Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Giants: Good or good fortune?

We were all pumped up about the Giants last two games: the stirring, well played almost-win game against the undefeated Packers and the win against the Cowboys. The last game, the win against the Cowboys, did two things: 1) put the Giants back in first place in the East and firmly in the playoff race and 2) beat the @#$%^ Cowboys. (I must admit that there are only two things that I root for ever NFL weekend - a Giants win and a Cowboys loss. If both those outcomes happen in the same game, even better. If the Cowboys lose - the more excruciating, disheartening and disappointing the loss the better. My brother put it another way - when a team loses a lot of games in a row and is suffering through a painful season, you start to feel sorry for them and hope that they win a game or two to improve their spirits. Not so for the Cowboys - if they were to theoretically lose 1,000 consecutive games, I would be rooting just as hard for them to lose number 1,001).

Back to the Giants - as uplifting as these last two games have been, we have to admit that we are not really looking at a team that, even if it makes the playoffs, is ready for a long run through January. Giants are an average team, or maybe slightly above average, that is being carried by an extraordinary QB that is having a remarkable season. The defense has been weak through 13 games; there's little reason to expect that they will suddenly rise up and figure out how to play strong defense these last few games.

Even in the Cowboys game, there were a few lucky plays that went the Giants way without which the outcome might have been different. The most obvious of these plays were two - one that came right at the beginning and one right near the end of the game. In the first quarter on the Giants first possession, Eli threw a pass intended for Cruz toward the right sideline. Terrence Newman jumped the route and had a sure pick 6 but he dropped the ball, a play that surely could have changed the game. Then at the end of the game, Romo missed a wide open Miles Austin on a play that probably would have been a TD and certainly would have been a long gain and a first down, which would have ended the game.

Of course, on the flip side,  the INT by Lee was a lucky play for the Cowboys. The ball was tipped, a good play by the Cowboys DE, but it veered off course, hit the back of the Giants blocker in front of Lee, rolled over his shoulder, hit Lee in the hands and happened to stick for an INT. Cowboys also got the benefit of some lucky calls by the refs - the non-holding call on Ballard at the goal line which took away 4 points from the Giants after the Jones fumble and the call that Jones went out of bounds on the tackle by JPP when his knee actually touched before going out of bounds were also game changers. I guess in the larger perspective both teams got some breaks and they sort of even out over the course of the game. A bad throw by Romo is not a lucky break as is a drop of an INT by the DB Newman, any more than the drop of a few passes by Cruz and Manningham were bad plays and not lucky breaks. Those things happen in the course of a game; they are magnified when they happen at the end and appear that they alone determine the outcome of the game. All it really means is that the game was very close and a few plays going the other way could have changed the outcome. That's the point - the game was really close and even though the Giants won, they are far from sure of beating the Cowboys in the return date on New Years Day.

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