By Neil Keefe
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It’s been eight days since the Giants won the Super Bowl and it still hasn’t really set in yet, and maybe it never will. How did the team cruising on the Second-Half Collapse train at 200 mph without any brakes turn into world champions? How did the team that lost to Rex Grossman twice, Charvaris Whiteson and Vince Young beat Aaron Rodgers and the 49ers’ defense on the road and then decapitate Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ dynasty in the postseason? The answer is: expectations.
All season long I talked about how poorly the Giants play with expectations and how well they play when everyone throws dirt on them. People want to make the connections between the end of the 2011 season and the end of the 2007 season, but I think the connections go all the way back to the beginning of the season.
The 2007 Giants started the season 0-2 and allowed 80 points in those two games and I remember telling my roommates that they might not win a game all year. They were a goal-line stand in Washington away from being 0-3 and basically eliminating themselves from the postseason before September ended. This season I lost all expectations when all the key free agents went elsewhere and the entire team suffered season-ending injuries in preseason. After the Giants lost to the Redskins in Week 1 and let Grossman throw for 305 yards on them I thought the season was over.
The Giants’ season came so close to ending so many times during the regular season, but oddly enough it never really came close to ending in the postseason until Wes Welker couldn’t catch Tom Brady’s poorly thrown pass. What we witnessed since the comeback with 5:41 left in Dallas in Week 14 up until Tom Brady’s Hail Mary attempt hit the ground last Sunday night was more miraculous and more improbable than what we saw in 2007.
I’m exhausted from the last eight days between watching the game, celebrating the victory, attending the parade, listening to every possible Giants interview and consuming every piece of content regarding the team. I’m still running on fumes from last Sunday and drafting off fumes from the Super Bowl victory. I thought about doing a What Went Wrong And Right from my columns on the Giants throughout the season the way I did for the Yankees at the end of their season, but when you win a championship, there’s nothing worthy of complaining about. (Yes, even Kevin Gilbride gets a pass here.)
After a week of digesting the Super Bowl win and everything that has come with it and from it, I have decided to follow up my Super Bowl XLVI Thoughts with my Super Bowl XLVI Final Thoughts. Just picture Jerry Springer sitting on the stool at the end of his show trying to explain what just happened on his Stamford, Conn. stage, except I’m going to try and explain what happened over the last month and a half after letting the idea that the Giants are world champions again settle in.
- Last Tuesday I sprinted down Church St. to get to Broadway, high-stepped some horse manure, got some Dos Equis splashed on me, weaved in and out of thousands of people and rode a crowded subway that had the stench of an element not yet discovered just to see the Lombardi Trophy make its way up the Canyon of Heroes. It was worth it.
- I don’t know who had cheesier lines at the City Hall celebration between Mayor Bloomberg and Steve Tisch? I’m going to go with Bloomberg since Tisch is part owner of the team, so he gets a pass, while Bloomberg decided to start inducting people into the Hall of Fame as awkwardly as possible and predicting another Giants’ championship next season.
- How badly does Michael Strahan wish he played for the Giants this season? Part of me thinks that he thinks he did play for the Giants this season. I was waiting for him to have the final word at City Hall and “stomp out” the Patriots again. I kind of wish he did.
- Eli Manning killed it in Disney World, on David Letterman, at City Hall and at MetLife. There’s no one left that refers to him as “Aw, Shucks” or anyone who doesn’t think he’s elite anymore. This pleases me.
- I’m not sure how many relationships and marriages have been destroyed because of the NFL Network’s existence (and also the MLB, NHL and NBA Networks), but it has to be staggering.
- I spent the weekend in Boston, and it’s always fun to head to the rival city after a devastating defeat, especially one that came out the hands of a New York team. And while in Boston I saw an elementary school in South Boston with huge Patriots logos on the front windows of the building, and I couldn’t help but think about the seven-year-old kids in that school who wonder if their Patriots will ever win the Super Bowl, and whether or not they are becoming the Bills.
- The Giants were incredibly lucky the way their two fumbles bounced, and that the first fumbled was negated by a Patriots’ penalty, and I can’t get over how luck they were. The biggest asset of Hakeem Nick and Victor Cruz is their ability to make that one big play that can change a game (or save the season like Cruz did against the Jets), but their biggest flaw is their attempt to make that one big play that leaves them vulnerable to get stripped or hit from behind for a fumble. The same goes for Ahmad Bradshaw.
The Giants kept running the ball and trying to dink and dunk their way to victory over an embarrassing pass defense, and I tweeted during the game that “Running the ball with Bradshaw/Jacobs over passing & letting Tynes kick field goals is like having unprotected sex. Eventually you will lose.” The Giants made a few trips to Planned Parenthood last Sunday, but fortunately got the results they wanted.
- Last week I said…
“Here are some other things we learned this season that no one can do or should do against the Patriots.
1. The Patriots don’t lose in Heinz Field.
2. The Patriots don’t lose back-to-back games.
3. The Patriots don’t lose at Gillette Stadium.
4. Tom Brady never has back-to-back bad games.
5. You don’t want to give Bill Belichick two weeks to prepare a game plan. (This is my favorite because Belichick lost in XLII.)
All of these are now fairytales.”
Now I’m thinking of turning these fairytales into a series of children’s book. If anyone knows a good illustrator, please let me know.
- When I watch the final play of the game I keep thinking Rob Gronkowski is going to catch the Hail Mary attempt and I get this worried sensation that he will. It’s the same feeling I get when I re-watch XLII and see Randy Moss racing down the sideline trying to haul in Brady’s last attempt at perfection. But like Moss, Gronkowski never makes the catch no matter how many times I watch it.
- I’m going to say Tom Brady is more at fault for the missed catch by Wes Welker since he could have thrown a better ball, and I know he could have since he’s Tom Brady. (Don’t tell Gisele.)
- Jake Ballard didn’t do his knee any favors when he tried to come back in the game since he tore his ACL, but I admire him for trying to get back on the field in the Super Bowl despite having a TORN ACL! No one seems to be talking about how the Giants lost Travis Beckum earlier in the game to a torn ACL and then lost Ballard to the same injury. Maybe that many people just aren’t aware of it since Kevin Gilbride wasn’t. Here’s an excerpt from a story on ESPN.com.
Kevin Gilbride was discussing plays with Manning on the sideline when the quarterback blurted, “We can’t run those plays. We don’t have any more tight ends.” He didn’t smile or roll his eyes. He was nonchalantly matter-of-fact, as always, and Gilbride silently nodded, scanning the rest of his play card.
It’s never a good thing when your offensive coordinator doesn’t know which personnel are available in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. No big deal.
- I love the idea of Bradying. I love it so much that I decided to get in on the fun last week.
- Mario Manningham’s catch wasn’t David Tyree’s catch and shouldn’t be compared to it since it was a perfect throw and a perfect catch in the smallest of windows. The Tyree catch was the result of a combination of a missed sack attempt, absolute chaos, an insane pass and a miracle catch in the middle of four Patriots defenders. Most people think Manningham will leave the giants since they won’t want to pay him to be the No. 3 receiver, and Paul Dottino told Mike Francesa on WFAN last week that Manningham wants to play in a warm-weather city after playing in college at Michigan and then playing for the Giants. If Manningham’s last game as a Giant was XLVI, we’ll always have his touchdown in the NFC Championship Game and the most important catch of XLVI to remember his time with the Giants,
- Rob Gronkowski partying like he won the Super Bowl after his team lost the Super Bowl isn’t that big of a deal since he’s 22 years old and it’s just another reminder that not every athlete reacts to a devastating loss like fans do. (And no one on the Patriots cared as much Tom Brady and Bill Belichick since they had the most at stake). All I can say is that if Alex Rodriguez were out dancing with his shirt off after losing Game 7 of the World Series, it would be the end of the world. (I mean a shirtless Alex Rodriguez in Central Park during the season was headline worthy.)
- Why all the talk about Tom Brady missing the chance to be “immortal” by not winning XLVI since it would have been his fourth? He also had a chance to win his fourth in XLII and finish the perfect season and didn’t but I don’t remember this much talk about missing out on immortality then. Maybe it’s because this might have been his last chance to get back to the Super Bowl or because he’s getting near that age where quarterbacks start to decline and throw passes to wide-open receivers over the wrong shoulder with a chance to potentially clinch a championship. Nothing would have been more immortal than being 4-0 in the Super Bowl with a 19-0 season on your resume. Why are people acting like this Super Bowl caused him to miss out on immortality? He has missed the train twice now.
- I was a big fan of “Written in the Stars” by Tinie Tempah when it came out. I overplayed it on iTunes and my iPod as if the song was Scott proctor in 2006 and I was Joe Torre. I didn’t kill it by overplaying it like FM radio did with Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” but I played it enough. Then when the song became the anthem for the 2011 MLB playoffs (playoffs the Yankees would be eliminated in) I didn’t think I could ever listen to it the same way again. Then when the Giants came out to the song for XLVI I thought it was a bad omen after what happened in the 2011 ALDS. But the Giants won the game and now I can enjoy the song again. “Seasons come and go, but I will never change, and I’m on way!”
- Why are the Jets taking out a full-page newspaper ad to congratulate the Giants on winning the Super Bowl? It’s very weird. We all know that both teams don’t like each other and their fan bases certainly don’t like each other, so I’m not really sure who thought this was a good idea. Maybe the same people that thought it was a good idea to have Darrelle Revis hang up in the middle of a phone interview? If the Mets took out a full-page ad to congratulate the Yankees on winning the World Series, their fans would go crazy. (Obviously there isn’t a hypothetical where the Yankees would be congratulating the Mets since the Mets aren’t winning anytime soon.)
Before the season in an email exchange with Ralph Vacchiano of the Daily News, I said:
“All I can hope for is that the season ends better than it did the last two years. And with the way it ended in 2009 and 2010, I will take any playoff berth in any possible way. Give me the No. 6 seed and a path to the Super Bowl built around road games. I don’t care. I just want to watch the playoffs with the Giants in it, and I’m not sure if I can emotionally and physically take another collapse that forces the “Should Tom Coughlin be fired?” discussion for weeks after the season.”
Once they made the playoffs, all I wanted them to do was extend the season for as long as possible. They took us through January and into February (the worst two months for sports and weather in the Tri-State area), and now they pass the baton to the dominant Rangers and surging Knicks as we’re just days away from pitchers and catchers. If the Garden’s teams falter or if February actually turns into February, it won’t matter because I’ll have Super Bowl XLVI to draft off of.
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