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!