It’s been just a hair over 24 hours since the officials at Super Bowl XLII had to go through the ridiculous process of clearing off the field just so Eli Manning could take a snap and kneel, running out the one second left on the clock. And I honestly still don’t believe the game I watched.
For those who don’t know me, I’m a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan. Rooting for the Giants was painful for me, but I couldn’t bring myself to root for New England. That franchise just oozes with reasons to hate them.
And while I don’t like the Giants, I don’t hate them. I don’t have anywhere near the contempt for them that I do for Philadelphia or Washington, or even San Francisco (yes, I know, the Niners have been harmless for years, but every single time I watch a football game, I see a replay of the God-damned Dwight Clark catch at some point, so I will always hate the Forty-Niners, no matter what their record is).
I respect the Giants’ organization and, for the most part, their fans. I’ve been to nearly 20 Cowboys @ Giants games and never had any problems. I have to root against them frequently for NFC East purposes, but, to steal an oft-quoted line from The Godfather, “It’s not personal. It’s just business.”
As far as the Giants @ Cowboys divisional playoff game three weeks ago, I had a bad feeling all the way through. When the list of four potential Cowboys’ opponents came out, the Giants were by far the last ones I wanted to play. My preferred order was: Tampa, because I thought they sucked and still do (taking nothing away from the Giants’ Wild Card victory there, but just sayin’); Seattle, because I wanted payback from the infamous Romo dropped snap last year; Washington, because I don’t need a reason to get fired up for the Redskins; THEN the Giants. Well, we all know how that worked out.
So now that I’ve had a full day to digest Super Bowl XLII, I thought I’d share my opinions on some of the best plays, standout players and what this means for next season.
The first half: As I said, I rooted for the Giants. And I thought it was a very, very bad omen that they pretty much dominated 30 minutes of football, yet trailed 7-3 at halftime. This whole season, it just seemed like New England was ready to strike at any moment, and I feared (and many Giants fans probably shared this concern) that 7-3 could become 21-3 very quickly. When you’re playing a team as talented as New England, you can’t waste opportunities, and thoroughly outplaying a team, yet being down four points, struck me as a big-time wasted opportunity.
12 men on the field: I thought this would be a huge momentum-turner. For those who don’t remember the play, the Giants forced the Patriots to punt and got decent field position, but one of the Giants was late getting off the field just prior to the punt snap, and Belichick threw the red challenge flag, got the play overturned and got the ball back for New England. I thought the momentum swing would be very tough for the Giants to recover from.
Justin Tuck: What a beast. If this guy didn’t play on the same team as Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora (yes, I confess, I did have to look up the spelling of his name), he’d be considered one of the best defensive players in the game. He should anyway. And if Strahan decides to retire, I don’t see this pass rush missing a beat.
The Catch, II: If you’ve been in the same ZIP code as a TV set since Sunday night, you’ve seen the play: Eli Manning somehow avoids being sacked by three Patriots, scrambles to his left and fires one deep, and David Tyree somehow catches the ball 32 yards downfield with one hand and his helmet. This would have been considered one of the greatest plays and one of the greatest catches of all-time if it happened during a regular-season game in October. The fact that it happened during the Super Bowl almost gives it Willie Mays-Vic Wertz status. Patriots fans will soon be as sick of seeing replays of this play as I am of seeing replays of Tony Romo’s bobbled snap in the Cowboys’ playoff loss at Seattle last year.
David Tyree: It seems like there always has to be someone who comes out of the woodwork and has a huge effect on a championship game after contributing marginally during the regular season. Queue David Tyree: Four catches during the regular season, and three during the Super Bowl, including The Catch, II. Unreal.
2:39: As well as the Giants played, and despite all of the cracks in the Patriots’ armor, I don’t think I would have taken 10-1 odds on a bet that Eli Manning would lead a comeback with 2:39 to go. But — say it with me, kids — that’s why they play the game.
Belichick leaving the field early: In the words of ex-New Jersey Net Derrick Coleman, “Whoop de damn doo.” I think it was ridiculous that they cleared the field with one second left just to make the Giants come out and kneel on the ball. Were the Patriots too lost, rudderless and misguided without their coach to send 11 people out on the field to line up and watch Eli take the snap? I hate Belichick with a passion for a number of reasons, but the fact that he’s getting criticized for leaving the field “early” is an utter and complete joke. Had he not congratulated Coughlin, then that would be an altogether different story. But to me, this is a nonstory.
The NFC East in 2008: How quickly things change. The Cowboys dominated the division in 2007. Doing so in 2008 will be much harder. Eli Manning is now on an entire different level. Confidence is one of the most important elements of being a quarterback, and his has to be skyrocketing right now. And his teammates’ confidence in his ability to get the job done, which is equally important, will be equally high. It’s hard to believe this is the same guy I watched when I went to the Vikings @ Giants game this season — four interceptions, all horrendous throws, three returned for touchdowns. No one who was at that game — even players’ families — would have had the audacity to predict a Super Bowl win. As for the other teams in the division, Washington was scrappy enough to get into the playoffs and will likely be dangerous next season, as will Philadelphia. Nothing is ever easy in the NFC East, but the 2008 season will be one of the biggest dogfights yet.
The Cowboys in 2008: I just hope this past season wasn’t the only opportunity the Cowboys get. But I just don’t see 13-3 happening next year. As I said above, the NFC East is going to be a war zone. I guess the best hope is to get more consistent pressure on the quarterback, improve the safety play (translation: either get Roy Williams to get his head out of his ass, or get someone else out there) and find a second running back to back up Marion Barber (I’d be stunned if Julius Jones returns). I still think the Cowboys will be one of the better teams in the conference, but nothing will be handed to them. If they somehow get the No. 1 seed again, they’ll have earned it, and then some.
Congratulations, Giants fans. Enjoy this. It was well-deserved. Your team clicked at the right time, did what they had to do and outplayed four teams under less-than-ideal circumstances. No one can take this away from the New York Football Giants or their fans.