By Jason Keidel
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In a season that has been equal parts humor and horror, the Giants did something Sunday we didn’t think possible — make us proud.
Sure, you can say the Chiefs are imploding faster than Harvey Weinstein, giving weight to those who have always said a team can’t contend for a Super Bowl with Alex Smith at quarterback.
But the truth is the Giants beat a far superior team, without, it felt like, half their team. Once Sterling Shepard checked out before the game, the Giants’ set of wideouts looked like those red shirts from the old Star Trek episodes, whom you knew would be vaporized by some murderous alien monarch before the first commercial.
So, naturally, a redshirt named Roger Lewis makes arguably the catch of the year. If you didn’t see it, Eli Manning hurled a long football rainbow toward Lewis, who was dashing down the left sideline. Despite clear interference from Chiefs defensive back Phillip Gaines, who yanked Lewis’ right arm, Lewis somehow cradled the ball into said right arm, as he was falling. The ball didn’t bounce or even scrape the ground, somehow pinched between Lewis’ forearm and jersey.
He sprung up and danced into the end zone, though he was down by contact. But the play was a perfect microcosm of the day. With nothing to play for, the Giants played their grittiest game of the season.
Instead of rejoicing over a gutty victory, you hear moaning from Big Blue devotees, who want the Giants to tank, NBA style, and get a top-three pick in the draft, where they can choose from a buffet of heralded quarterbacks, such as Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and perhaps the Heisman favorite, Baker Mayfield.
But back to the game, which, under a wider lens, may mean nothing. But it really was miraculous. Not just because they beat a better club, but considering the conditions under which they did it.
Big Blue was in full mutiny, with suspended players who had no regard for rules or respect for head coach Ben McAdoo, others feeding quotes to the media under the banner of anonymity. We were hearing about players giving up on the season, about not even wanting to make basic tackles, about the iron fist with which McAdoo drills his players.
Last time the Giants were home against a more talented team, they had two weeks to prepare for the Los Angeles Rams. And they were, to borrow a quote from Curtis LeMay, bombed back to the Stone Age. The Giants’ defense was littered with matadors, letting Robert Woods and Todd Gurley run with impunity. Perhaps the worst play of the season came that day, when the Rams scored a TD on a third down and 34 yards to go. On a screen pass, no less.
The next week was even worse. On the road against the 0-9 49ers, they made Carlos Hyde look like Jim Brown and did little more than salute San Francisco’s running backs and receivers as they galloped by.
Then this, a plodding, 12-9 football game, that had endless playoff implications for the Chiefs, who are sinking since their 5-0 start, yet nothing for the G-Men, except pride.
Speaking of pride, I noticed another thing about the Giants, or at least their fans. Driving home from Manhattan, I took the George Washington Bridge, then cruised south on the western spur of the New Jersey Turnpike. On certain Sundays, before you pay the toll, you can slip off the Turnpike and pass through this string of road that snakes through the Meadowlands, from which you can see the racetrack and MetLife Stadium.
After you twist around the complex, you’re dumped onto Route 3 East, from which you can see the MetLife parking lot from literally 20 feet away. I was so impressed with the number of Giants fans tailgating, I yanked my smart phone from my pocket and started snapping pictures.
It was not just a Sunday, it was 10:15 a.m., three hours before kickoff. It was November. It was cold. We had just wiped ourselves dry after 18 hours of steady rain. And it was windy. “Wizard of Oz” windy. There were hundreds of fans — young men, old men, middle-aged men, boys and girls gathered on this concrete slab to prepare to watch a 1-8 team.
There were dozens of trucks and SUVs with the back popped open to unveil various, culinary machines, coolers, jerseys and Big Blue blankets. And, of course, footballs, which were tossed painfully back and forth, not a spiral in sight, the tornadic winds mutilating each throw into a failing, flailing pass that often bounced before it reached the intended receiver.
Maybe it means nothing to you. (Heck, I’m a Steelers fan.) But I was so impressed by the glee in the face of such gore, I clicked about 25 pics from my car and posted about ten of them to my Facebook page. (We don’t advocate texting or taking pics while driving.)
You remembered, at least for a few hours, why the Giants were supposed to be good this year. And why there’s an interminable wait for Giants season tickets. And why they play the games.
Please follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel