Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Giants: 2007 vs. 2011

It's so hard to come up with something fresh to write about on this blog with all the media coverage that the Super Bowl generates. This one, in particular, is probably generating even more attention than most of the others, because New York, after all,  is the media capital of the world and the fact that this game is the rematch of the 2007 Super Bowl is a compelling story. It's been four years since that game, so it's hard to remember and frame exactly how we Giants fans felt going into that game. Let's remember the setting - Brady and the Pats were the absolute stuff (euphemism). The team was undefeated having won their entire regular season, gotten a bye in the first round and won their two playoff games fairly easily, if not with as much dominance as they showed during the regular season. The thing about that Patriots team, is that not only did they win all 16 games during their regular season, but they absolutely destroyed most of the teams they played. They scored a record 589 points for the season and Brady broke the single season record for most TD passes at 50. That's incredible - an average of more than 3 per game. They gave up 274 points the entire season, the fourth stingiest defense in terms of points allowed in the entire NFL. This means that their average margin of victory was 15 points, scoring 32 per game and giving up 17.  Their playoff wins were solid, beating the Jaguars by 11 and the Chargers by 9, though not runaways.

By contrast, the Giants had a slightly above average season, going 10-6. They were somewhat up and down, playing some poor games during the year and requiring a win against the Bills (7-9) in week 16 to the secure the playoff berth. They played a solid game in week 17 against the Patriots trying to end their perfect season, but lost 38-35. With that contrast in performance and style, the logic went, there was no way the Giants could beat the Patriots.

Giants had a good opening round playoff win against the Bucs but then barely beat the Cowboys and Packers in the next two rounds. Giants needed an INT in overtime to beat the Packers and had to sweat out a last minute throw into the end zone by Romo as an attempt for the winning TD to come away with the win against the Cowboys. They were close game that could have gone either way, but the Giants prevailed in both by the narrowest of margins. I remember thinking before the game that, while anything could happen, deep down I thought the Giants would lose and I just hoped they could make a game of it, not embarrass the franchise and give Eli a chance to grow through the experience of the game. They were playing with house money now, having advanced beyond where anyone thought they would and I realistically did not think they could win. So much so, that when the Giants scored the TD early in the 4th to take a 10-7 lead in the game, my brother called me and asked: "do you think we have a chance". The thought really never entered my mind either, but when I was prompted by that question, I thought and I said: "Look, when you have a lead in the 4th quarter, no matter how good the opponent is, of course you have a chance". Saying that out loud and rationally thinking it, rather than just viscerally feeling it was a revelation to me. I repeated it to myself aloud as if surprising myself with this newly discovered fact. Of course we have a chance to win. Eli, Tyree, Paxico.... the rest is history.

The interesting thing though, is how different the team's performance has been this year in comparison. The regular seasons were somewhat similar - Giants had a mediocre regular season and needed some late season victories to sneak into the playoffs. In 2007 Giants were a wild card and this year a divisional winner, but both teams clinched late, needing late season wins to secure a playoff berth. But their performance in the playoffs - at least so far - was quite different. Eli II is much better than Eli I. He is now a better pure passer, with better footwork, more pace on the ball and much more accuracy. It shows with the results - In 2007 Giants won the 3 conference playoff games by a total of 16 points, each game being very close. By contrast, while this year's team had an overtime game that was (by definition) close, the margin of victory in these 3 games this year is 41 points. Giants are a better, more explosive team this year and I think they have a chance in this game Sunday.

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