I.

Death is for many of us the gate of hell; but we are inside on the way out, not outside on the way in.

–George Bernard Shaw

 

It’s finally over. The bitter Sundays, the weekday bickering, the sheer exertion required to cling to an ever-evaporating sense of hope. The false starts, the back-footed throws, the bratty arm-flailing of overlooked receivers. The missed tackles, the heart-wrenching third down conversions at our expense. The red face, the crooked nose, the beady eyes, the white sneakers, the golf shirt buttoned all the way up to the top.

All of the above, along with Brian Westbrook, pulled the plug on the Giants season yesterday, mercifully delivering us from our slow, wretched, undignified death. We were left on Monday with an appropriately gray and gloomy day in the tri-state area and what is sure to be a busy offseason in which we face a host of critically important questions:

Who’s the GM? Will this mystery GM do the sane thing and admit that the Coughlin era (25-25 after yesterday’s loss) is unsalvageable? Who’s the new coach? How are we gonna get Eli turned around, and is this even possible? Will we hand the keys of the running game to Jacobs, who seemed to have disappeared down the stretch? How are we gonna use the draft and free agency to address our obvious deficiencies?

But those are questions for another day, because now, Giants nation is in mourning. Like everyone else, I am left with the same mix of disappointment, anger, and of course, relief.

II.

Yesterday’s loss was typically painful, one final punch to the gut to send us into the off-season. Where to begin?

1) Well, how about our three chances to take a two-score lead in the first quarter? Our defense was playing with a fire under its ass in the early going, and Philly’s offense hadn’t yet woken up. After we took a 7-0 lead, we took possession at midfield no less than three consecutive times, with golden opportunities to establish some control over the game. As Mike Francesa said later on “Mike’d Up,” “If you really want to get crazy, it could have been 17-0.”

All we needed was just a couple of first downs, a couple of plays. But of course we couldn’t come up with them. And then Brian Westbrook broke off that quick, masterful 49-yard touchdown run – with no small assist from a missed tackle by Will Demps – and we had officially blown it.

What made these blown opportunities so maddening was that we’ve been pulling this shit all season. It seems like so many times that we’ve outplayed the opposition for an extended period of time in the early going, but just haven’t made the two or three plays that would make the scoreboard reflect that fact. It was obvious to all of us that the Eagles weren’t going to stay asleep forever – we knew we that they would eventually get it going, and if we were serious about winning, we had to capitalize on the good situation presented us in the opening quarter.

And after we failed to come up with any points, even though we were still winning and it was still early, you just got the same “here we go again” feeling. Those blown opportunities just so adhered to our persistent pattern of underachievement; you just knew that not being able to manage one measly field goal was gonna bite us in the ass. More than three hours later, David Akers drilled that field goal, the one that we couldn’t come up with, and that was the difference.

2) I have heard Eli get a fair amount of credit from some quarters for “bouncing back,” or something, in the fourth quarter to “lead” the Giants on a game-tying touchdown drive. I beg to differ with that assessment, and submit that this effort of Eli’s was almost just as bad as his collapse in last year’s playoff game against Carolina.

Look, I’ve tried as hard as anyone can to defend Eli for as long as possible, but the fact is that after three years in the league and two full years as a starter, he’s been a severe disappointment. A bust? No, I wouldn’t say that, because he hasn’t been awful awful and there’s still hope. But put it this way: he’s closer to being a bust than he is to being “on track.” I’m sorry, but it’s true.

In my previous article, I pointed out that Eli’s DVOA for the second half of the year was -14.9%, which means that during the second half, he was worse than such bums as Joey Harrington, Jake Plummer, Rex Grossman, and Alex Smith. (I’ll do the DVOA explanation for the uninitiated. You can click here and scroll down to the third paragraph for the short version, or click here for the longer version.)

An aggravating circumstance is that Eli, unlike many other top picks, is surrounded by excellent talent. Aside from his first year, the offensive line has been stable and solid, although, to be fair, the loss of Petitgout hurt our pass protection considerably during the second half this year. Tiki is not only one of the best runners in the game, but as a terrific receiver and savvy pass blocker, he is a quarterback’s best friend. Shockey is a Pro-Bowl tight end, and Plaxico is an excellent receiver.

So factoring in the talent that surrounds him, the only conclusion that we can draw is that not only are Eli’s stats disappointing, but he is actually worse than his stats would indicate.

As an example, look no further than yesterday’s game. Eli was 16 for 27 yesterday for 161 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 pick. On the surface this is somewhat respectable, but not very good by any stretch – kind of like the numbers he put up on the year.

But if you look a little deeper, you’ll realize that an inordinate amount of these completions had very little to do with him. To wit:

-The 29-yard completion to Plax on the first play from scrimmage. I don’t know how Plax came down with this, but it was the first of a day full of ridiculous plays from a guy they said disappeared in big games. He somehow reached over the back of the DB and brought it in. An awesome catch.

-The 17-yard touchdown pass to Plax. Yet another bail-out attributable to Plax’ freakish height and athleticism. Eli had him wide open in the end-zone and basically overshot him, but Plax saved his ass with a nice leaping and soft-handed grab.

-The 47-yard pass interference penalty to Plax with 43 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Has Eli ever not underthrown a guy on a bomb? This one was woefully underthrown, so underthrown that Plax had to double back for it, which caused him to run into Sheldon Brown and pick up the lucky penalty. There was nothing wrong with the ref’s call – it was a pass interference. But we were lucky that yet another weak-ass duck from Eli actually led to something good.

-The 18-yard pass to Plax with 6:16 left in the fourth quarter, where Eli just chucked it off his back foot and Plax somehow came back and corralled it. Yes, I know you need breaks to win games, but this was nothing if not a complete prayer. Props again to the P-Man for making a play, but I simply cannot give Eli credit on this, especially considering that it was his atrocious (and frighteningly deteriorated) pocket presence that led to his drifting back and winging it off his back foot in the first place. I mean, it’s not as if there’s any precedent for this move producing good results.

-The 14-yard first down completion to Plax on the very next play. Horrible call, horrible throw, tremendous individual effort by Plax. Doesn’t the fact that we called this play on 3rd and 12 show how much our confidence in Eli had eroded, even during the middle of a drive during which he supposedly “stepped up?” Once again, he sailed one high, and if not for Plax’s ups ‘n’ hands, it would have been a most disgraceful incompletion. But Plax brought it down, slipped a tackle, and picked up the first down.

So not including the 47-yard pass interference call, which doesn’t count as part of Eli’s passing yards, those four plays add up to 78 yards that we can reasonably say had nothing to do with Eli. And if you take away those 78 yards, Eli is left with 83 passing yards on the day.

So instead of “focusing on the positive,” as Colonel Tom would have you do, why don’t we see this performance for what it was: Our franchise quarterback’s second awful playoff game in as many tries, and a horrible end to the horrible regression that was his second half of the season.

3) Will Demps’ poor play on the ball on 3rd and 5 from the Giants 40 with 1:53 remaining in the third quarter.

In a league with the parity of the NFL, with the teams as evenly matched as the Giants and Eagles, you knew there was a good chance that the game would come down to a matter of inches. You also knew that the Giants would probably be on the short end of those inches. It’s been that kind of year.

Critical inches were all that separated Will Demps from breaking up a 3rd and 5 pass intended for Reggie Brown, but alas, inches were not on our side yesterday, and the pass was hauled in for a devastating first down.

The smart move for Demps would have been to use a little finesse and reach his hand in for a tip, but he instead tried to set himself up for the hit, seemingly stopping in his tracks when he got to where Brown was, waiting for the ball to come into the receiver’s body. Only then did he resume his forward momentum, trying to deliver a ball-jarring hit that didn’t come close to doing any such thing. Phirst down, Philly. Phuck.

Another painful thing about this play was that Chase Blackburn (who, although he hadn’t really been heard from all year, put in a yeoman effort at linebacker yesterday), leapt up in the air to tip the ball but just missed it by a few inches.

Another step of depth, he would have broken it up and the Eagles would have been forced to punt. But no, the play went for a big first down, and the Eagles scored two plays later to take a 17-10 lead.

**

Ok, there’s obviously a lot more to say, some of which is actually positive, but we have a long time to get around to all of that.

I encourage you all to keep checking NYGMen throughout the off-season for thoughts on free agency, the draft, the year that was, and other matters. It was obviously a really rough year, but things can turn around quickly in the NFL, and I honestly think we’re not that far away.

Either way, it’s been fun getting this crew of die-hard G-Men supporters together. Keep bleeding Big Blue, and wait ‘till next year!