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Improbable Imperfection

2/4/08

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Start spreading the news Giants fans:

This one will last a lifetime.

There are good wins, there are great wins, and there was last night.

The New York Giants are the champions of the football world today after upsetting the undefeated New England Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII.

It was a game for the ages, and a win that gives Big Blue immortality.

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Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning- no that’s no typo- Eli Manning- outshined Mr. Perfect Tom Brady last night in a performance that will be remember most by two defining moments, the first being a 3rd and 11 completion to David Tyree after being nearly sacked, the other of course being the eventual game winner to Plaxico Burress.

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Eli Manning, simply put, is no longer Archie’s son or Peyton’s brother.

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He’s not the “other” Manning anymore.

Simply put, last night, Eli was Super’Mann’, leading his team down the field with less than 3 minutes to play, 83 yards in one of the more historic Super Bowl drives. Ever.

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That loud thud you heard last night following that touchdown throw to Burress was all the pressure, all the weight and all the criticism falling off the shoulders of Eli Manning.

The doubters and critics have been silenced, and they are going to have to remain that way for the rest of young Eli’s career. He’s got the jewelry and the trophy to keep them quiet.

Last night, on the biggest stage sports has to offer, Eli Manning was the best quarterback on the field.

Tom Brady, with all of his records and statistics was outplayed and outshined by that “other” Manning. Sure Brady still has his 3 Super Bowl rings, which cannot be taken away from him, however last night, in the biggest game of his career with the first 19-0 perfect season on the line, Brady was beaten, battered and bruised.

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The front and back pages of the papers show Eli, but equally as impressive was the Giants defense, which had Brady and the Patriot offense on its heels all night.

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The defense, which is what most Giants fans will say has always been the heart of Giants’ football teams, held the most prolific scoring offense in the history of the league to a paltry 14 points. The same Patriots team which averaged 38 points a game during the regular season, with a quarterback throwing for 50 touchdowns (a single season NFL record) and a wide receiver reeling in 23 of them (also a single season NFL record), was held in check.

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Brady never looked comfortable as he on his back more than he stayed on his feet. The Giants blitzed, blitzed and blitzed some more, as Brady was sacked 5 times despite playing behind one of the best offensive lines in football.

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Last night people tuned in to witness history, and they got it. Of course it was hardly this history they were expecting or prepared for.

Where does this Giants win rank in terms of biggest upsets in the history of sports? It’s a question that will be debated, and deservingly so when you take into consideration the fact that New England was a 12 point favorite to win, not to mention the undefeated record they brought into the game with them.

You have of course the Joe Namath led Jets from Super Bowl III, defeating the Baltimore Colts who were 18 point favorites.

You have Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson who was a 42-1 favorite in 1990.

You have the Miracle Mets of 1969.

You have the Miracle on Ice from 1980, when team USA upset the heavily favored Soviets in the Semi-Finals of the winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid.

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And now you can add Eli Manning and Big Blue into the discussion.

For Giants fans, the win last night is about as good as it gets.

Think about what your team went through and how it got to where they were able to go.

These Giants were the true epitome of the term ‘road warriors’. After losing their opening week game in Dallas, the Giants would not lose another game away from Giants stadium all season.

The most impressive part of this run is what this team was able to do once the post season started.

Following a good loss if you can ever have one in week 17 against those Patriots, the Giants went into Tamp Bay and won. They went into Dallas, where they faced a Cowboys team which had beaten them twice already this season, and won. They went up to Green Bay, in sub-zero temperatures against the great Brett Favre, and won.

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This was no cheap feat.

The Giants, after going on the road and rolling off a record 10 consecutive wins away from home, had one final “road” block, with that being the 18-0 Patriots.

The Giants came in as underdogs but left the field last night having outplayed a team which had yet to suffer defeat all season.

The game was hard fought and came down to the fourth quarter, where the lead changed hands three times, the final of which was with just 35 seconds left when Eli Manning left the shadow of his older brother Peyton once and for all, orchestrating a beautifully efficient 12 play, 83 yard drive which included that crazy, acrobatic catch by David Tyree (from Syracuse) following Eli narrowly escaping a sack.

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The script could not have been more perfectly written for the Giants, as when the game as on the line, the ball was in the hands of the guy who wanted it.

And he came through with one of the most memorable performances both in the history of New York sports and Super Bowl history.

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There were heroes abound for this Giants team, outside of the obvious being game MVP Eli Manning, Burress who made the game winning catch and the well known Michael Strahan who seemed to spend as much time in the backfield as Brady.

But there were unsung heroes, whether it was Tyree with 3 catches and a touchdown (including that big 32 yd catch in the 4th), Kevin Boss, the rookie tight end filling in for the injured Jeremy Shockey making a huge catch and run for 45 yds, setting up a Giants touchdown, or Justin Tuck who might very well have been the best kept secret in football until last night when he was a disruptive force on the Giants defensive line all night.

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It should be pointed out that Giants veterans Strahan and Amani Toomer, the two holdovers from the 2000 Super Bowl team, made tremendous contributions through the post season, both turning back the clock and making big plays on their way to finally getting their rings.

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Another point which needs to be made was the outstanding job done by head coach Tom Coughlin (another Syracuse alum) and his coaching staff, notably defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who threw everything but the kitchen sink at Tom Brady.

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In discussing Coughlin, we’re talking about a head coach who the fans wanted thrown out of town last season, and a head coach the PLAYERS wanted fired throughout various points of his first few seasons. Coughlin rubbed players the wrong way with his strict rules and disciplinarian personality, yet nobody would have had a problem with him had the team been winning.

Yet until this season, the team was bounced in the first round of the playoffs the previous two seasons, and at various points this season there was speculation that only a miraculous Super Bowl run would have saved his job. And sure enough, much to the surprise of almost everybody except the players on that team, Coughlin lightened his approach and won over his team, and he proved to be exactly what this team needed, not only for his X’s and O’s which have never been questioned, but for the approach he took which ended up leading to glory last night in Arizona.

Some other quick hits from the big game last night…

· 18-1 might as well have been 0-16. An undefeated regular season ended up going for naught, as the one game the Patriots needed to win to ensure their place in history was denied by a hungrier Giants team.

· The commercials were as about as bad as the Patriots offensive line. With the exception of maybe one or two ads, the always widely hyped Super Bowl advertisements were a big letdown.

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· Plaxico Burress was the focus of criticism after predicting a 23-17 Giants win, with some of that criticism coming from Pats QB Tom Brady, who wondered why Burress was not giving his offense more credit. Well Plax had the last laugh as the Giants defense allowed only 14. Oh, and he also caught the game winning touchdown.

· Like it or not, the legacies of Brady, head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots have been tarnished. None of the other all time greats (Joe Montana and Bill Walsh, Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll) ever lost the big game.

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· The bad guys lost. Yes, I have a biased opinion considering I despise everything the Patriots stand for, but this team was caught cheating, has known steroid users and had already made plans for a 19-0 celebration, not to mention this little guy which popped up prematurely on Amazon.com.

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· Spygate, which crept its ugly head up again throughout the week, adds insult to injury, and leaves the Patriots organization with even more questions to answer.

· Going without any recognition (mainly because it was in a losing effort) was Wes Welker, who tied a Super Bowl record with 11 receptions. The Giants had no answer for him, but in the end his effort was wasted.

· The Giants proved that especially in the NFL, the best team doesn’t always win. The Giants are the Super Bowl champs, yet the Patriots were a win away from going down as arguably the best team of all time. However (to be cliché) on any given Sunday, anything can happen.

As hard as it still is to believe, the Giants won the Super Bowl, and will receive the ultimate reward a New York team can get with a ticker tape parade tomorrow down the canyon of heroes.

The Giants weren’t supposed to beat Dallas, or Green Bay and certainly not the seemingly unstoppable Patriots.

And while the New England fell short of being known as perfect, these Giants will forever be known by another name.

Champions.

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February 5, 2008 - Posted by | Sports

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