Giants Season May Not Be A Tragedy, After All

Published on: 26th September, 2011

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New York — There were many ways to view the New York Giants prospects for this season over the past few months. First, there was great hope that the returning veterans and new draft choices would combine to create a team at least as good as last season’s 10-win team.

Then, over the proceeding months of training camp in July and August, several of the Giants’ top players started going down with season-ending injuries, leading to the possibility of a season wraught with tragedy, with Tom Coughlin in the role of the ultimate tragic victim who pays with his livelihood.

trag·e·dyNoun/ˈtrajidē/

1. An event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe.
2. A play dealing with tragic events and having an unhappy ending, esp. one concerning the downfall of the main character.
Instead, there is now a real possibility that today’s game, only the third of a sixteen-game season, can be a turning point for this franchise, from the potential for tragedy to one of redemption.

Breathe easy, Giants fans. You may yet have a season to enjoy after today’s dismantling of the Philadelphia Eagles, the NFL’s version of the best team money can buy, at the Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field, 29-16. 

It was a shocking, given the condition of the Giants’ roster, the players’ collective psyches after the catastrophic injuries the franchise has suffered through this year, and the almost universal expectation that the talent differential between these two teams would make for an extremely difficult contest to watch for Big Blue fans.

In other words, the Eagles were expected to spank the Giants back to the Jersey Meadowlands, back up the Jersey Turnpike from whence they came. 

Instead, it was the Giants merry band of no-names who, along with Eli Manning showing a little grit during the games’ tight stretches led the New Yorkers to the win.

Here was Manning, under fire for most of his career for not being as good as his brother, Peyton. He added further fuel to that fire two weeks ago when he stated publically that he was one of the league’s elite quarterbacks, in the same mold as the Tom Brady’s and Drew Brees’ of the profession. His comments were met with derision, if not out and out laughter. Today, Eli Manning tied a career high with four touchdown passes against the vaunted Eagles defensive backfield.

Here was Victor Cruz, making the first start of his NFL career today with his only professional claim to fame being a three-touchdown performance last year in an exhibition game against the Jets. All Cruz did today was become the dominant receiver on the field. Amongst the DeSean Jacksons and Jeremy Maclins and Hakeem Nicks, it was Cruz, from that New England football powerhouse, University of Massachusetts, who scored two touchdowns among his three catches. One went for 74-yards on a play along the sideline. He took a pass from Manning in the flat on the Giants 34-yard line and broke two tackles on his sojourn down the field to the end zone. Who knew this guy, Cruz could turn on the afterburners against the elite athletes of the sport and take it to the house? Who knew this unproven, unsure kid from New Jersey could leap high at the goal line and outfight Pro Bowler, Nnamdi Asomugha for the ball and come down with it in the end zone?

And then, there was a rookie linebacker from Michigan State name XXX Williams. All he did today was lead the team in tackles in the biggest game of his life, and quite possibly of this Giants season.

The Eagles — the so-called “Dream Team” that drew raves after an impressive talent haul during an aggressive, post-lockout flurry of activity — are 1-2 and sitting at the bottom of the NFC East.

“Everybody is hyping us up as a great team, and we’ve lost two in a row,” said running back LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown Sunday. “Nobody is going to give us anything because we’ve got the best players. We have to come out and compete.”

Championship expectations seemed natural after a team that won its division last season with a 10-6 record upgraded by acquiring all-pro cornerback Asomugha, defensive linemen Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Vince Young, a former Pro Bowler, was signed as a backup quarterback. And Ronnie Brown was added for running back depth.The big names were not enough against the Giants (2-1), who limped in as a battered, injury-ravaged unit yet ended a six-game losing streak to their bitter rivals.

The Giants scored first when Eagles rookie linebacker Casey Matthews, who was part of a linebacking corps that was reshuffled last week, fell for a play fake, allowing running back Brandon Jacobs to get wide open and catch Eli Manning’s pass for a 40-yard touchdown.

Asomugha, signed to a five-year, $60 million deal, was victimized on two spectacular TDs by the fill-in wide receiver Cruz (replacing injured Mario Manningham). On a 74-yard score in the first quarter, Cruz bounced off safety Kurt Coleman’s attempt for a big, open-field hit, then juked Asomugha and raced down the sideline.In the fourth quarter, Cruz caught what held up as the game-winning, 28-yard touchdown by leaping above Asomugha and safety Jarrad Page at the goal line.

“We were both there,” Asomugha said. “One of us should be able to make that play. … Not pleased.”

Missed opportunities

The loss hardly was determined by that one play. Mishaps were spread across the board. Late in the third quarter, after Vick suffered the injury but hadn’t gone to the locker room for X-rays, the Eagles couldn’t punch it into the end zone despite having first-and-goal from the 2. They were stuffed on a sneak by Vick and two handoffs to fullback Owen Schmitt.

Though the Eagles had rallied from a 14-0 deficit to take a 16-14 lead on Alex Henery’s 21-yard field goal, boos rained down at Lincoln Financial Field.”That’s crazy,” wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. “For us to be that close and not score a touchdown … that’s definitely a heartbreaker.”

When Kafka entered with 8:07 remaining, there was no gradual break-in process. A week after Reid contended that the Eagles were too conservative in play-calling for Kafka in Atlanta after he replaced Vick (Young is nursing a thigh injury), the Eagles had the second-year quarterback throw deep to Jackson on his first snap. It was intercepted by Aaron Ross.

Early in the fourth quarter, Reid went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Giants 43. Not only did Reid gamble with the field position, it also was a questionable move while trying to protect a two-point lead. McCoy was stuffed for a 3-yard loss by Michael Boley.With the short field, the Giants went 54 yards in seven plays for Cruz’s second TD.Why risk it on fourth-and-1?

“I thought it was the right thing to do,” Reid said. “That’s on me. It’s my responsibility to make sure that we call those in the right situations. I didn’t do it last week, and I should have. I did it this week, and I shouldn’t have. That’s how this thing works sometimes.”

Reid was otherwise terse in his postgame news conference, answering some questions with one-word responses and barely offering complete sentences on others. The message was clear: The Eagles are a frustrated team.

“It’s tough,” said Vick, who agreed to a six-year, $100 million deal before the season. “Everything is not going to be fine and dandy, and we understand that. This is the NFL. Just because we’re in this situation right now, things could change drastically over the next couple of weeks, and I think they will.”

Vick, however, was hardly as upbeat when recalling the play on which he was injured. He said he was hit as he raised his hand to try to protect himself after throwing the pass to Maclin, and he was miffed that officials didn’t flag Canty for a personal foul.Vick maintains that it’s a disturbing pattern.

“That pretty much been the story for the last three weeks,” Vick said. “Obviously, at some point something catastrophic is going to happen, and I broke my hand. Not to blame the refs or say that it was their fault. It’s just one of those unfortunate situations. If you look at all the replays, I’m on the ground every time (getting hit), and it’s unfortunate.”

On Friday, Vick said he expected the Giants would try to knock him out of the game to increase their chances of winning.”I think the fact that we knocked him out of the football game tells a lot,” said defensive end Justin Tuck, adding that it was one of the Giants’ goals.

Added linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, “We needed to stop him, obviously, if we wanted to win the game.”

The pressure is intensifying in many ways for the Eagles, carrying the weight of high expectations.

Asomugha surely senses that, but he calmly offered context.”You never expect to have a losing record,” he said. “But the focus is on the next week and what it takes to get better, since it’s so early in the season.”

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