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Sunday, October 18, 2009

SB XLII Lessons Versus Saints Could Pave Giants’ Road To SB XLIV

SB XLII Lessons Versus Saints Could Pave Giants’ Road To SB XLIV
By Jon Wagner Sr. Writer at Large Football Reporters Online

(photos: Former Giant Jeremy Shockey shown here in 2007 at Giants camp, has found a home with the Saints-By A.F. Chachkes)

Twenty months ago, when the New York Giants shocked the football world by beating the heavily favored, undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, a certain recipe made such a stunning upset possible.

There were plenty of significant, contributing factors in that historic victory, like a key 45-yard reception by tight end Kevin Boss (setting up the Giants’ first touchdown), New York limiting their mistakes (committing just one turnover and only four penalties), and the Giants stopping the run (allowing just 45 yards on only 16 carries).

More than anything though, three specific things were primarily responsible for making the Giants unexpected champions on that February day in 2008: The Giants used a long game-opening drive, a relentless pass rush, and the continued great play of quarterback Eli Manning, the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLII.

Prior to the game, the questions abounded of how the Giants could possibly stop a team which just concluded the most productive regular season in Super Bowl history. How could New York keep the record-setting Patriots off the scoreboard enough to win? The Giants provided the answer on the game’s first drive, by winning the opening coin toss and not letting New England’s offense touch the ball until 5:01 remained in the first quarter. Even though that drive ended with only a field goal and a modest 3-0 Giants’ lead, New York went 63 yards on 16 plays, in a Super Bowl record 9:59, setting a tone for the rest of the game that the 14-point favorite was in for a battle, and there would be no cakewalk in the Arizona desert.

Although New England answered with a touchdown on the game’s next possession, the Giants wouldn’t allow another score until late in the fourth quarter, hitting and pressuring Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady all game, introducing him, and very often reintroducing him, to the University Of Phoenix Stadium turf. The Giants hit Brady nine times, sacked him five times for total losses of 37 yards, deflected four passes, forced a fumble, and recovered another.

And, the third key ingredient to the upset of all football upsets was Manning remaining hot after a terrific four-game playoff run to help the Giants reach Super Bowl XLII. Manning making plays, and allowing his wide receivers to do the same (like the famous and incredible ball-pinned-to-the-helmet catch by wide receiver David Tyree) was the final main component of the Giants achieving the previously unthinkable.

So, why relive all of this now, as the 5-0, 2009 version of the Giants prepare to battle the 4-0 Saints on Sunday? Well, because the Superdome showdown at 1pm EST features arguably the two best teams in the NFL right now, and the winner of Sunday’s contest could be in the driver’s seat toward getting the top seed in the NFC playoffs -- even though Minnesota (5-0), Atlanta (3-1), Chicago (3-1), or even a surprise team like last year’s 9-7 Arizona Cardinals might still have something to say about that.

A strong argument could be made that the Giants would be better served playing as a lower seed and on the road in the playoffs, given Manning’s playoff success two seasons ago (away from Giants Stadium for three straight playoff games plus Super Bowl XLII, as the Giants won a championship as a five seed) contrasted with his awful performance in the Giants’ playoff loss to Philadelphia as a one seed, playing in the very windy conditions of The Meadowlands last January.

Still, any NFL player or coach would likely say that there are three main goals in a season: 1) Win the division, 2) Try to get the one seed, even if Manning is your quarterback and swirling winds in your home stadium wreak havoc with your playoff passing game, and 3) Try to ride the top seed to a Super Bowl title.

The second reason the Giants’ aforementioned win over the Patriots is relevant on Sunday is because as in Super Bowl XLII, the Giants have a great defense and a hot Eli Manning again facing the NFL’s best offense. The Saints lead the league with 36.0 points per game, and rank third with 414.3 total yards per game, but New York, thanks in large part to Manning, is right behind New Orleans, ranking second, with 417.4 total yards per game. Defensively, the Giants have given up just 14.2 points per game (second only to Denver’s 8.6 ppg), and by a wide margin, have allowed both the NFL’s fewest total yards (210.6 per game; Denver is second with 252.8 ypg) and the least passing yards (104.8 per game; Carolina is second with 165.8 ypg) in the league. If the Giants can pressure Saints’ superstar quarterback Drew Brees the same way they got to Brady in Super Bowl XLII, it should spell success for New York.

Now, back to that long drive against New England for a moment… the Giants did the same as recently as last week, imposing their will, albeit against a far inferior opponent, going on a game-opening touchdown drive which consumed 8:03, en route to a 44-7 rout of Oakland. If the Giants’ offensive line can similarly help control the clock and keep Brees and his dangerous receiving and rushing compliments off the field, that would be another huge step toward a victory on Sunday.

And, to finish it off, again, the play of Manning, who is playing his best football so far this season since that magical four-game run through the 2007 playoffs and Super Bowl XLII. Manning has a 111.2 passer rating, completing over 64 percent of his passes, while throwing 10 touchdown passes and just two interceptions so far this season. But, most of all, he’s winning: 5-0 so far in 2009. Continuing that success on Sunday would be the final piece needed to produce yet another Giants’ win.

The possibility of gaining an eventual number one seed in the NFC playoffs by beating the Saints will certainly be enough motivation for the Giants’ offensive leader. However, there might be additional inspiration on a personal level for Manning, who holds a special fondness for the city in which he was raised during the first 18 years of his life. His father, Archie Manning, played in the Superdome for 12 seasons, from 1971-1982 (son Eli, was born just after the 1981 season), but Eli has never played a game there, though he attended many at the Superdome while growing up in New Orleans. Manning and the Giants were supposed to play in the Superdome in 2005, but the game was moved to Giants Stadium due to Hurricane Katrina, after which Manning visited shelters and the homes of his family in the area.

Since there’s still a lot of football left in 2009, Sunday’s tilt between the Giants and Saints could prove to mean little in the 2009 NFC playoff picture. But, if a New York win in New Orleans indeed decides the NFC’s number one seed a little more than two months from now, the lessons learned from the Giants’ Super Bowl XLII victory might just pave the Giants’ road to Super Bowl XLIV.

THE FANTASY FIXX-Week 6(last minute help!)

THE FANTASY FIXX-By David Ortega for Football Reporters Online

“Craving more fantasy football notes and numbers, get your weekly fix here.”-Thee Prodigy

Target Practice: Week Six in the NFL

Once again if you are hoping to set a winning lineup for the coming weekend, you’re going to need the recipe for success. And like all good recipes, you need some tasty ingredients that will make your mouth water.

Not sure if this guy is for real or if that guy can do it again, then dig a little deeper and take a look at the numbers; numbers don’t lie. With week six approaching fast, there’s no time to stumble, take aim because you’ve targeted the right place and we’ve got your fix.

Who’s worried….
Put him in a new uniform and in a new city and the old Braylon Edwards returns making one exciting grab after the other. Monday night was a trip down memory lane for some and a reminder of what Edwards is capable of doing when he gets the opportunity. It looks like the change of scenery is working well for Braylon who finished Monday’s game with five catches, but most notable were the 11 total passes thrown his direction. His total numbers in week five didn’t set any houses on fire, but it looks like this Edwards and “Kid Sensation” could just be getting started.

It took one question about the chemistry between he and his quarterback to spark the Bronco’s second year receiver Eddie Royal. Last week when asked, Orton responded that there were no issues, that he and Royal had a great mix; 15 passes and 10 receptions later and I would say he was right.

It certainly appears that Wes Welker is back or at least Tom Brady seems to think so. Welker has been slowed with a knee injury this season, but that has not stopped his quarterback from calling his number. In Welker’s last two games he’s only total 134 yards receiving with 14 catches, but the truth is Brady has looked his way 26 times. At some point Welker will start putting up his normal numbers, and as long as he’s healthy enough to go, expect to see Brady look his way.

Keep your Eye on these gems…
Last week the rookie in Philly, Jeremy Maclin blew up for big yards and two scores. On the afternoon, McNabb pulled the trigger on his newest weapon eight times and the two connected twice for long strikes; a 51 yard touchdown pass and a 40 yard touchdown pass. Over the past two games Maclin has been targeted just 15 times, but after Sunday’s showcase you can bet that number will rise.

In Denver with so many weapons in the passing game there hardly seems to be any chance for any other receivers not named Marshall or Royal. Well that doesn’t appear to be the case for wide receiver Jabar Gaffney. He’s not been the most productive option in Denver, but he has no fewer that four targets in a single game this season and eight last Sunday were the most. With the offense seeming to be heating up (48 pass attempts last week), Gaffney could become more relevant than what most thought.

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