Jason Pierre-Paul's face while coming after him should be the image that haunts his dreams for weeks to come. (Honorable mention - Aaron Ross. After two tough weeks where he faced harsh criticism from a lot of people, myself included, he bounced back in a huge way with two key interceptions.)
Despite only giving out two game balls, this was absolutely a complete team effort. Our pass rush was all over Vick, so much so that he felt the need to cry about it in his post game press conference. Things got pretty chippy there in the first half, and seemed to continue throughout. Which I loved. It's great to show the other team you're not going to back down, and put it in their heads that when they play you, it's going to hurt. We just have to be smarter about it and avoid stupid unsportsmanlike penalties. Antrel Rolle, even though Celek was equally at fault during your little scuffle, we'll NEVER get those calls in Philly. It's a fact of life that all Giants fans and players simply have to accept.
Eli had a great game, which (ironically) is exactly why he's so frustrating as a franchise quarterback. It's why we get so mad after he has bad games. Against arguably the best secondary in professional football, he threw four touchdowns and ZERO interceptions. We all know he has the potential to be one of the top quarterbacks in the league. If he could ONLY BE CONSISTENT! It also helped that Victor Cruz alone accounted for 113 of his passing yards thanks to great running after the catch and an insane reception in ridiculous coverage. But throws like the one he made to Brandon Jacobs for our first TD of the game? That was a PERFECTLY thrown ball. When the guy has time, and the play-action works, there aren't many quarterbacks in the league who are better than him. It also looks like, after a few tough weeks, he's finally getting more in sync with his young receivers, running backs, and protection. Let's hope things keep improving in that respect.
Like the Saints the year they won the Super Bowl, our defense can allow yardage in between the 20s all they like so long as they continue to harden up in the red zone where it counts. You know, the old "bend but don't break" adage. As long as we don't break, and hold them to field goals instead of touchdowns, our offense has shown it's good enough to take care of the rest. Taking a look at the numbers so far this year compared to last year (thanks to teamrankings.com for the info):
• Opponent Red Zone scoring percentage, NY Giants:
o 2011 - 38.46%
o 2010 - 53.19%
Very, very nice. Keep that up, and it'll be a fun season!
Non-Gmen Thoughts of the Week:
• As much as I kind of selfishly hate you for stealing our spotlight this week, kudos to the Buffalo Bills for their shocking upset of the New England Patriots. It's hard not to root for those guys, especially considering who else there is to cheer for in that division. Ryan Fitzpatrick is definitely for real.
• Congratulations to Joe Lacava for being selected by Tiger Woods to be his new caddie. You may not know much about the former caddie for Freddie Couples and Dustin Johnson, but there's something you should know about the guy - he's one of the biggest Giants fans on the planet. And I don't toss stuff like that around lightly. He also happens to be a really good guy. In case you needed a reason to root for Tiger Woods, there it is. Big Blue getting represented on the professional links - gotta love it!
• I have to call out my buddy, 'Teach,' for what had to be a very disappointing Sunday. He's a huge Patriots and Red Sox fan, despite growing up in New York. Unfortunately my Yankees couldn't completely put him out of his misery, splitting the double-header in 14 innings, but with another native New Yorker blowing him out in fantasy football, the Bills handing it to his Pats, and the Yankees nearly ending the Red Sox playoff hopes, it had to be a tough day. Serves you right! GO NY!
• I saw something this morning that made me more homesick than I've been in a long time. Something that you would only see in Southern California. Not only would you never see this in New York City, but I doubt you'd see this in the yuppiest of New York suburbs. I stopped at a gas station on my way to work. While waiting, I noticed someone at a neighboring tank also filling up his gas tank. Except he was standing there, amidst the pumps, eating sliced strawberries off a plate. Not even a plastic or paper plate - a porcelain plate. It's a gas station, not a farmer's market, guy. MAN UP.
Yes, it was a huge win and we shocked the world. We deserve to be riding high right now. But we have to make sure we don't take this win for granted. Arizona might not seem to be as daunting an opponent as Philly was, but we've had worse letdowns before. Remember the Monday night loss to Cleveland in 2008, after destroying the Seahawks the week before? We can't afford to let that happen. Hopefully some guys will get healthy in the meantime, and the rest will continue playing with the same drive we saw Sunday. If we can keep playing this hard every week, we're going to be a very dangerous team to face later on. To keep talking all things Giants, you can e-mail me at email@example.com and find me on Facebook under the alias "Gmen Superfan." Huge win, gotta keep the momentum as we head back to the site of our Super Bowl 42 victory, University of Phoenix Stadium. Until next week, GO GMEN!
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