New York Giants 34 Carolina Panthers 28

Ward and Boss, the TWO keys to the Ultimatenygame
This was as gutty a performance as I have seen from this team since the Redskins W3 2007. The similarities were many- 2 consecutive losses, lots of doubters, a double digit deficit. When the Giants defense was getting manhandled early, giving up 3 TDs on the first 3 drives, down 21-10, there was no realistic way we were going to win this game. That this team came back from that proved so many things to us. But most importantly, the victory proved so much to themselves. It reminded them of what they have done this year in winning 11 games prior. It reminded them of what they have done last year, when they could come from behind and win despite so much adversity.

Victory tonight was icing on the cake. That the Giants somehow managed to tie the game was a mini-miracle. There were so many positives that were going to come from this game, and the recap was going to take that angle, the Patriots Week 17 Angle, where that loss was a BIG POSITIVE. If Kasay hits the FG, there is still a lot to be positive about. That the kick misses and the Giants go on to win in OT may very well be the luck needed to make this team go all the way. Wins like this galvanize a team. The Giants may have to play this team again, but they will not be afraid. They took this team’s best punch, got knocked down, got back up and were the last team standing. The Giants got the confidence back that they lost when Burress was removed from the roster, and they are learning to how to win with who is left. Barber, Strahan, Umenyiora, Shockey, Burress? How many daggers do you put in this team? It keeps coming. The Giants have faced NINE consecutive teams with winning records, a combined 82-51-2. Every team took their best shot. The Giants are 12-3, they have the all-important bye to heal up, they have homefield through the playoffs. And they have the resolve and the resiliency of a team that is capable of anything they believe in.

THE POSITIVES WERE MANY:
1) The offense is back. Wonder talked about the Giants offense getting into a new rhythm now that Burress is no longer there. They did exactly that. They stayed with the run. But they were able to do so because, unlike in Dallas, down and distance was manageable enough. Manning held the ball less, threw into shorter routes, and this way there were not the countless debilitating sacks that caused horrendous 2nd and 3rd downs.

2) Eli Manning found his wind legs. He managed the wind, threw shorter passes, stepped into the passes, and threw the ball a little lower on shorter routes to keep the ball from sailing. This was important, dare we say vital, for Manning’s confidence. And once again he led his team down the field to score near the end of Q4, got the 2 pt conversion pass to Hixon (what a play fake, we were sold on the ball being handed off to Jacobs along with all of the Panthers!) to tie the game, and then led them again in OT. Everyone knows that Manning is capable of anything at the end of a game. His confidence after the game was obvious: “You never know what the weather is going to be like here. We’re used to playing in those cold and windy games and I would like to think we would have the advantage in some of those. I think it will be fun playing the games at home.”

3) Derrick Ward, Brandon Jacobs and the offensive line were excellent in the running game. Gilbride gets credit for not giving up on the run. How do we begin to discuss the superlatives of Derrick Ward, who gashed this team time and time again, amassing 215 yards from scrimmage as the backup?!!

4) Gilbride found his Tight End! Kevin Boss lives. In my humble opinion, this was the real key to the game. In order for Ward to run his highlight film in Q4 and OT, there HAS TO BE BOSS first, moving the chains. It is the middle of Q3, 21-13 Panthers. The Giants have the ball at their own 16 yard line. When the Giants get into a 3rd and 10 after a 5 yard penalty, and Madden is sentencing the Giants offense to death (now that Burress is gone), we are yelling for Bossssss! And to Boss it went! And on the exact type of play that Witten and Garrett killed us on last week that we needed so desperately! One game late, but good enough to save us! Boss makes his chip block, then after the delay on the right side of the line, runs out across the middle to the left, catches a 5 yarder and runs for daylight, 11 yards, and the first down. Small ball, but an important first down. You need those types of plays to keep the rhythm, because how else can you keep going to the run? The Giants controled the ball for 8:36. 5 first downs. Ward with a big 22 yarder. And when it was 3rd and Goal from the 3, who was there to clean up and convert? Kevin Boss in the end zone. So many key plays.

Boss must become the 1986 Mark Bavaro of this offense. In 1986, the Giants WRs were nothing spectacular. Indeed, guys like Lionel Manuel, Bobby Johnson and Stacy Robinson couldn’t shine shoes for most teams. How on earth did the ’86 team keep the pressure off the loaded box? How did they move the chains? The answer was Bavaro, who LED THE SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS IN RECEIVING YARDS THAT SEASON. That is your blueprint for success, that is the rhythm they found. Everytime the Giants were in a big spot, Boss was the answer. Your TE can get you big plays all over the field, but especially in the red zone, and especially on third down. Let’s remember, who was the player that awoke the Giants offense at the beginning of Q4 vs the Patriots in the Super Bowl? Kevin Boss for 45 yards. USE THAT TIGHT END to get you a fresh set of downs so that you can have that patience in the running game.

5) I admit to being wrong about Jacobs. The Giants need the moose more than I thought. He has that attitude necessary to impose your will on an opposing team. While I still want #44 to get lots of touches, 3rd down and red zone, it is apparent more than ever how the battering of Jacobs sets up Ward on the change of speed.

6) Gilbride made the adjustments. Even when the Giants tried a RB flare which did not work, it was fine, it was stretching the LBers. The gmen used the quick slants, the draws out of the shotgun, the TE delayed pass, mixing it up enough to allow the running game to keep going, pounding away at them.

7) Webster was once again excellent. He covered Smith most of the game, but Smith only had 3 catches for 47 yards, and on 35 of them it was a zone coverage (and more accurately, a failed blitz pass rush) that got beat, not Webster.

The Negatives:
1) Still no pass rush. We’ll be generous and put some of that on Tuck’s leg, vomit and the flu. Without Tuck (who was valiant in effort) making an impact, you have to figure the DL becomes very average very quickly. Tuck and Robbins need two weeks off now to rest for Jan 10-11. Kiwi needs to watch tape of how Strahan does not try to overpower linemen on run defense, he sheds them.

2) To say our linebackers are mediocre is a compliment. Without Tuck and the DL at full strength, these sack of potatoes were victimized constantly. Spags gave them more help in the second half and it stemmed some of the bleeding. My kingdom for a LBer #1 in the draft. And #2 also.

3) Diehl has regressed. Is he playing hurt, or tired? If it is either, get him some rest, because he is not playing the edge nearly as well as he was playing earlier in the season.

4) Pierce is ineffective in coverage beyond a few yards past the line of scrimmage. He simply lacks the speed. On one key 3rd down conversion, a Panther player comes into the middle of the field PRECISELY where Pierce’s zone of coverage is, and he still does not make the play. Unacceptable.

Misc:
1) I thought when the Giants won the toss in OT, I would have taken the wind. Manning’s reaction to the decision to take the ball almost looked like he agreed. But the team did not blink, and ran it down their throats.

2) To be filed under the category of why you do not bet: Let’s say you took Carolina, taking +3 points. There is almost no chance in hell of you losing your bet at any point until the very end of OT. You’re up 21-10, still up 21-20, then 28-20 in Q4. The only way you will lose is if by some miracle the Giants get a TD, get the 2 pt conversion, and then somehow win with a 6 pt TD in OT.

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