December 2006


I.

“He sets his own standards. His way of living is different than everybody else’s.”

–Antonio Pierce, on Tiki Barber

 

Well, there’s not too much else to say other than: “Tiki’s the absolute man.” As you well know, his 234 rushing yards last night set a new franchise record, eclipsing his old mark of 220, set against the Chiefs last year. Not that there needs to be a statistical case for Tiki, but think about the following:

–Last night marked Tiki’s fifth career 200-yard rushing game, placing him alone in second place for the most 200-yard games in NFL history. In other words, only one running back – O.J. Simpson, who, by the way, is not a jew – has had more absolutely ridiculous games than the Teekster. (Tomlinson has four 200-yard games though, so it seems pretty likely that he’ll have this record by the time he’s finished.)

–Tiki’s 10,449 career rushing yards place him 19 on the NFL rushing list.

And of course, all the Giants team records conceivable:

–His 1,860 yards last year were the most in team history.

–His 2,390 yards from scrimmage last year were the most in team history.

–His 95-yard run against the Raiders was the longest in team history

–He is our all-time reception leader with 586.

–His 276 yards from scrimmage in the last game of the ’02 season against the Eagles was a team record.

–His 55 rushing touchdowns top the G-Men list.

So, um, any Giant fan saying that Tiki had “checked out” has to be feeling incredibly stupid right now. All those stories this past week were so preposterous that I decided not to dignify them by even addressing them. But wow. What a stupid fucking thought.

As for his admitting that he tunes out during meetings, well, I applaud his honesty. Anyone who’s complaining about that has to ask himself whether they pay attention 100% of the time on their jobs. As he himself said in Thursday’s Times article, “It’s just my approach. It’s how I prepare. I’m lucky because I get things quickly, and I’m looking for things to think about.”

Good enough for me. Besides, if memory serves, there was a guy on the Giants about twenty years ago who made no secret about sleeping his coke hangovers off during meetings. That guy was pretty good as I recall.

II.

Thank God for the Tiki, of course – he single-handedly put us into the playoffs in a Giants performance of the ages – but if we want to make any noise in the playoffs, the rest of the team needs to drastically turn it around. And judging by the second half of the season, including last night, this doesn’t seem too likely.  Everyone except for the offensive line and Tiki continued their frighteningly inept play.

–Yes, that means Eli, who was once again beyond awful. As annoying as the Gumbel-Collinsworth crew was last night (especially Gumbel), Collinsworth deserves credit for spotlighting Eli’s deteriorated mechanics. The guy is just awful in the pocket – instead of moving his feet to find a spot where he can step up and throw, he routinely just stands there, petrified, until the rush makes its way towards him, at which point he leans back away from the defenders and sails passes off his back foot. Maybe he should take a page from his brother’s book and start doing the “happy feet” thing – anything to break him of his lead-feet in the pocket would be good. At this point, it seems like a mental thing.

–The D self-destructed once we got that big lead. Again, how many times are we going to see Tim Lewis sit back in an umbrella zone while the other team gladly rips off 15-yard chunks? If not for Tiki – and some very poor Redskins tackling – we would have lost that game.

A note on the non-existent pass-rush as well:

1) This isn’t exactly news to anyone, but Lewis seems to have the most predictable blitz packages imaginable. It’s hard to complain about the lack of blitzing when the blitzes are so ineffective and our d-backs are so bad. Did you hear Collinsworth say “The Giants don’t have a lot of speed in the secondary” last night? That’s like saying… Well, I can’t really think of a good analogy right now, but it was pretty indicative/disconcertnig/funny.

(Also, did you hear Collinsworth refer to Lorenzen as “The Hefty Lefty?” Like, the Pillsbury Throwboy hadn’t been mentioned even once during the telecast – I’m sure many non-Giants fans viewers didn’t even know the guy was even on the team, or in the league. Like, a lot of people probably hadn’t thought of the guy since, like, 2002. But after he and Eli surreptitiously switched places and he plows ahead on the QB sneak, Collinsworth, incredulous and momentarily losing his professionalism, goes “Is that the Hefty Lefty?!” If was pretty funny.)

2) But back to the pass rush. It seems like we really miss Strahan, not only because he’s the most complete defensive end of the era, but also because his style of rushing the passer is a necessary compliment to Osi’s speed rushing. Let me explain: Strahan is a power rusher who comes from the quarterback’s front side. He pretty much takes his man, physically overwhelming him, and driving back into the quarterback’s face. Osi, on the other hand, comes around the bend from the blind side.

Now, when Strahan’s making his straight forward progress, the quarterback has no recourse but to belly out around Strahan, which leads him right into the wide arc that Osi’s taking. Even if he takes off on the run around Strahan, Osi has enough speed to run most quarterbacks down.

But, when we have Kiwanuka at the left end instead of Strahan, we have two outside speed rushers who both taking very wide angles to the quarterback. The offensive tackles who are blocking them who that if they just keep them wide enough, the quarterback can step up diagonally in the pocket, in either direction, in the space between the up-the middle defensive tackle and the wide end.

This gives the quarterback both time and space to make a throw. And quarterbacks with a modicum of maneuverability – like Campbell last night, and like Garcia, Romo, Hasselbeck, and Brees, for instance – can take advantage of this.

So despite Ernie Accorsi’s assertion that “you can never have enough pass rushers,” perhaps it matters what kind of pass rushers you have.

III.

As you may have ascertained by my tone, I’m a little ambivalent about this playoff trip. I had sort of envisioned that we would snap out of our funk last night and we would go into the playoffs having somehow found our form of the first eight games. That didn’t happen – last night’s game just adds to the mounting pile of evidence that we’re a deeply flawed team playing its worst football at the most important time. No, we didn’t snap out of any funk last night; Tiki just saved our asses.

Nevertheless, 2007 is a new year, and hope springs eternal that the G-Men can pull their shit together after weeks of unraveling. At any rate, NYGMen wishes you all a healthy, happy one. See you in ’07, amd see you in the playoffs!

I.

This week flew by, didn’t it? Are y’all up for another game? Personally, I’m not exactly recovered from the sustained beat-down that has been the last seven weeks, and, I confess, I’m a little tentative about catching another ass-whooping tomorrow. Like a whipped dog, I find myself approaching tomorrow’s game in a defensive posture, cowering and petrified.

But just one more beating, Giants fans. One more. Or if not, we go to the playoffs. What a strange predicament.

II.

A quick note: For those of you in the New York area who don’t get the NFL Network, the game will also be shown on Channel 4. I presume it’ll be the NFL Network telecast, though, in case you were looking forward to some Bruce Beck sideline reporting.

III.

I know Bill Simmons catches a lot of shit around the blogosphere, but I personally think that guy’s funny as hell, and on-point about one-hundred times more often than not. Here’s the funniest call about Colonel Tom I’ve ever seen:

(Pertinent playoff note: There are approximately 345,672 different playoff scenarios involving the NFC this weekend. If the Giants win on Saturday night, all of them except one are rendered moot. But this is the same team that’s currently being coached by a guy who constantly looks like he’s being robbed at gunpoint. So I’m banking on one of those other 345,672 scenarios coming into play.)

“A guy who constantly look like he’s being robbed at gunpoint.” That speaks for itself, so there’s really nothing to add to it. But did you see his interview this week immediately after the Hufnagel demotion? There was this one reporter who kept trying to nudge his long black-mic into Tom’s vocal range, clearly struggling to get position lest his network come away with a shitty sound-feed.

Anyway, at a certain point, in mid-sentence, Tom breaks off what he’s saying, looks at the poor schmuck and goes, “If that thing sticks me in the throat one more time….” Then he sort of exhaled disgustedly and continued in his brusque, defensive tone.

Very funny, but also kind of scary. Clearly, the man is at his wit’s end, and pity the poor sucker who crosses him at the wrong time.

IV.

But it’s not only Tom that’s at his wit’s end – it’s his players as well. Check out this quote from the Daily News, brought to my attention by the excellent New Kid on the G-Men Blog Block, www.newyorkfootballgiants.blogspot.com.

‘”We are tiring of his act,” the [anonymous] Giant said. “He is pushing too hard. We’re still in full pads for part of practice, despite all the injuries we have and the fact that it’s the end of a long season. He is very ‘me’ oriented, always talks about doing things his way – his hard-ass, no-give approach – but we’re not winning or sustaining games, so the disconnect is widening and we are tuning him out.’”

Whoa. Where to start with this one? Well, the first question is, who is this anonymous G-Man? Zack, the proprietor of the blog, makes the point that “given the way it was articulated, this sounds like something from Tiki’s mouth.” I couldn’t agree more – the “disconnect” thing is a dead giveaway.

Second, it’s a little disconcerting to hear that the Giants are “tiring” of any sort of “act,” because, frankly, we’re all tiring of their 7-8 act. When you’re an underachieving 7-8 team coming off one of the more pitiful performances in team history, you’re not really in a position to be tiring of anyone else’s act.

That said, I can understand what the anonymous Giant is getting at when he says that Tom is “very ‘me’ oriented.” All of the “do it my way” stuff, when taken too far, becomes nothing more than an ego trip. If he’s not making a legitimate effort to improve the players but rather lording the “my way” shit over their heads, I can understand how grown men would tune it out.

And while it’s tempting to bemoan these pampered athletes who complain about getting “pushed too hard,” the anonymous Giant actually makes a very legitimate point. Every coach knows that there comes a point in the football season where pushing your guys – in terms of pads, contact, etc. – ceases to be about discipline and character building and instead becomes counterproductive. I can totally picture a situation where Coughlin is excessively pushing these guys at the expense of their bodies, all for the stubborn purpose of reinforcing “his way.”

I don’t know. It’s a shitty situation, and it’s hard to sort out who’s right and who’s wrong. But when the players and the coach are at loggerheads, that old maxim becomes relevant: you can’t fire the players.

V.

Now for some actual game news. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Shockey is out with an ankle injury. Now, people are going to call Shockey’s desire into question after this one, but come on. That’s really not valid. For however big a jackass the guy can be, his effort is cannot be questioned. We’ve seen this guy play hurt his whole career (and that’s, like, one our enduring frustrations with him – he’s never completely healthy), so if he says he’s too hurt to play… please, fellas, believe him.

Also, Seubert will miss tomorrow’s game too, which means that Grey Ruegamer will man the left guard spot while Dave Diehl will slide over to left tackle. In my last post, I advocated for cutting Whitfield; I suppose benching him will have to do.

Ruegamer is solid, but what’s especially noteworthy about him is that his name is “Grey” and he’s the only Giant who unabashedly rocks gray hair. Ever see the big dude standing on the sideline with that striking shock of gray hair? Why that would be Grey Ruegamer! And who was that ineffectual ex-Governor of California with gray hair that got his ass recalled? Why that would be Cruz Bustamante! No, it would be Gray Davis.

VI.

According to this Daily News article, the Giants are interested in Scott Pioli, the Patriots’ Vice President of Player Personnel and renowned salary cap wiz. According to the article, written by Ralph Vacchiano, “One source said that, if available, Pioli is absolutely the Giants main target. Another simply described him as an interesting option that co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch are considering exploring.”

Let’s hope it’s the former. After Mangini and to a lesser extent Weiss, I pretty much trust anyone from the Belichick family. Certainly moreso than one of the other leading candidates, Chris Mara, John Mara’s brother and Wellington’s son. Hiring Chris would smack of some pretty ridiculous nepotism – having suffered through years of watching the Knicks go down this path with Little Dolan, it would break my heart to see the G-Men do the same thing.

I.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, now comes the news that Strahan is out for the season. That’s just one more obstacle we will have to overcome on our way to the most improbable Super Bowl run ever….

But look at it this way: Now that we’re officially a bottomed-out, 7-8 disgrace, we have nothing to lose. Things can only get better from this point on.

If we beat the Redskins, the playoffs beckon. And as Michael Waxenberg writes in his excellent Big Blue Blog, “Once you’re in, you never know, and besides, the team will have to show some trace of a pulse to beat Washington.” Indeed, if we win that game, it’s certainly conceivable that we can go into Lincoln Financial Field and beat the Eagles, and after that… well, exactly as Waxenberg says, you never know.

If we lose, the coaching staff gets shown the door, we make some minor tweaks to our roster, and we go into next season with a new outlook and (I still believe) a lot of talent. Either way, Saturday will either be the merciful end to a tortuous stretch of football or a springboard to a potentially exciting playoff run. Neither alternative is that bad – it certainly beats the past few weeks, which felt like a disturbing dream.

II.

It was also announced that Petitgout is out for the year. No surprise there, although I had harbored the hope that we could have gotten him back had we advanced a couple rounds in the playoffs. (I don’t know which is the bigger pipe dream. Now that I think about it, that’s what made these injuries such bad news: They dealt another blow to the hopes of those of us who are still dreaming. And I’m still dreaming.)

Petitgout’s injury came right in the middle of the Bears game, when it seemed like we had more immediate things to concern ourselves with than a fallen soldier. But it turns out to have been devastating: Our offense has hit the skids since we lost him, and however half-way decent Whitfield’s play has been, his three personal fouls in the past four games have killed us on the field and become a symbol of our astonishingly undisciplined ways under Coughlin. The “Fire Coughlin” chant this past Sunday began after Whitfield’s first personal foul; after O’Hara’s, everyone joined the chorus.

The most infuriating thing is that he doesn’t seem to be remorseful at all. Check out this quote in Monday’s Star-Ledger:

“Their Pro-Bowl defensive end (Will Smith) took a cheap shot. I’ve been playing fifteen years and I’ve never had somebody take a groin shot at me. So I’m looking for ways to get him…

“That’s why it’s cheap. It’s cheap. We ain’t playing hopscotch. This ain’t jacks, Parcheesi, or gin rummy. We tape our hands up to go battle. We hit people. People break their hands in this game, break their necks in this game, so I ain’t going to go out there tiddly-winking or half-stepping. I’ll hit him again, I’ll hit him every time.”

And I’ll cut your ass, you old bum (although, I admit, I was almost won over by the speech). Or I would cut your ass if I were the coach. But apparently, Coughlin is a bigger push-over than I am, and Whitfield’s staying on. That’s the problem with Coughlin – there’s no action to back up the tough guy image. All that horseshit about being five minutes early to meetings means nothing if there are no real consequences beyond fines. Shit, if I were the coach, I’d give the guys a break and let them come to meetings when they actually start. And I would have cut Whitfield right after the game.

Anyway, back to Petitgout. Not to be a dick and say I told you so, but let me refer you to what I wrote after he went down in the Bears game:

“But you know what’s even worse than the loss? The fact that Luke Petitgout, in all probability, is out for the year. I hope that after watching this game we all realize this, but Petitgout (even though none of us really like him, and even though he’s never been a beloved G-Man, and even though my friend Dean coined the phrase “pull a Petitgout” (false start), the guy happens to be one of the truly indispensable members of our team…. He’s the left tackle, and even though he’s not one of the best left tackles in the league, he’s still one of the better ones.”

III.

The other big piece of news from the day was Kevin Gilbride’s taking over play-calling duties for John Hufnagel. Good. I mean, it can’t hurt, right? I wouldn’t expect any miracles out of this – I mean, it’s not like we’re gonna completely change our offensive philosophy or anything – but we certainly weren’t doing anything with Hufnagel at the helm. If anything, this move gives us some hope to hang on.

Who knows? I mean, the Payton to Fassel switch worked pretty well in 2000 – some times any change is good change. (By the way, how weird is it for us Giants fans that Sean Payton is being hailed as the greatest play-caller this side of Bill Walsh? This guy was the Hufnagel of the 2000 season, for Christ’s sake! And those reverses in short-yardage situations are stupid, by the way – just because they’ve worked both times doesn’t mean they make any sense.)

So it’s Gilbride and not Hufnagel. It’s hard to get too excited about a guy that was once clocked by Buddy Ryan, but maybe because he’s quarterbacks coach, he’ll have a better sense of what does and doesn’t work for Eli. That would help, because Eli’s really, really holding back the offense.

IV.

Lastly, the rare NYGMen photo, snapped on a cell phone by commentator and consultant Wong, who also attended last Sunday’s game.  Of all the tributes to Tiki, this one takes the cake.  Yes, that would be number 21 shaved out of back hair.  (The Santa hat is a nice touch.)  Tremendous job.  Whoever you are, NYGMen salutes you! 

 tikibackhair.jpg

Seeing as it’s Christmas and everything, let’s try not to dwell on the bad dream that was yesterday at the Meadowlands. Instead, let’s take the time to fondly remember the greatest running back in Giants history. Here’s a corny bar-mitzvah toast-sounding poem I scribbled in October when Tiki originally made the retirement announcement.

Anyway, NYGMen wishes you and yours a Merry Christmas, Chappy Chanukah, and a Kwality Kwanza.

** 

“Ode to Tiki”

 

Back at Virginia we had heard about you

The crafty little back who beat FSU

“The Barber of C’ville,� you were called by some

But who could have guessed what you have become?

A second round draft pick, because of your size

A mere “change of pace,� in the talent scouts’ eyes

But you sure did impress in your Giants debut,

Scoring two touchdowns and propelling Big Blue.

We had a player on our hands, we Giants fans knew,

And his name was “Tiki,� for Atiim Kiambu

*

But at five foot ten and two-hundred pounds,

They said you weren’t cut out to play all four downs

You were small, they said, and couldn’t take hits,

Your blocking was suspect when you picked up the blitz,

A big power back, they said, was what we needed to obtain,

Like Gary Brown, Joe Montgomery, the immortal Ron Dayne

But Fassel got wise and gave you a chance,

And you racked up the yards with your feet and your hands.

What a delight you were to us fans!

The thrills you brought to the ol’ Meadowlands.

* 

Small and not even especially fast,

It was your incredible instincts that were unsurpassed

Your timing, your presence, your maneuvering feet,

Your game was finesse, your running-style sweet.

Dancing, not busting, through defenders’ embraces

Emerging improbably, off to the races.

Somehow evading outside contain,

Headed downfield for another big gain

Another deft cut through the narrowest lane,

Blowing a kiss as you cross the plane.

* 

The greatest offensive player that’s ever worn blue,

Is hanging ‘em up, saying he’s through

And we Giants fans just sit here and stew,

Please, please, Tiki! Say it’s untrue!

Next stop is Canton, and whatever you do:

Thanks for the memories. We will always love you.

I was at the Meadowlands today and I stayed until the bitter end. I don’t get to Giants games often, and I figured I might as well soak up the vibes, dismal as they were. There were two times (I think after Carter’s dropped pass and then after Whitfield’s second personal foul penalty) when my dad and I got up and almost left, but we just couldn’t peel ourselves from the fascinatingly awful spectacle in front of us. Plus, it was Tiki’s last home game, so as he jogged into the tunnel and the scoreboard flashed “Thanks for the memories Tiki,” at least we had something to cheer about.

But at this point, what is there to say? I think the “Fire Coughlin” chant, mournfully and angrily wailed by a few scattered pockets who stayed at the Meadowlands, said it more clearly and eloquently than I possibly can. Such chants mean that your organization is going through a low period. The bizarre thing is that we’re in such a low period at a time 1) when we have excellent talent. I still believe that. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been chanting for the coach to be fired; and 2) we are four straight wins away from the Super Bowl, against teams that aren’t that much better than us. I mean, the Giants are pathetic, sure, but aren’t the division-winning Seahawks, too?

I guess the question for us Giants fans is: What do we do from here? The fact that we’re very much alive in the playoff picture puts us in an extremely awkward position. As much as throwing in the towel with this team seems like the right thing to do, the (theoretical) possibility exists that we can make a deep playoff run.

So where do we go from here? Are we honestly rooting for the biggest miracle in sports history? A 500, or, quite probably, a sub 500 team winning the Super Bowl? Would this really say anything about this team except for that we got really lucky to get into the playoffs and even more lucky that we happened to play well when the 2006 NFC games finally started counting? Wouldn’t we be exploiting some flaw in the design?

I resented the Cardinals World Series victory, as did most of America, I suspect. There’s something about the structure of the pro sports playoff system that rewards teams that shouldn’t be rewarded. And I can’t think of any team that shouldn’t be rewarded by a playoff berth more than the 2006 New York Football Giants. 7-8 is one thing, but 7-8 after losing 6 of the last 7 games is quite another.

And therein lie the contradictory feelings we all harbor towards these G-Men. This team should be punished, for Christ’s sake, not rewarded with a second chance! I mean, we’ve already had a second chance! I was called the Dallas game, and we should have won it. But we blew it, and that should have been the end of our season.

But we went into Carolina and beat them, and in so doing, we earned ourselves another second chance against Philly at home. But we blew that one too. In any fair world, that would have been our last chance.

But no. The NFC is pathetic, we know, so we were granted one last chance to make good on this travesty of a season. If we beat the Saints, a legit playoff team, we could reasonably stake some sort of claim as a real playoff team. And after Eli hit Plax (or after Jason Craft fell down) a few plays into the game, it seemed like we may have finally righted the ship.

Nope. We proceeded to lay down. In a big spot, we turned in an unconscionable performance. Special teams mishaps. Horrendous throws. Dropped passes. Personal fouls. By now, you’ve heard that we didn’t run a play in Saints territory all game. Did you also know that the G-Men were 0 for 10 on third down (credit to my dad for being on that from mid-second quarter-on)? Absolutely horrendous.

It’s hard to blame the defense, because they actually held up pretty well against a really good offense until our offense (which is not a really good offense) did their best to keep their teammates on the field the entire time. Fatigued, having to contend with Reggie Bush’s quickness, what could the D do?

So we’ve blown multiple shots at redemption, where most teams are lucky to get just one, yet we somehow have another. I don’t know how I feel about this, and I don’t have any advice about how you all should. I’ll be watching though. That’s pretty much all I can say right now.

–Chris Snee and Shaun O’Hara were back practicing yesterday, and even though they’re still listed as questionable, we can be reasonably sure that they’ll play in Sunday’s game. Rich Seubert is out though.

I think it was either Bob Papa or Carl Banks who made the point that losing O’Hara before playing Jim Johnson’s aggressive, schemey, blitzing defense came at the worst possible time. Good call. I mean, we don’t know if Seubert missed any assignment or blew any calls, but it’s an interesting thought.

Brandon Jacobs was back in practice as well, and even though he’s listed as questionable, he should be available also.

And of, course, Strahan should be back too, though Antonio Pierce says he doesn’t having him out there will make that much of a difference: “I don’t think he’s going to be able to play a full game. We just want Mike to be out there to help us out, whether it’s third down, 20 plays, that would be good. Kind of like we did with Osi.”

Also, Corey Webster should also be able to go, but he too is listed as questionable. It’s hard to get too excited about that, but who knows? Maybe he’ll give us our best shot at slowing down the 6-4 Marques Colston.

–Also on the injury front, it appears that Derrick Ward was rushed back from his foot injury and has re-aggravated it, rendering him out for the year. At this point, it’s hard to fathom why we wouldn’t just stick Sinorice Moss back there and tell him to run as fast as he can. I mean, what’s the worst thing that can happen? We’re 7-7, and the bottom has already fallen out of the season. If he fumbles and costs us the game, at least we went down trying to do something. And if he aggravates his thigh injury, he’ll have the whole off-season to recover. I mean, Jesus, Tom. Why not?

Aside from kick returns, why haven’t we been making more of an effort to incorporate Sinorice into the offense? By now, it’s been proven beyond reasonable doubt that Tim Carter is a cipher in the starting flanker role (he’s basically out of chances, don’t you think?), so why not stick in the second round draft pick with blazing speed and playmaking ability, who can make things happen across the middle? We might have a playmaker in Sinorice, and we’re sitting on him. It doesn’t make sense.

In that same section to my left, maybe around fifteen rows down from me, was this rowdy crew of Eagles fans, at least two of whom were clad in these sweet, late ‘80s jerseys that looked like they had been pulled off the wall of Gerry Cosby’s.

Anyway, these Eagles fans were getting pretty heavily heckled, and it very soon escalated into this fat, stubbly, K-Fed-looking piece of Philly trash in a green Cunningham jersey standing up, flipping aggressive birds, and repeatedly (and violently) grabbing his package.

Cunningham’s amigo was this short, slight dude, incongruously dressed in a white Reggie White jersey. The little dude wasn’t being nearly the dick that his Randall-clad buddy was, but Giant fans couldn’t resist the temptation:

“YOU’RE-A-MID-GET!” rang the chant, in the quarto-syllabic rhythm of the “Let’s go Yankees” chant. It was pretty funny, though not nearly as funny as when Jose Valentin was serenaded with “WHAT-A-MOU-STACHE!” at Shea Stadium.

Anyway, the beef continued with the Eagles fans, and at a certain point, Cunningham had clutched his Balzac enough times so that the yellow-clad, Meadowlands security guys saw fit to eject his ass. The crowd loved it, and a pretty coherent rendition of “Na-na-na-na, Na-na-na-na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye” was bellowed in his direction, accompanied by a rolling sea of full-armed waves goodbye.

I didn’t notice it at the time, but my brother pointed out to me that Cunningham tried to stick his arm out to the crowd and do the “bring it on!” gesture, only to have it violently yanked back by one of the security guards. Pretty funny. But with the departure of the scrambler, the beef was quickly forgotten about and the crowd could concern itself with the infuriating events on the field.

But a strange thing happened before the second half kickoff. Randall made his way back into the stands, and as he walked up the stairs to his seat, he waved at his former tormentors in a very cordial way.

What had happened? Sitting a section over, I didn’t really get the inside scoop, but the rumor was that he was taken down into the bowels of the Meadowlands, left to sober up and contemplate his crime against civil stadium society. At the half, he was paroled, and he returned to the stands as a seemingly changed man, one committed to peaceful coexistence with the Giants fans.

But it didn’t last long. The rate of recidivism for Eagles fans reverting back to being assholes is high, much higher than the rate for, say, child molesters. It couldn’t have been more than five minutes before #12 was at it again, and it couldn’t have been more than five minutes after that that security nabbed his ass again. The dude got ejected twice from the Meadowlands in the same game – it’s gotta be a record. If that isn’t a perfect encapsulation of what Philly Phans are all about, I don’t know what is.

I.

Ok, I’ve had it. My season-long optimism about this team evaporated on Sunday. It was a disgraceful loss at the Meadowlands, and I was there. Even before Trent Cole high-stepped across Eli’s face, I had chalked 2006 up as an underachieving, sour, and maddening season.

This game typified what this Giants team has been all about: tantalizing talent undone by ghastly mistakes, inferior coaching, and a knack for blowing it in key spots. Take your pick from Sunday’s game. What was the most infuriating? Was it:

–Jacobs’ fumble? Hey, Coughlin, if you can teach Tiki to stop fumbling, how about doing the same for Jacobs? Or Plax?

–Those two holding penalties that pushed us back from 1st and 10 from the Philly 42 to 1st and… 30! from our own 38? (Eli was picked off the play after that one.)

–Shockey’s personal foul? So asinine, but so not surprising.

–Those two consecutive 1st and Goals (one from the 10, one from the 7) that resulted in 6 points?

–Reno Mahe’s (or as my Eagle-fan co-worker Jarrett calls him, Mahi-Mahi’s) 64-yard kick return that immediately cancelled out our recent hard-earned field goal?

–Westbrook’s 28-yard untouched touchdown run two plays later? I’m sorry, but this because shit like this continues to happen, the only conclusion that you can possibly draw is that we’re being out-coached.

–The Shiancoe fumble? The way it stayed in bounds and was deftly scooped by Lito Shepherd was just cruel.

–Another sign that you’re being out-coached is when the other team converts their two-point conversion, and you don’t. Was there even any doubt that it would be different? It’s been that kind of season, because the 2006 Giants are that kind of team.

–Yet another sign that you’re being out-coached is when you run all over a team in the first half but get completely stuffed in the second half, while your opponent, in contrast, runs the ball on you with impunity with you in the second half. One of the most mystifying things about this game was the way we got utterly dominated in the trenches. Yes, I know that the players play the game, and no coach ever got physically dominated. But I refuse to believe that the Eagles interior players are better than ours – we’ve been strong up the gut all year. Therefore, logically, the only possibility is that as the game wore on, Coughlin, Lewis, and Hufnagel missed something.

–This goes for the pass rush too. Garcia is very crafty in the pocket and he deserves credit for that, but with the exception of a Torbor blitz and Will Demps’ forced fumble, we didn’t get near the guy all day. He had all the time in the world to sit back and find guys, many of whom were coming across the middle on crossing patterns on which a linebacker or safety was unreasonably asked to keep up with a wide receiver or Westbrook for, like, 4 whole seconds. An impossible task; the Eagles converted 3rd down after 3rd down on us all day on plays like those.

Now of course it’s football, and every team makes multiple mistakes each game, but it’s the consistency with which we make the biggest mistakes at the worst possibly time, week after week, that has made us a 7-7 mediocrity through 7/8ths of the season. This isn’t an isolated incident, but rather a self-destructive pattern.

 

II.

As far as the playoffs are concerned, yes, I guess we’re still in it. But this is solely a function of (to paraphrase Drago’s trainer) how pathetically weak our conference has become. Under normal circumstances, our seven losses would spell curtains on a season that began with such high hopes.

If there world were a fair place, the story should be over. Losing seven games, and five out of our last six, with the talent that we have should send the organization reeling into an early off-season of critical introspection, searching for ways to correct this team’s obvious flaws.

But because it’s 2006, and because we’re in the NFC, we get one more shot. We get one more shot to pull all of our shit together. Can we do it? Well, there’s certainly no evidence to suggest that we can. But who says we have to look at the evidence? Who says we have to be logical? Who says sports are reasonable? Who says life is reasonable?

Giants fans, I know you’re pissed. I know you’ve had it. But please, please stick with this team! I implore you. I know you’re tired of this team, but if this season isn’t meant to be, then you only have to deal with them for two more weeks anyway. Stay True, fellow Bleeders of Big Blue. Please.

 

III.

Okay, onto lighter matters.

There was definitely some hard-working, funny-ass dude in the Giants public relations department, or whoever is responsible for the scoreboard entertainment.

Before the game, the “jumbotrons” (if you really want to call them that at the Meadowlands – those things look pretty small compared to screens in, like, every other stadium) on each side of the field showed the famous training montage from Rocky. It was the one where Stallone picks up serious speed, and is practically in a full-on sprint for an impossibly long distance from the banks of the Delaware River to the steps of the museum (where he finally stops and does that both-arms-raised, feet-moving exultation thing).

When they first put it on the jumbotron, I let loose a vicious boo. “Fuck Rocky!” I thought. “What, are we the lovable underdog now? Pffpppbbffff!! Especially when we’re playing the Eagles!”

But a few moments later, I realized that whoever was in charge of the jumbotron entertainment was smarter and funnier than I had given him credit for, because as Rocky raised his arms, you heard the distant sound of thundering steps trampling through the City of Brotherly Love. You knew something was up, but you didn’t know exactly what until the camera panned out. Looming over the Philadelphia Museum of Art emerged a Giant man, clad in blue, a G-Man, dwarfing both the museum and the little Balboa.

The Giant stepped over the museum and without breaking stride, squashed the little Balboa, much to the delight of the Meadowlands crowd. It was on, and the Giants kicked off.

 

IV.

Some other observations from my afternoon/evening at the Meadowlands:

1) They continued the Rocky theme on the jumbotron for the whole game: They played Clubber Lang’s “Prediction: Pain” thing, Drago’s “I must break you,” Mickey’s “He’ll knock you into tomorrow, Rock!” and Adrian’s “You can’t win!”

It was pretty entertaining, especially for all of us Rocky buffs, but it became a little ridiculous when you realized that, um, Rocky beat all those dudes. Despite what Adrian said, he could win, and he did. (Besides, identifying with Clubber Lang is one thing. After all, no cooler man than Arnold Jackson idolized Mr. T. But Drago? It’s hard to respect a man whose wife wound up with Flavor Flav.)

2) I hate to say it, but the Meadowlands crowd was somewhat disappointing. It was a big, intense, night game, so it wasn’t exactly dead, but, like, the place really should have been more amped.

I don’t know – I think that the fans have an obligation to be as loud as possible. Every third down should be gotten up for. 76,000 person “Defense” chants should cascade down. “Asshole” chants should greet every possibly questionable call. I get to about one Giant game a year, and it really bothers me that these people with season tickets take it for granted.

I have seen pro football games in two other places: the Metrodome in Minneapolis (where I saw the G-Men beat the Vikes in 2002), and FedEx Field in Washington (where I saw the G-Men beat the ‘Skins in 2003, but then lose to them in 2005), and both of those places are much, much louder than the Meadowlands.

 

V.

One of the best things about going to NFL games is the pageant of jerseys – you’re always gonna see some jerseys and gear that generates reactions from, “Yo, that shit is hot!” to “Oooh. So not the move.”

The foursome with whom I rolled this past Sunday took a backseat to no other crew jersey-wise. My dad wore the Blue Tiki – not too flashy, not too original, but a necessary staple, a Big Blue Classic.

My brother rocked the White Osi. Two things make this jersey awesome: 1) The number 72 is so asymmetrical and random; and 2) Seeing the vowel-laden, Nigerian last name “Umenyiora” stretched across the back of a modest-sized white dude is… Well, it’s really what jersey-rockage is all about.

My brother’s fiancée, who has rapidly developed into a passionate, astute G-Men fan over the past couple of years, was adorned in the Red Pierce, rounding out the red, white, and blue tripartite Giants soul.

The red alternate jersey is a subject of debate among G-Men fans, but despite my usual aversion to alternate jerseys, I can’t help but liking them. Because they’re only broken out once a year, and only for big homes games, I consider them a welcome addition to the Giants’ uni-scheme. Seeing those red jerseys just fires me up.

The incorporation of the red as an official, game-used jersey makes the purchase respectable. The rule of thumb on jersey purchases is: DON’T BUY ANYTHING THEY DON’T WEAR IN GAMES! The Giants have been selling red jerseys for years, but it wasn’t until they started wearing the red that I went out and bought one for myself. (And you wonder why every pro sports team has a dozen different color combos.)

But if you’re gonna buy the Giants red jersey, you gotta get someone with some sort of attitude, some sort of edge. Like, you can’t be rocking the Red Eli, or even the Red Tiki. Pierce, Shockey, Plax, Jacobs, Sinorice, and Osi are the way to go.

Okay, back to the fearsome foursome of jerseys that rolled into East Rutherford last Sunday.

Last but certainly not least was yours truly, draped in a light blue, number 98 jersey. Across the front was embroidered “CAROLINA,” and across the back, “TAYLOR.”

Walking through the parking lot, enshrouded in that precious garment, I felt not unlike Joseph in his coat of many colors. To feel those longing gazes being cast in my direction, some parts envy and some parts awe, was like walking through a Venetian piazza with a beautiful woman clinging to my arm.

Those awestruck looks enveloped me as I ascended up the escalator, en route to my lofty perch in the third to last row of section 331. But before I got there, I was rudely asked by the usher who I had to show my ticket to, “Why are you wearing a Carolina Panthers jersey?”

Dumbass. I actually tried saying, “No, it’s an LT jersey from when he was in college,” or something like that, but whether my words were too panicked and garbled to make any sense, or whether she was just too stupid to understand the fairly simple (and not that uncommon) concept of college jerseys, the point didn’t register.

Either way, when I finally got up the neverending staircase of the Meadowlands’ upper deck, I realized I had met my match, when, about a section over from me, I saw an orange Clemson #20 jersey, complete with a paw-print logo on the sleeves and “Dawkins” on the back.

A sweet jerz, I must admit, and it wasn’t the only nice one that those Eagles fans had brought to the Meadowlands that day. At some point, I noticed a navy blue #20 jersey, a pretty bare-bones Penn State looking thing except for the “V” on the sleeves. It took a second to register, but it was a Westbrook at Villanova that was being rocked.

to be continued…

I.

By now, it’s no secret that Will Demps has been a major disappointment. During Sunday’s telecast, Troy Aikman cemented it in the minds of even casual Giants fans when, after Demps missed easy pick, he said, “Will Demps has had a real rough year.” Indeed, Demps has made some pretty costly mistakes in recent weeks:

–His missed tackle on Thomas Jones’ “3rd and forever” run, which allowed the Bears to get back into the game. As Al Michaels kept saying, this play was the turning point in a game that was a turning point in the Giants’ season.

–The missed tackle on Vince Young on the Kiwanuka play. Everyone blames Kiwanuka for this, but if Demps makes that stick or even slows Young down, the Giants get the ball back in field goal range, win that game, and are 8-5 in first place of the NFC East right now.

–Being late in safety help on the tying touchdown in the Titans game. Frank Walker was the guy who got beat, but he was isolated in single coverage with Brandon Jones with an entire side of the field to defend. Demps was responsible for giving Walker some safety help, but he was nowhere to be found.

–I don’t know if this was his fault or not, but Demps was definitely involved in the Whitten play. It looked like a miscommunication in the secondary where Demps had to jump a shorter route, but the fact is, as a free safety, nobody should get behind Demps. On that play, both Whitten (working on Pierce) and T.O. (working on Dockery) got behind him.

So yeah, one of our major free agent acquisitions has turned out to be a dud, which brings us to the question of why.

NYGMen commentator Cody speculated that it’s his knee – Demps is coming off a partially torn ACL after all. There’s definitely some truth to that. Check out Mike Garafolo’s blog entry from last week:

Will Demps stepped up and took the blame for his performance in Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys. But at the same time, he talked about his surgically repaired knee and said it’s not 100 percent.

He also sounded disappointed Tom Coughlin wasn’t aware the partially torn ACL he suffered last year isn’t completely healed yet.

“You’re never going to be exactly like you used to the first year (after the injury). I understood that,” Demps said. “I just felt maybe (the coaches) understood that a little bit, too.

“But I’m a professional. I’m going to take it on the chin and move forward knowing I’m not going to make every perfect tackle, but I’m going to make the tackles I need to. I know I’m going to be frustrated about certain things I missed. And I understand I’ll be accountable for them.

“But I’m not the only one.”

Hmmmm… Well, this obviously invites the question: Was Demps so forthcoming about his knee this past offseason, when we gave the guy a fat contract? Quite frankly, it’s hard for me to have much sympathy for the guy, considering that he’s the damaged goods the Giants were hoodwinked into giving a contract. Thanks for “taking it on the chin,” Will. You’re a real mensch. And if you really think you’re “making the tackles you need to,” why don’t you try “making every perfect tackle?” Please.

II.

Allen Barra’s raging pessimism about all-things Giant – especially Eli – continues. Nontheless, his points are always worth considering, and his recent New York Sun (which, for those of you who don’t know, has a ridiculously on-point sports section) article is no exception. Here’s a sample of his latest installment of anti-Eliism:

For the game, Manning was 17 of 33 for 172 yards and three touchdowns. Seventy-three of those 172 yards came on those two completions to Burress. Subtract them from the total, and Manning was 15 of 31 for 99 yards, which is absolutely atrocious, particularly considering that he was working the entire afternoon against two rookie cornerbacks. (One of whom, Byrum, was undrafted and signed by Carolina in November off Tampa Bay‘s practice squad.)

Let’s put it in even more vivid perspective: Subtract a 25-yard completion to Jeremy Shockey, and Manning completed 14 of 30 passes for just 74 yards. That’s slightly less than two yards a throw, or considerably less than half of what Tiki Barber averaged per run (20 carries for 112 yards).

Definitely some points that needed to be made. After a great game against Dallas, Eli regressed last week and is, as always, someone to keep a concerned eye on. It would be a shame if the Dallas game was a one-game aberration and the shittiness that has characterized his recent play continued into the last four regular season games and beyond. (The rest of Barra’s article, basically about how lucky the Giants got on Sunday, is a worthwhile read also.)

But he wasn’t nearly as bad as Barra’s making him out to be: I mean, you can’t take away the guy’s three biggest completions and front like you’re purporting a legitimate stat! And also, aside from the numbers, Eli was poised in the pocket and under control – he looked just better, which counts for an awful lot for a guy who’s so hot and cold.

Obviously, Barra would scoff at such a subjective argument, but we Giant fans know the helpless feeling when we see Eli looking like a lost little boy. Whatever his stats were on Sunday, at least he didn’t look like that.

III.

Here’s a really good piece by Michael David Smith about the Giants’ use of Jacobs, which borders on self-defeatingly predictable. Credit the coaching staff, however, for mixing it up a little (finally) on the touchdown passes to Tyree and Shockey. Hopefully they’ve learned their lesson.

Let me take this opportunity to comment on what a good receiver Jacobs is – that guy is so dangerous on screens! Screen passes utilize Jacobs’ 1) outstanding vision; 2) gliding stride and good speed; and 3) his awesome head-of-steam power.

And also, how about Tiki’s pass-blocking on Sunday! I was impressed most of all by his recognition skills – he knew exactly where the leakage was and didn’t hesitate to throw his body in there (props also to the Fox crew for noticing this and for getting some great shots of it). Considering Tiki’s size and the fact that he’s kinda physically underwhelming, he’s about as good a pass-blocking running back as there is.

IV.

Did you see this story? Everson Walls, the former Giant cornerback made famous for his appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated after Super Bowl XXV (and made famous to non-G-Men fans as the guy beaten by Dwight Clark for “The Catch”), has agreed to donate a kidney to defensive backfield-mate and good friend Ron Springs, the father of Shawn Springs.

“I love winning! It’s, like, better than losing.”

-Ebbie Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh

I.

Wow, this feels good. Finally, we played a team in a bigger state of disarray than we were, played well enough, caught some breaks, and came away with a comfortable win. I hope I’m not premature in declaring this, but I sincerely believe that after a horrific third quarter of the season, the long nightmare in G-Men nation is over. It’s morning again in East Rutherford.

Am I getting too excited about one win? Perhaps. But you know what? Fuck it. I, along with everyone else who didn’t write the Giants off this year, have earned it as a fan. If I was saying the season was salvageable after the Tennessee game, I have the right to say that we might have just turned the corner after this one.

Think of it this way: After bottoming out against Jacksonville (who, we all know after today, is a pretty damn good team) we came back strong against a not-bad Tennessee team and thoroughly outplayed them for three quarters. Then, in one quarter, we collapsed. It was a historically horrible choke, and compounded by all the shit the following week, it threatened to destroy our season.

If we had came out flat and gotten our asses whooped by a steamrolling Dallas team, even I – with my relentless optimism and my steadfast defending of Coughlin, Eli, Plax, and Shockey – would have conceded the season. But if we showed up and gave a game effort, I was not ready to give up on the season.

Before the Dallas game, I wrote the following:

“So if we don’t win tomorrow, I’m not prepared to write the season off. I mean, it obviously depends on how we play. Like, if the offense continues to shit the bed and Romo slices us up, than yes, I will be very, very down on this team and will believe that even if we get our guys back and make the playoffs, we’re really not a serious contender.

“But if the offense comes alive a little and we hang with the Cowboys but just don’t get a few bounces? It’s still only one game, and anything can happen, which means that if we get to the playoffs, get a little healthier, and see these guys again… I like our chances just fine.”

And what happened in the Cowboy game? We showed up. We showed up big time against a team that nobody had been playing better than. Eli came back strong and played a very good game. We intercepted Romo twice, which were his first two picks since we last intercepted him twice. We outplayed the ‘Boys, but we just didn’t get the “few bounces” that I referred to.

It was a devastating loss, of course, but it was so devastating because we outplayed them. But that game showed that we are capable of bouncing back from adversity. And that counts for something. Yes, I know everyone wants to label the G-Men as underachieving crybaby bitches, but please, can we give them credit for playing hard and well against the Cowboys? And even though we came out on the wrong end of the scoreboard, can we give them credit for bouncing back from last week’s loss to get a road win today?

I feel it. I really do feel it. Sure, we hit rock bottom during that four game losing streak, but we’ve shown the ability to get back up. When we lost to Jacksonville, I wouldn’t have said this about this team, but, strangely, after more two losses and one win, I believe that the 2006 Giants are a team that can take a punch. What didn’t kill us has made us stronger.

Even after enduring one of the most horrific stretches in recent memory, consider the possibilities at this point: We can safely assume that two wins in the next three games (against Philly, New Orleans, and at Washington) will get us into the playoffs. But I expect to win all three.

Once there, is there anyone in the NFC that is better than us? Do you really think the Bears are better than us at this point, what with Tommie Harris lost for the season and Rex Grossman playing worse than Eli ever has? Do you think the Cowboys are better than us? Even after last night? It would be strange if you did, because, after all, we just outplayed them. The Seahawks? They just lost to the Cardinals. The Saints? Please. We’ll show them in a couple of weeks. Jeremy Shockey was right: When we are playing our game, we should beat any of these teams.

II.

God, I had forgotten how good this feels. Winning makes all the difference on a Sunday: For the first time in a month (!), I looked forward to watching the Sunday night game (yes, Saints!) as well as all the highlights tonight and tomorrow.

One of the things that made this losing streak so depressing was that the games were all late games. The rainy Sunday night against Chicago; the Monday night loss at Jacksonvile; the dismal 4:00 losses against the Titans and Cowboys. A little after 4 today, with a Giants win under my belt, I thought to myself, “Maybe watching the G-Men doesn’t have to be such a painful experience after all.”

III.

Now, not to take anything away from this win – we did beat them 27-13, in their place, after all – but it’s worth mentioning that we got really lucky today in some key situations.

–The Jacobs Fumble: I don’t know how Shaun Williams didn’t recover this, but somehow, he whiffed, the ball somehow squirted out from underneath him, and Shockey picked it up. All I can say is that I’m glad Shaun Williams isn’t on our team anymore – that guy sucks. But anyway, if Williams pounces on that, the score would have remained 10-10 after a first half in which we thoroughly outplayed those chumps.

But Williams missed, Shockey recovered, and we scored a touchdown on the next play to take an authoritative 17-10 lead into the half.

–The two other fumbles we were lucky enough not to lose:

1) Morton’s fumble on his punt return: For maybe the second time all season, Chad Morton broke a punt return into the open field. Unfortunately, he’s really, really slow, and he got run down from behind by a linebacker. Not only that, but he got the ball popped out of his hands, even though not fumbling is pretty much the only thing the guy is good at.

A different bounce and the Panthers would have had the ball back with another chance to tie the game, but fortunately for us, the ball skipped out of bounds and we kept possession. We kicked a field goal that series and went up by 10.

2) With 4:34 remaining in the 3 quarter, and the Giants up 27-17, Eli fumbled at the 2 yard line. Luckily, Jim Finn – who had an excellent game, by the way – was Johnny on the Spot. Although he was the only Giant in the area, he pounced on the rock and allowed us to maintain possession. Had Carolina recovered the fumble, they probably would have scored a touchdown to pull within an eminently surmountable 10 points with around 20 minutes left in the game.

So basically, we fumbled three times in consequential situations and recovered all of them. In football, that’s, like, the definition of luck.

–The dropped pick by Thomas Davis (#58): Whoa, did Eli got away with one here! I don’t know how this guy dropped this pick, but on the next play, Eli hit Shockey on a 25-yard seam to keep the eventual scoring drive going. (This was the same series in which Jacobs would later fumble – and we would recover!) This touchdown drive was big. I’m telling you.

–The Panthers’ many drops. How many passes did these guys drop? I’d say around 8. And don’t forget Weinke’s many horrendous throws. I don’t care if that team was a hard-luck 6-6 and that they were supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. That team we played today sucked.

IV.

On the other hand, the only reason that we hadn’t built up a bigger lead early on is because we got seriously screwed on some calls.

–1) The call of incomplete on that hitch to Plax in the first quarter. We even challenged this! I don’t see how there wasn’t an angle that showed that the ball didn’t hit the ground. Anyway, that deprived us of a 1 down, and we went 3-and-out on the series.

–2) The blatant pass interference on Tim Carter early in the second quarter. A really obvious call that the refs missed. If they make the call, we’re in field goal range. That’s three points right there.

–3) DeShawn Foster totally fumbled on that play that Osi crashed the “mesh point” (4 minutes into the second quarter). But the refs blew the play dead, screwing over the G-Men. Had they not prematurely blew the whistle, we would have taken over in the Carolina red-zone. (And didn’t they just make a new rule this year that was supposed to address such situations? Please.)

It’s fair to say that calls 2 and 3 wound up costing us at least 6 points.

V.

My game ball goes to both Kevin Dockery and Tim Lewis. Props to Dockery for stepping his play up after halftime, and props to Lewis for making the adjustment that allowed him to do so.

In the first half, Dockery was a glaring vulnerability. After the Giants scored a touchdown to go up 7-0, the Panthers responded by picking on the undrafted rookie. Aside from a 12-yard DeShaun run, the Panthers passed to a receiver covered by Dockery on three out of four plays on their ensuing answer, culminating in a 36-yard touchdown to Drew Carter.

Dockery got abused on that drive, and I remember thinking: Why are we sticking this guy on the island? Why not stick R.W. (who was sort of playing a nickel/slot position) out there?

Well, the original thinking was clear enough. R.W. is a much better tackler and blitzer, and Lewis and co. wanted him in the slot where he would be closer to the action. They had hoped that Dockery could hold his own out at one corner, but they were wrong. The kid got slayed up, and we paid the price (There was an additional 39-yard completion to Carter – Dockery gave up around 100 yards in the first half alone).

But credit the coaching staff for making the necessary adjustment: The stuck R.W. on the corner and put Dockery in the slot, where R.W. had been playing.

The reward was immediate. On 3 down of the Panthers first series, Dockery jumped around intended for Steve Smith and almost picked it. Either way, he made the play and broke it up – the Panthers punted and we came back with a field goal to extend our lead to 10.

For the rest of the half, the dude was all over the place. He made a couple of key plays a couple of possession later, and on the possession after that, he jumped a route beautifully and made a tremendous pick that, with under 10 minutes left in the game and the Giants up by 17, pretty much sealed the deal.

Nice job by the rook, and a nice job by the braintrust. And, of course, a nice job by R.W., as always. How huge has the Dubs been for us? Watching R.W. this year reminds me of the sentiments of Charlie Donovan when he first laid eyes on Pedro Cerrano hitting the shit out of the straight-ball in spring training: “How come nobody else picked up on him?”

This guy’s been a Godsend, and at this point of the season, I would be pretty pissed if Corey Webster came back and cut into his playing time. The secondary is a bit of a vulnerability, but if we have Madison (who looks really solid these days) and R.W., two solid veterans, I think we’ll be okay.

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