Random thoughts on the game last night in no particular order:
1. The Giants won the game because of their defensive line dominating the Patriots' offensive line, in conjunction with Steve Spagnuolo dreaming up some outstanding blitz schemes that ensured that his defensive linemen would be single-blocked and the Patriots' offensive linemen would be tentative. The game reminded me of the Sugar Bowl between LSU and Oklahoma, where LSU's defensive line (led by Marcus Spears and the late Marquise Hill) devoured Jason White and his gimpy ankle, in part because Nick Saban and Will Muschamp used the weeks leading up to the game to dream up exotic blitzes. The Giants' coaches also did a nice job of preparing for New England's pressure. One of the best nuggets offered up by Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz on Bill Simmons' podcast last week was that the Giants struggle against six-man blitzes. New England blitzed six on the Giants' first several third down plays and the Giants picked up the blitzes every time, correctly predicting that the Patriots would attempt to exploit this weakness. Unfortunately, Schatz also claimed on the podcast that the Giants did not resemble the '01 Patriots (and, in his defense, had the numbers to back up his claims) and instead compared them to the '85 Patriots, forgetting that the '85 Patriots were opposed in the Super Bowl by a team that was peaking as opposed to a team that played its best football in the first half of the season. And speaking of Simmons...
2. Am I a bad person because my first thoughts as the game was ending were that I couldn't wait to: (a) hear Steak Shapiro whine and complain on the radio this morning and; (b) read Simmons write about the terrible unfairness of it all? Do I take this schadenfreude thing a little too far?
2a. Someone should do a compliation of all the instances in which Simmons has taken shots at the Mannings over the past five years and then send him a tastefully decorated scrapbook containing the results.
3. Speaking of thinking negative things about people, is Rodney Harrison the biggest prick in all of sports or just the NFL? On one play, he led with his forearm in the direction of Amani Toomer, missed the tackle, and then jumped on him forearm first at the end of the play. He does something dirty on just about every play. Pending confirmation of the latest Spygate revelations, Harrison is the perfect symbol for this New England team, or at least the defense coached by Belichick.
4. Was I the only one who was sure when Eli shook out of a sack on third and five on the Giants' final drive that he was sure to throw an interception when he heaved the ball down the middle of the field? Seriously, his adrenaline is racing, he's taken his eyes off the rush, and he's throwing into an area populated by defenders. It seemed like a reasonable fear at the time.
5. As you may know, I thoroughly enjoy snarking at announcers, but I found very little to pick on from Joe Buck and Troy Aikman last night. Buck did a great job of shutting up after both of the late touchdowns, widely choosing to let the sights and sounds of the game speak for themselves. Cue Mia Wallace: "Why do we feel it's necessary to yak about bullshit in order to be comfortable?"
6. I don't know why, but the Giants have always been my favorite of the New York teams. Admittedly, this is like saying that Albert Speer is my favorite Nazi, but they've never quite rubbed me the wrong way like the Yankees, Mets, Knicks, and Rangers have. They don't win as a result of raw economic power like the New York baseball teams do, they didn't set basketball back 20 years like the Riley-era Knicks did, and they didn't spawn a truly annoying media lovefest the way the '94 Rangers did. Plus, the Giants draft as if they didn't get the memo that all Michigan players are slow and useless in the NFL.
7. Shouldn't Roger Goodell hand the Lombardi Trophy to Tom Coughlin or one of the Giants' captains as opposed to the team's owner? Don't Giants fans root more for the coach and players than the owner? I know I'm a Euro snob and all, but this packs more punch:
8. Even in defeat, you have to give the Patriots credit as the team that never misses a beat. It's hard to imagine any other team in the NFL noticing that an opposing player was a step slow getting off of the field and therefore, that the Pats could prolong a drive by getting a too many men on the field penalty on the Giants.
9. While Bill Belichick is getting plenty of stick for going for 4th and 13 in the third quarter instead of kicking a field goal, he really ought to get more criticism for punting on a 4th and 2 from the Giants' 44 earlier in the drive. Belichick has correctly come to the conclusion that going for 4th down is an underutilized strategy, so his decision to punt on fourth and short in his opponent's territory was out of character.
10. Just as I'll never understand how Georgia went from being a decent team through seven games to a world-beating team in its final six, I'll never quite understand how the Giants generally and Eli Manning specifically went from being a decent team through 15 games to an excellent one in their final five. Maybe the lesson from this football season isn't any more complicated than "s*** happens."