The NY Giants are going to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI!!
Defense wins championships. In today's pass-happy NFL, where the rules are designed for high scoring, this NY Giants defense came together in the last 5 weeks and snuffed out the San Francisco 49ers.
Let's first give credit to Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin. Reese made a bold prediction in August. “We’ll get into the playoffs," Reese said, "and we’ll make a run.” Five months later, Reese is a prophet. After defeating the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship 20-17 in OVERTIME, his much maligned team is headed to Indianapolis to play in Super Bowl XLVI. Tom Coughlin, for his part, oversaw a "Giant" transformation, taking a 7-7 team with two elimination games and brought them to the doorstep of another title. Coughlin did a fabulous job of having this team ready, and presided over much needed changes made by DC Perry Fewell.
1. Defense WINS championships. This is rule 28 in our Rules For Winning in the NFL. Against the 49ers, the Giants played like past Giant defenses. They were suffocating. Take away the two touchdown plays to 49ers TE Vernon Davis, and the 49ers offense was stuck in first gear the entire game. The 49ers were ONE for THIRTEEN on third down. One for Thirteen! And their only third down conversion came on the last play of regulation. Despite gaining 150 yards on the ground, their passing attack was grounded. 49ers quarterback threw for 196 yards. As stated earlier, subtract Davis' gains of 73 and 26 yards, Smith threw for a measly 95 yards. And his wide receivers caught a total of ONE pass. Michael Crabtree caught one pass for 3 yards. The mitigating factor for the Giants success on defense was their defensive line. The Giants were able to put pressure on Smith. The Giants tallied three sacks. Something the Saints could not do at all. This pressure made Smith show his true colors. He is a much-improved, but nonetheless limited NFL quarterback.
2. Turnovers. All season long, the 49ers were making a living off of turnovers. They led the NFL in the important giveaway/takeaway ratio. A whopping PLUS 28. And they continued this opportunistic behavior in the playoffs. Last week, they force 5 turnovers in their match up with the Saints. However, Sunday night was a different story. The Giants won the turnover battle. They were a PLUS two in this game. And 10 points were the result of turnovers. In fact, check out this statistic: In their last five games, the Giants are PLUS nine in takeaways. They have 11 takeaways and just TWO turnovers.
3. Tom Coughlin. The Giants head coach has been a pinata on this blog. Why? His teams have had talent. And time and again, they have underacheived. After the Redskins game, it certainly appeared this team was headed for yet another second half collapse. But this did not happen. Coughlin deserves tremendous credit for getting his team prepared and ready to play. Even if they lost tonight, his team had fight. And as a fan, this is all you could ask for. As a matter of fact, Coughlin's Giants outplayed the 49ers. How did they do it? They played disciplined football. In a cold, wet, boggy, and noisy Candlestick Park, the Giants played with poise. This mental toughness was needed to stay toe to toe with a steadfast 49ers team. The Giants beat the 49ers at their own game. As stated earlier, they did not turn the ball over.
4. Road Warriors. The Gmen played 60 minutes of football on the road and did not blink. As long as Coughlin is head coach of the Giants, his team's legacy will be known as a ROAD WARRIOR. In the 2011 NFL Playoffs, there have been 10 playoff games. The road team has a 2-8 record. Guess which team has the only two wins? Yes, the Giants are the only team to win on the road. Fittingly, they have earned a spot in Indy.
5. Eli Manning. Already possessing a Super Bowl ring and MVP, this guy has to be the most improved player in the NFL. Going into this season, NFL.com's Steve Wyche wrote about how Eli planned on not being a turnover machine. Boy, Eli has played extremely well this season and in this year's playoffs. Last night, on a wet field, Eli Manning threw the ball 58 times. Out of those 58 throws, he was hit TWENTY times and sacked six times by a terrific defense. Let us face it, he got the snot knocked out of him. Even though, he was roughed up by the 49ers stalwart defensive line, Eli managed to throw for 318 yards and two touchdowns. His touchdown throw to Mario Manningham was a tremendous pass. Eli stuck that ball in a very tight window. His progress this year has been astonishing. If it were not for Eli Manning's play, this team does not make it to the Super Bowl. Trent Dilfer heaped tremendous praise on the Giants QB, saying that no stats could explain how Eli, under terrible playing conditions and vs a tremendous defense, took care of the ball and won the game for his team.
6. Special teams. Devin Thomas and Steve Weatherford were outstanding. Thomas was at the right place at the right time not once but twice. His fumble recoveries helped the Giants win this game. As for Weatherford, his deft handling of an errant snap by Zak DeOssie avoided a potential nightmare. Since he was able to place the ball cleanly for Tynes, the Giants are packing their bags for Indianapolis. Weatherford's hold at least takes some of the sting from Trey Junkin's unfortunate botched snap against the 49ers in the 2003 playoffs. Furthermore, Weatherford's punting was a difference maker in this game. Out of his 12 punts, two landed inside the twenty yard line. His 40.6 yard average per punt with a long of 57 yards helped balance field position. Jacquian Williams' tremendous forced fumble on Special Teams won the game for the Giants. His effort and athleticism on that play were key to breaking a logjam that could have seemingly gone on all night.
7. Victor Cruz and Jason Pierre-Paul. What can be said about these two stars? They have made impact plays time and time again, in games when the Giants played well and in games when the team disappeared. These two players were there again last night. Cruz had 10 catches for ~half of Eli's passing. And Jason Pierre-Paul made stop after stop, harrassing Alex Smith everywhere. On one play of note, JPP is going north to pressure the QB, then amazingly runs south in an instant to tackle Smith and prevent a first down.
8. Too many supporting players to name in a single post. Ahmad Bradshaw collected 126 total yards from scrimmage. Aaron Ross and Corey Webster essentially shut out the Niner wideouts. The entire Giants DL bent but did not yield to the opponent's run game. Hakeem Nicks played hurt but still contributed. Mario Manningham's lone reception was a huge TD grab. He held on for the reception despite taking a big hit on the play. The Giants OL had a rough night but they went up against a lot of talent in players like Aldon and Justin Smith.
With this win, the Giants are FIVE and ZERO in NFC Championship games. In two weeks, the Giants have an opportunity to win their fourth Lombardi trophy. The Giants have saved a season and have Super Dreams!
So the rematch with the Patriots - a great pass/no run offense and a D with a nose tackle playing very, very well of late, an "interesting" LB here or there and a weak secondary - is on. Call me crazy, but based on the performance of these two teams the past 5 weeks (and forgetting the season's records) I'd say we should be favored by the 2.5/3 points.
Much like the 49ers, NE does not have a lot of team speed. With a 4-man pass rush generated for the most part without blitzes this means 7 men in coverage. Pick your poison, but I'd say either Gronk or Welker MUST be hit at the line often, if not always, certainly at the start, to set the tone. And Rolle and Philips MUST keep the game in front of them. Make Branch, Hernandez, Woodhead and Edelman beat us. I like our odds very much with this in mind.
The Ravens play a 3-man front and they were in Brady's face and in his head all day. We will do the same and more with our 4.
On offense, my favorite play was Bradshaw isolated down the sideline on a LBer. Shades of mid 60s football when this was a staple of EVERY TEAM. Let's see more of that and much less of Jacobs on third and anything.
And much like the 49er game, albeit with a HOF QB going against us and our risen-to-the-occasion on this run to Indy D and our Eli, no longer the Kid from Deliverance for me but a true gamer and winner (I wished Madden was doing the game when Eli's helmet was off-center and his mouthguard up around his nose) going against their suspect D, I like us much, much better.
@DavidCastro Bradshaw in space? What a radical concept! Maybe Gilbride is going to wake up one of these days, keep the strobe on, and use Bradshaw in planned delays and in some upfield routes. But like the screen pass, I have learned not to hold my breath waiting. And the amazing thing is that even if Gilbride ever dialed this/these plays up, he'd never use them more than once or twice per game. The stress it puts on a defense is tangible.
I felt these past two games that the point spread was a little rich for the favorite. I would have made the Packers -4 and I would have made the game yesterday ~pickem. But the money does not understand the change in the defense in the last 5 weeks. 83% man coverage (avg of Week 16-19) makes this a very different defense. Who would have thought that the defense would have bailed out the offense?! I really did expect Eli and the offense to put the game away in Q4 but we got a tremendous play from Jacquian Williams. As the title of the post goes, Defense and Special Teams.
One more point. I think that, all things considered, Eli Manning played a great game. Certainly, he's had better games in terms of accuracy and decision-making, but given the miserable conditions, and given the absolute beating he took--can't remember a worse beating than maybe one of his games (e.g. the Raven game) his rookie year--it was a profile in courage. That said, when you hear the radio talk show hosts and commentators go on and on about his throwing 58 times without a turnover, you wonder just how closely they watched the game. The Niners should have intercepted Manning, by my count, at least 2x. And he did fumble the ball in 1Q, but the Giants, fortunately, recovered it.
I want to be clear that even if the Niners has intercepted Manning those two times--and even if the Niners had gone on to win--I still would be saluting his performance today. It just bothers me how people who are paid to analyze this stuff closely make their decisions about whether to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the basis of outcomes alone without looking any deeper. Because you know that if the Niners had held on to those throws, these same people would be laying the defeat at Eli's feet.
@dbs50 The contrast between Manning and Smith was remarkable. Smith avoids putting the ball in harm's way and as a result misses a lot of passes that he's not even really trying to complete because there is coverage. Manning puts the ball near the defense a lot, trying to give the receiver the best chance at it and hoping they make a play (defensive if necessary).
On the whole he's gotten remarkably lucky on throws to defenders, during critical times. The play last night where Brown and Goldson each other was an example, a terrible throw which looked like a miscommunication with Nicks. To me these lucky near misses detract a bit from his otherwise excellent play, even if they aren't INTs.
@Paddlepedal It looked to my like NIcks was suppose to do a deep in and when he saw the 2 defenders there he broke it off. Eli, not being able to read Nicks mind threw the ball where he thought Nicks was going to be had he run the route as designed. It agree it was a risky throw with 2 defenders so close and the ball having to be in the air a long time but that's as you described, the way he plays the game.
@capt george Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking. He just sorta stopped, and kinda drifted behind the defense while the ball was in the air.
@Paddlepedal It's on thing to have a hot read but what NIcks did was very strange. He didn't break off his intended route and then go deep. He broke off his route and just kind of stood there.
@capt george The Giants seem to do this a lot, allowing/relying on the WR to read the defense and adjust the route. I wonder what the risk/reward is; it seems the Giants do pretty good with it but when the WR and Eli read it differently it is a disaster. See Redskins game.
One of the rare games that plays out almost entirely as anticipated. You figured the Giants would struggle to run the ball and that, as a result, over the course of the game, the Niners rush would have more and more success teeing off on Manning. You figured the Giants D would have to make stops to keep them in the game. And you figured that the turnover differential would be absolutely crucial. And it was.
Major props to the Giants special teams--perhaps to Weatherford most of all. One could make a case for him as yesterday's MVP. 12 punts, most of them excellent, but no bigger play, honestly, than his saving of that snap at game's end. I know the Niners couldn't seem to move the ball from the late Q4 on, but I just don't see how the Giants would have been able to recover from missing a 31-yard FG to win it.
Overall, I thought the reffing was top-notch. There were some questionable calls, but one absolutely huge one went our way. It appears they got it right on the Bradshaw fumble, but it was very, very close, and could easily have gone the other way.
Don't mean to carp today--there will be two weeks for that--but the Giants need to figure out in the next two weeks how to prevent a resurgent Wilfork from flattening David Baas. All the OL seemed to struggle from the 3Q on--the tackles in particular. But I feel better about the tackles chances against NE's edge rush. (It's gotten better, but it still doesn't come close to SF's.) But there were times yesterday when Baas seemed to be the worst player on the field. If the Giants don't convert on that 3rd and 15 for a touchdown, his holding penalty on 1st and goal maybe becomes one of the crucial plays of the game.
I noticed on the last two punts he fielded that Aaron Ross went down quickly and carefully at the first sign of defensive presence. Obviously he decided to, or was coached to, protect the ball at all costs. Kyle Williams, on the other hand, appeared to be trying to make a play in overtime, which led to the game-winning strip. Can it be -- greatest irony of all -- that we are going to the Super Bowl because we outcoached the Niners ON SPECIAL TEAMS? I recall reading at mid-season that someone else was brought in to be a high-level assistant to Tom Quinn, perhaps a face-saving way to get around his ineptitude that may account for the pretty dramatic improvement in kick coverage and returning during the current run. Does anyone know more about this?
@vblasi67 Not just on specials did they go down. The receivers were doing the same thing. Remember Beckum after his on his last 3rd down catch and cruz did it at least twice.
@capt george@vblasi67 Cruz was making a lot of moves to avoid unnecessary contact. Not only going down on runs, but pulling up just enough on routes across the middle where he was going to be hit, while still making the catch. I'm not sure how I feel about the specific move - avoiding contact instead of following through - but I love the fact that he's thinking strategically in the middle of the play.
@Paddlepedal If they do it in 2 weeks the your are 100% right. Hope you are not.
@capt george Agree, but you have to pick your spots. If the spot is limited to SF in the title game it's OK, and kudos to the coaches for coaching around a problem. If you make a habit of it, or something similar like running out of bounds while it may make sense on any individual play, it can lead to a perception or attitude of softness.
@Paddlepedal I have no trouble with them going to the ground. I might even venture to say that it was coached. I am thinking the coaches watched the Saints game and said, "the only way these guys beat us is if we turn the ball over" I saw it happen to many times for it to be just coincidence. If it was something they did regularly then that would be one thing but that is not the MO of those players to do so.
@longtimegiantfan LOL, Luck, Destiny, whatever you want to call it, it’s great for Giants fans.
I want to thank you for the well thought out reply. I am on a personal mission to stop bashers coming to this site, contribute nothing to the conversation, and kick the writers here with verbal shots without backing up there assertions. When people take cheap shots at you when you are just trying to do your best it gets discouraging, especially when what you are doing is giving your time for free like Andy and the rest of the writers here.
I am not going to argue the point about Tom because I am pretty sure we will never agree but I do respect your above view.
: ) Destiny. .... Listen, Capt. My support for Coughlin comes also from another angle, as well, as the ones I've previously stated. He IS an old school coach in a time when money, arrogance, sensationalism, and god knows what else, has taken over the game. He truly does care about his players. He sits them when he feels they need to be sat. He is into the development of MEN and their character. As much as some players might hate his rules, his quirkiness, his corniness, etc, he consistently has their best interest as human beings in mine. Despite the occasional roll of their eyes and shaking of heads, THAT'S why they play for him. It's about heart, in a game that year after year has less and less. And look around us. That's not just about football.
@vblasi67 Larry Izzo. Former Patroits special teams standout.
I was just thinking about that defense and what a turnaround !
We set an NFL record by allowing a 50%+ 3rd down conversion rate in 3 straight games.
And over the last 3 games our opponents went 11 of 43 on 3rd or 4th downs. That's less than 26% !
An excellent game to watch, especially as a Giants fan but also just as a fan of good football and good defense. Caughlin has erased all my doubts. Still not sure what exactly he's doing, but if he should take the blame for late season collapses, it is only fair he gets the credit for playoff miracle runs (and no more "it's only when Spags is there" -- although when Fewell gets hired away, we should offer $ for Spags to come back). Phillips and Rolle stopping Davis one yard short of a first down on 49ers only OT possession was huge, as was JPP's tackle for loss on the play before. One nitpick: too many unnecessary penalties (2 delays, penalty to allow conversion on 3rd and 19, ugh.)
Coughlin is killing me.
His team don't look like contenders for 3 years then out of nowhere he pulls 5 (hopefully) awesome games and (hopefully) a Superbowl win.
The offense had trouble getting/staying on track at times. Some good small ball plays at times, but other times even though Eli had no time to throw, Gilbride was dialing up slow developing double/triple moves with no safety valve. And as Andy pointed out during the game, why no outside runs? Not enough at least.
The officiating was pretty good overall. Only three quibbles: One blatant offsides on San Fran was not called. Then another one a drive or two after that (blatant case of a niners player being lined up in the neutral zone). And finally, earlier in the game, the illegal contact call on Ross was a little iffy. Looked to me to be within 5 yards, but they never showed a good replay angle for me to confirm. Hochuli is generally good.
The defense was solid other than the two huge plays. Phillips had a perfect opportunity to jam Davis at the line on the second TD and knock him off of that route. Boley and Rolle better be ready to take on Hernandez/Gronkowski (we'll see how healthy Gronkowski is).
Plenty of time to analyze that one... gonna spend today trolling the Cowboys and Eagles fans at work. The Dream Team and America's Team are sitting at home, and WE ARE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!!!!!
You know, someone called WFAN yesterday and pointed out that if the Giants win the Super Bowl this year Coughlin and Parcells record as Giants coaches will be almost identical (including playoff appearances, playoff record, and of course, Super Bowls.) The man is a winning coach, and It seems like whenever the hammer is about to fall on his head ( if the Giants lose to the Jets, would have he survived? I would say probably but doubt would've clearly been there) his teams step up their game.
Regardless, I am done selling Coughlin short. For all the faults we pointed out in their mid season swoon, the man does not panic. That's definitely worth something.
@James_Allen@longtimegiantfan No, he is the luckiest bastard alive. Think about the absolutely stupid luck bounces the man has had just this year alone. How many miracle comebacks did Eli have this year? What were the odds of the first Dallas win? They say it's better to be luck than good and boy, does Tom have luck in spades.
@James_Allen I almost forgot, they cheated. That's how they beat the rams that year. No way were they all of a sudden that good in that game.
@CommanderShepard My point is to people like longtimegiantfan who come on this blog, contribute nothing to the conversation except to bash the writers of the blog and forget history.
@CommanderShepard You can delete the names of the people you're not answering to ;)
@capt george @longtimegiantfan
They Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are lucky bastards because of the tuck rule. No tuck rule (and no Adam Vinitieri) no first Super Bowl and who knows what happens after. The bounce of the ball makes and breaks careers. That's just the way of things. It's important that you are just there to get the break.
The Niners D was tremendous, they beat the bejesus out of Manning. And Eli, what can you say? He never quite gets the rep, but rest assured, he is one tough son of a bitch. He took the pounding and never blinked.
And as the game went on, you just knew the game was coming down to turnovers; only this time, it was special teams (who had sone rough moments in this game on kickoff coverage) that got it done.
And the run game, which has been spotty all year, got it done when they needed it most. After the OT muff, Bradshaw grinding it out to inside the 10 was huge.
And Tynes can make you sweat. The delay of game was perplexing, but at least they didn't rush it like Baltimore
did. Why the Giants (and the Ravens for that matter) didn't use a timeout is a mystery. Is this anti-icing over thinking? Still, this shows how important Bradshaw's yardage was, even with the penalty is was only 31. Tynes was golden. Having done it before probably helped. I cannot begin to imagine what it feels like to be in that moment. (I feel for Billy Cundiff, how excruciating is that?)
On to Indy and Belichick and Brady again. Haven't we seen this movie before? I sure hope the ending stays the same.
I tip my hat to Tom Coughlin and Perry Fewell. They made the changes in Week 16, the players bought in with Antrel Rolle rallying the team, and the rest is history. We were critical of the leaky defensive schemes that plagued the giants for 14 games. Change happened. Man coverage averaged 83% in the NYJ, DAL, ATL, and GB games. 83%! We haven't reviewed the tape of everything used vs the SF wideouts, but the days of watching Corey Webster and Aaron Ross passing off their assignment to a zone are a memory. Add Osi on the pass rush and the defense bridged the gap on this remarkable run. If the Giants win the Super Bowl as the only 9-7 team to do so, it will be for a reason- a talented team had the courage to change. Great stuff. Super Stuff.
This feels good. Hell this feels freaking awesome. 6 weeks ago I wouldn't have put a dime on the Giants, I didn't even think they'd win the division.
NFC Champions baby !