Legendary Days: The 1990 NFC Championship Game – The Death of Camelot

There is an old axiom when it comes to boxing when you hear someone say “styles make great fights” meaning opposing styles colliding provide great theater. Never was this more evident when it came to the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants of the 1980’s. The identity of the men from Gotham was a blood thirsty defense led by Lawrence Taylor, arguably the greatest defensive player ever. Joe Montana had ascended to legendary status as he led the NFL’s most efficient offense to 4 Super Bowl titles that decade. They would meet in a fitting crescendo that still has ramifications to this day.

Leonard Marshall clobbers Joe Montana and knocks him out of the 1990 NFC Championship Game. He doesn’t return to action until the final game of the 1992 season against the Detroit Lions.

If you travel to 1978 the Giants and 49ers met in what was a forgettable season for both. New York won 27-10 out in Candlestick during the 4th week. Yet they only won 3 games the rest of the stanza while San Francisco only won twice. Both began by hiring coaches in 1979 in Bill Walsh and Ray Perkins which set the course as each regime rose to prominence in the decade to come.

The next step was the selection of franchise quarterbacks, first Phil Simms in New York in round one and Joe Montana in the third. Each turned to the draft for the same spark on defense a few years later when the Giants selected LB Lawrence Taylor and Walsh’s selection of FS Ronnie Lott both in the 1st round in 1981.

Walsh and company ended an 8 year playoff drought with a 13-3 record and homefield advantage as Montana and company had come of age. New York defeated Dallas 13-10 to earn their first trip to the NFL postseason in 18 years. Then after a 27-21 upset of the defending NFC Champion Eagles in the wildcard round, New York was one step away from the NFC Championship Game and traveled west to face San Fran.

Going into it were the questions could NFL Defensive Player of the year Lawrence Taylor get to Joe Montana?? Could the finesse passing game take down the Giants’ hard rock defense?? Walsh’s team was shattering the NFL paradigm by passing first to set up the run. Contrary to popular belief was the fact it was San Francisco’s defense ranked #2 to the Giants at #3.

Montana was 20 of 31 for 304 yards for 2 TDs in a 38-24 win under the lights. Up next came the NFC Championship with Dallas & The Catch, then a Super Bowl XVI trophy and all the prestige that came with it. Walsh became the toast of the league and christened with his “genius” label. Joe became one of the faces of the NFL and would be one for the decade of the 1980’s.

Taylor was the toast of New York.

The vanquished?? Well New York Defensive Coordinator Bill Parcell’s unit collapsed giving up a season high 38 points. They had only given up 30 once the entire year up to that point. As is the case when teams come up short in the playoffs, their knocked off kilter for a couple of years. Parcells succeeded Perkins after a 4-5 season in ’82 and was nearly fired after a disastrous 3-12-1 rookie year in ’83. Yet all the while Walsh was one of the NFL’s faces as the 49ers bounced back and came within a couple bad penalties from winning the NFC Championship a 2nd time in 3 years. They fell to Washington 24-21 yet the media felt validated in the moniker they anointed Walsh with….”genius.”

Parcells bristled at the attention Walsh and the 49ers “finesse” approach to the game was getting. It only intensified in ’84 as they went 15-1 and threatened to go undefeated. New York rebounded as Phil Simms finally emerged from the shadows and became a 4,000 yard passer and the Giants returned to the playoffs. Another NFC playoff loss to Joe and the Niners 21-10 relegated the Giants to the NFL’s jr varsity as Walsh and Joe went on to hoist another Lombardi trophy.

However over the years Parcells kept building a team of brute force. Although they had been effective he drafted 6-4 240lb OLB Carl Banks who was a blue chip strong side ‘backer. Brought in 288 lbs DE Leonard Marshall to replace a 259lb Gary Jeter. He kept building upon his defense and relying on a straight forward power rushing attack.

Finally in the 1985 playoffs, the Giants #2 ranked defense held Montana and the 49er offense out of the endzone for the first time in a 17-3 Wildcard win at home. For the first time ever Parcells and the Giants beat the Niners in the 80’s and in the locker room he scoffed “What do you think now about that west coast offense?” In a bit of irony he wound up coining the name Walsh’s offense would come to be known forever.

However the Giants were manhandled in Chicago 21-0 on the road to the eventual champion Bears. Both teams were built in the same old school fashion. You win with brute force on the line of scrimmage with a heavy front 7 and a strong offensive line with an offense that relied on the run. Yet the Giants sent alarm bells off all around the NFL when they already had a strong defense yet spent their first 6 picks in the first 3 rounds all on defense.

They fortified their defensive line with 6’4 280 lbs DE Erik Dorsey, NT Eric Howard who stood 6’4 275, 250 lb ILB Pepper Johnson along with crafty CB Mark Collins who was nearly 5-10 200 lbs. Collins turned into one of the Giant defense’s greatest assets as he blanketed Jerry Rice and was the best in history covering him. This gave the Giants a tremendous advantage for years to come.

In the ’86 playoffs the Giants defense had come of age and starting with a 49-3 devastation in the NFC Divisional Round it became clear the pendulum had completely swung. Jim Burt knocked Joe Montana out with seconds to go in the 1st half as Taylor returned an interception 34 yards to swell the score to 28-3. In an embarrassing fashion Walsh’s squad was hammered into submission. Physically beat down unlike any game they had seen since they rose to prominence.

This forced the 49ers to finish what they started in the ’85 draft when they started drafting to fortify their lines and bigger running backs to deal with the Bears and Giants. In ’87 it took shape however it came to fruition as they won Super Bowls XXIII and XXIV after the ’88 and ’89 seasons. Walsh had stepped down after the XXIII championship and former DC George Seifert took over head coaching duties. Mike Holmgren and the 49er offense had elevated their offensive play to one of near perfection. Walsh’s legend only grew even in his departure for creating the offensive system which allowed his 49ers to become the team of the decade.

Going into 1990 pundits were debating not only were the 49ers the best ever team but was Joe Montana the best ever quarterback?? The same could be said of Jerry Rice as he had assaulted the record books and had also been a Super Bowl MVP. On their way to back to back championships they had set the NFL record with 18 consecutive road wins. Now they had the chance to win 3 straight Super Bowls where it would leave no doubt. They began the season with a 10-0 record and…

Waiting for them who also began 10-0 was the Giant team that had learned how to win from the 49ers and had taken it up a level. Now the more powerful rebuilt 49ers who had a 2-3 record (0-2 in the playoffs since ’85) staring them down. Were they lucky they hadn’t met the Giants in the playoffs in both ’88 and ’89?? Would they even have won back to back had New York had a shot at them??

In week 12 each team was 10-1 when they met in San Francisco on a Monday Night. In the 2nd highest watched MNF in history the 49ers beat the Giants 7-3 in a slugfest where the Giants inability to score a touchdown on offense did them in. In 3 shots inside the redzone they could only score 1 field goal. Yet to a man the Giants relished another shot at San Francisco. Finally they would have their chance in the NFC Championship Game. For the decade the record between the two stood at 2-2 and they would meet in the last chance to halt “Camelot’s” greatest procession into history.

 

In the collective gasp after the Leonard Marshall hit you knew everything had changed. The silence that befell Candlestick Park as Montana writhed in pain on the ground for several minutes was palpable. Unlike most games where the network would take a commercial break, a nationwide audience sat glued to the football version of a tragic event. The greatest ever quarterback whose nimble feet that had deftly dodged trouble in and out of the pocket forever in January’s past had been viciously taken down. The Camelot that Bill Walsh had so eloquently stated of that era ended in that moment. The final kick by Matt Bahr for the 15-13 win was just icing on the cake made by a ferocious defense in one of the greatest games in NFL history.

The era closed with the Giants holding a 3-2 edge in postseason games although the Niners were team of the decade. Over the next 26 years coaches from both sides made it to the Super Bowl 14 times with Bill Belichick (8) Tom Coughlin (2) Mike Holmgren (3) and Jon Gruden (1). This doesn’t include Bill Parcells’ 2nd Super Bowl triumph 1 week after this game vs Buffalo in XXV. Much has been made of the Bill Walsh coaching tree but take a look at the one stemming from Parcells’ group. Its second to none and it all started with a championship win over Camelot in 1990.

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Missing Rings – 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars

Elusive Fred Taylor was one of the best running backs in the NFL.

Elusive Fred Taylor was one of the best running backs in the NFL.

There comes a point and time where your greatest effort is rewarded with your greatest prize. At least that is what we are all lead to believe. However that isn’t always the case and it’s what makes the NFL playoffs so compelling. To know that a one and done scenario exists in the playoffs, heightens pulses, nerves, and ultimately leads to the best and worst in players and coach alike. Jimmy Johnson before Super Bowl XXVIII asked his team “How would you feel if you lost the game and you had the best team in the NFL?? How sick would you feel??”

Enter the 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars…

This was a team borne from expansion in 1995 along with the Carolina Panthers. Each team surprisingly made it to their conference championships in their second year. However the Jaguars were able to sustain their success. They honed and developed offensive talent that had been mired on NFL benches with QB Mark Brunell (Packers), WR Jimmy Smith (Cowboys), and Keenan McCardell  (Browns). In 1996 & 1997 both Smith and McCardell had over 1,000 yards receiving. In fact it’s debatable that Smith had become the NFL’s best receiver.

Through the 1999 season, Smith had averaged 90 receptions 1,346 yards and 6 touchdowns over those 4 years. He had been to the Pro Bowl in 3 of those 4 seasons. They had former Charger RB Natrone Means and James Stewart who teamed to run the ball with minimal effectiveness.

Brunell had made a name for himself playing like the AFC version of Steve Young. A gritty, mobile quarterback who could make every kind of throw. Yet his spontaneous scrambles unnerved defenses.  He also had been to the Pro Bowl in 3 of those 4 years. Mark came of age in the 1996 AFC Divisional Playoff upset of the Denver Broncos. Mark BrunellIn that game the 9-7 Jaguars made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth.  After upsetting the Buffalo Bills on the road, it was expected their Cinderella season would end at the hands of the 13-3 Broncos in Mile High Stadium. Not only were they 8-0 at home but nationwide sentiment favored John Elway making it back to the Super Bowl with the NFL’s strongest team. Denver had rushed out to a 12-1 record wrapping up the AFC West and homefield advantage before resting their players.

After falling behind 12-0, Brunell engineered a comeback where he passed for 245 yards and 2 scores, but came up with timely scrambles that kept drives alive. Along with the running of Natrone Means (140 yds / 1TD), Brunell ran for 44 more as the Jaguars scored on 6 straight possessions in front of a shocked Denver crowd taking a 30-20 lead. The final 30-27 score stunned fans around the nation and everyone hailed the coming of Brunell and the Jaguars.

On the ground the Jags had a plodding rushing attack with RB James Stewart and Means. Two big backs with very little wiggle and no splash plays of any kind. They needed a spark. In 1998 the Jaguars addressed their running issues by drafting the electric but often injured RB Fred Taylor of Florida. He brought the big play from the backfield whether it was a spectacular run or pass reception. His 1,223 yards and 14 TDs should have landed him in the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

Brunell passed for 20TDs and only 9 interceptions in a season where he missed 3 games. Jimmy Smith exploded for 78 receptions 1,182 yards and 8 TDs and one of his Pro Bowl berths. As an offense they finally had everything and it looked like 1999 would be the year they would put it all together.

As a defense the Jaguars began to bring in blue chip players to replace those received in the expansion draft. In their 1995 they drafted linebacker Kevin Hardy and defensive end Tony Brackens. Over the next two years, these two matured into two of the AFC’s best as the Jaguars added blue chip draft picks S Donovin Darius & CB Aaron Beasley.

Free agency brought former Defensive Player of the Year linebacker Bryce Paup and perennial All Pro Carnell Lake formerly of Pittsburgh. Then they hired former Panther Coach Dom Capers to be the defensive co-ordinator and the team that finished 6th in the NFL in defense looked to improve in 1999.

The ’99 campaign began with a 41-3 devastation of the San Francisco 49ers at home. Hall of Famers Steve Young, Jerry Rice and the 49ers were still intact at the time. They started 3-1 before Young’s career ending concussion, but that one loss?? The Jags chased him all over AllTel Stadium. He was 9 for 26 while throwing for only 96 yards and 2 interceptions before getting benched.

They held Rice to only 2 receptions while Terrell Owens had 5. After giving up an early field goal, Jacksonville scored 41 unanswered points with the last touchdown being a 90 yard interception return by Aaron Beasley. This sent a shock-wave through the NFL.

Through the first 15 weeks of the season, the Jaguars looked like they were on a collision course with the St Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV. They were 13-1 going into a game with the Tennessee Titans that could wrap up home-field advantage and the AFC Central Divsion Championship. They had only given up 169 points and were on pace to break the record of the ’86 Bears for fewest points in a season at 187. In fact they had a 6 game stretch where they held their opponents to 10 points or less.

They also beat the New York Jets and the Denver Broncos, who were the teams that knocked them out of the playoffs each of the last two seasons. Jimmy Smith was having a career year with 116 catches for 1,636 yards and 6 touchdowns. They had outscored their opposition 358-169 and were on an 11 game winning streak. What could go wrong??

Well early in September they lost 20-19 to the Tennessee Titans when Neil O’Donnell subbed for an injured Steve McNair at home. They were a 1 point loss from being 14-0 and now traveled to Tennessee to get revenge and ran smack into a buzzsaw. A division rival that had been chasing them all year had their number as Steve McNair, who was now healthy, threw for 5 touchdowns in a convincing 41-14 win. Surprise!

They now had been swept by their division rival who bullied and outhit them in that game. Not only was their confidence shaken, but questions about their Super Bowl legitimacy could be heard around the NFL and by fans. They did finish with a 24-7 win against the Bengals to finish 14-2, but they were going into the ’99 playoffs asking themselves two questions. Were they the team that was 14-0 against the rest of the NFL??Or were they the team that got swept by the Tennessee Titans??

First up came a game with in-state rival Miami in the AFC Divisional round. It would be the first time Jacksonville would have a home playoff game. How would they fare??

After the 62-7 trouncing of Miami, the Jaguars knew they had to go through the Titans again in the AFC Championship Game. The Jaguars had pulled off the most lopsided playoff game in modern (post 1960) NFL history. For one that was labeled a finesse team, they had been physical with their demolition of Miami and they flew into the AFC Championship Game. The question was: Were they physical enough to beat a true phyical team in the Titans??

At least it would be at home where they had gone 8-1 when you include their playoff game. Winner take all for the right to go to Super Bowl XXXIV. The story lines surrounding this championship was the relative health of both Mark Brunell (knees) and Steve McNair (toe) who were nursing injuries. Wouldn’t you know it was the turning point of the game.

Mark Brunell sacked for the safety which turned the momentum in the '99 AFC Championship Game.

Mark Brunell sacked for the safety which turned the momentum in the ’99 AFC Championship Game.

The AFChampionship was a hard fought affair that saw the Jaguars hold onto a 14-10 lead at the half. While driving for what would have been a momentum building score at the end of the half turned out disastrous for Jacksonville when Brunell was intercepted in the end zone by Marcus Robertson. The momentum switched from there…

McNair, whose foot finally responded, escaped Jacksonville’s defense for a 51 yard run down to the 1 yard line on the first drive of the second half. He scored on the next play to give the Titans a 17-14 lead. Brunell on the other hand was immobile wearing two knee braces. During the regular season where he escaped the pocket 47 time for 208 yards and a touchdown, he was uncomfortable all day and left the pocket once for -1 yard.

In fact after the Titans pinned Jacksonville to their own 3, the immobile Brunell was sacked for a safety by DT Josh Evans that helped break open the game at 19-14. The resultant free kick was then returned 80 yards by Derrick Mason and now the Titans were up 26-14. In less than half a quarter, the Titans scored 16 unanswered points and had a 2 touchdown lead. With their ears pinned back, the Titans pass rush forced Brunell into his roughest outing of the season. He went 19 of 38 for 239 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 costly interceptions. They lost 33-14.

Epilogue: For one brief moment in time, the Jacksonville Jaguars soared to new heights. Most people forget that they were the first to flirt with breaking the record for fewest points given up in a season and not the Ravens. It was Baltimore who broke it in 2000. They had the NFL’s best record (14-2) and finished the season scoring 396 while allowing just 217 which was the fewest.

That 179 point differential was 2nd only to The Greatest Show on Turf ’99 Rams that many wanted to see them play in Super Bowl XXXIV. They finished 4th in total defense, 7th on offense, and had 5 Pro Bowl performers in Brunell, Kevin Hardy, Tony Brackens, Carnell Lake, and Jimmy Smith. Yet they had to sit home and watch someone else represent the AFC in the Super Bowl in Atlanta.

The team would never be the same. Injuries and disappointment followed in 2000 as they went 7-9. In fact the Jaguars had 3 successive losing seasons which led to Tom Coughlin’s dismissal after the 2002 season.

Want some irony??

Fisher had some parting verbal shots at Jacksonville on the field after that ’99 championship. Coughlin gets fired a few years later. Fisher goes on to lose Super Bowl XXXIV to the St. Louis Rams. Now Jeff Fisher is the St. Louis Rams head coach after NOT winning a Super Bowl in Tennessee. Guess what Fisher did last February?? He sat his ass on a couch and watched Tom Coughlin win his second Super Bowl with the New York Giants to put his name on the short list of great coaches who have accomplished that.

Always be classy when you win…

The 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars were one of the best teams that didn’t win the Super Bowl

Searcy

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

For those avid readers of the Taylor Blitz Times, I would like to thank you for your continued patronage and we are growing in leaps and bounds. In the future we will have a new logo adorn the top of the website that reflects where we’re going. We have just been reached through specific searches in 100 different countries since February 25, 2011. Thanks again for reading and there are more changes to come to keep this the fun, informative site that it’s been.

 

2012 New York Giants Preview

When we last saw the New York Giants, they were hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Indianapolis. Lingering questions remained about the impending personnel decisions on RB Brandon Jacobs and DE Osi Yumeniora.  Which obscured the real reality: Eli Manning is on his way to becoming a Hall of Fame quarterback. One who will win more championships than his celebrated brother Peyton when it’s all said and done. He is also surrounded by several playmaking receivers in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.

The Giants rely on a stout pass rush, and tactically sound defense and with the emergence of DE Pierre Paul on a relatively young team, it would appear that they’re not done competing for championships.  Tom Coughlin’s group won it all with the worst record ever at 9-7, yet proved an axiom that is becoming the NFL’s most prevalent theme: Just get hot going into the playoffs. It worked for the Giants last year just as it had with Green Bay the season before. Will the Giants repeat as champions or further frustrate their fans with spotty inconsistent play??

Quarterback: After another mind numbing last second drive to upend the New England Patriots in a Super Bowl setting, Eli Manning’s legend is growing and he has half of his career to build upon it. However Giant fans have to realize that Manning may never turn in a Joe Montana-like season where he just completes pass after pass for a 70% completion rating. Get used to it Giant fans, Manning is like a great “B” student. He will stumble on some assignments but he’s a great test taker and comes through in the end. Do you realize Manning is now 7-1 in postseason games away from the Meadowlands? He now has postseason wins over an 18-0 Patriot team in Super Bowl XLII, and an upset over a 15-1 Packers team in last year’s playoff.  He is the only quarterback in NFL history to defeat 5 postseason foes with records of 13-3 or better.  No one even comes close to that.

We here at the Taylor Blitz Times tried to prepare you of his ascendant potential before the NFC Championship last year. https://taylorblitztimes.com/2012/01/18/2011-nfc-championship-preview-eli-manning-the-silent-killer/  He just missed becoming the fifth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards in a season with 4,933. That is the highest for a Super Bowl champion quarterback by the way.  For the season, he was 359 of 589 while throwing for 29 touchdowns to just 16 interceptions. You look at 61% completion rating and think “that’s not that high”, yet a closer look reveals he lowered his interception total from 25 the year before. Credit that to a more mature Manning throwing the ball away more.

His maturation as a quarterback was evident in last year’s playoffs.  He was in total command in both the NFC Championship Game as well as the Super Bowl.  When the season was on the line, he led his team to a 17-14 4th quarter lead gunning a 17 yard touchdown to Mario Manningham. Then the winning drive in overtime. If that weren’t enough.. in the fading minutes of Super Bowl XLVI, Manning got his team out of the shadow of their goal line with a 38 yard strike to Manningham.  Eli looked down the middle to hold the Patriot safety, subtly took two steps to his left (shortened the trajectory of the throw) and fired the best pass seen in a Super Bowl.  Complete command in that situation and again he was flawless in the 4th quarter. Remember last year before the season Manning was asked; “Are you an elite quarterback??” Everyone scoffed when he responded “yes” well he shut up a lot of critics. Even though he’s a great “B” student the Giants at quarterback get an A and is Super Bowl quality.

Offensive Backfield: Although they weren’t necessarily thunder and lightning, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw were an effective tandem running the football. Yet this partnership has ended with Jacobs signing with the 49ers and let’s face it, at times he just didn’t run with the thunder a 264 lb running back should. Part of that was the fault of the coaches trying to run him wide. Other times he “beat his feet” before hitting a hole and could be stood up by a scraping linebacker.   Bradshaw had a good year and was the most versatile RB the Giants had. He ran for 659 yards and 9 touchdowns in spot duty, and also caught 34 passes out of the backfield for another 2 TDs. He’s a good space runner out of 3 and 4 receivers sets yet may have to handle pushing the pile at the goal line this year. Not sure he’s suited for that. In the Super Bowl he scored from a multiple receiver set in the final seconds. Who is going to be this team’s goal line runner??

The Giants brought in a potential playmaker in draft pick David Wilson out of Virginia Tech who was ACC Player of the Year. When you look at how he plays…he’s a quicker, shiftier version of Bradshaw with more of a burst. If he can pick up the blitzes he may be the starter by the time we get to September. During the draft just about every play showcasing his ability came from spread and multiple receiver sets. Think of him as a quicker, thicker Dave Meggett who can also return kicks. Running back is average  in New York and we have to find out who will be the 3rd & 1, 4th & 1 guy.

Receivers: This is one of the quiet strengths of this team. Last year’s emergence of Victor Cruz illustrates how well this position is taught in New York. Everyone forgets offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride used to coach the run and shoot in Houston. Along with Tom Coughlin being a former wide receiver coach we now understand how Hakeem Nicks caught 76 for 1,192 yards and 7 touchdowns in a supporting role. The star was Cruz who gathered in 82 asses for a whopping 1,536 yards and 9 scores. His average was over 3 yards greater than Nicks last season who was thought of as the team’s deep threat. At 23 and 25 years respectively, these two should terrorize NFC East foes for several years. No wonder Dallas drafted a CB #1.

Definitely this team is Super Bowl quality at receiver and that is before we get to draft pick Reuben Randle out of LSU. He will have to learn the routes just as an undrafted Cruz picked them up. You can clearly see Gilbride’s teachings when the Giants face zone. You will see their receivers hook in open spaces and then slide behind adjusting linebackers on intermediate routes. A complete run and shoot principle. These guys may go for over 1,300 yards each this season.

Offensive Line: This is an area of concern for this team. What came first the chicken or the egg?? What we mean by that is has this team become a passing team out of necessity or can they run the football?? According to NFL accounting it was out of necessity. The Giants were last in rushing with 1,427 yards and last in average with 3.5 yards per carry. That’s terrible and the worst ever for a Super Bowl champion. These guys just aren’t driving anyone off the ball…period. Otherwise the Giants wouldn’t have gone after two OT in this year’s draft.

Passing the football they fared pretty well ranking 7th with 28 sacks yet were middle of the pack getting Eli hit with 72 hits. This could be attributed to Manning’s quick decision making more than the line’s total performance because he took a lot of hits. We have to see what type of camp draftees Brandon Mosely (Auburn) and Matt McCants (UAB) have to see if one goes after Kareem McKenzie’s job. This line is in a state of flux and may need to meld the early part of the season. Right now the line is well below average.

Pierre Paul emerging from a sack of Alex Smith in the NFC Championship Game

Defensive Line: Clearly a strength and possibly the heart and soul of this team. The story of the 2011 campaign was the emergence of 2010 1st round pick Jason Pierre Paul, who impersonated Michael Strahan to the tune of 16.5 sacks. Incredibly he was third on the team in tackles with 93 total. That is a high tackle number for a DE. His combination of size and athleticism could be the finest ever seen in a defensive end. Remember the footage of him doing back flips before the Super Bowl?? Yikes! He’s just tapping into his potential and could have won NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors last year.

However it’s the total rotation package with fellow DE’s Justin Tuck and Osi Yumeniora that has opponents struggling with whom to focus the most attention on. Tuck has to bounce back from a season where his sack total fell from 11.5 in 2010 to 5 last year. Of course he missed four games with injury but going into this year he should see far fewer double teams with Pierre Paul on the other side. It’s still unclear if Yumeniora will return yet the Giants also signed 350 lbs Shaun Rogers to help plug the middle. Last year this team was 3rd in the NFL with 48 sacks. This year if they can return healthy they could hit 60. Defensive line is Super Bowl quality in Gotham.

Linebackers: Surprisingly this team didn’t go after a linebacker in free agency or the draft. Michael Boley seems to be the only complete linebacker of the bunch. He made plays all over the field and was 2nd on the team in solo tackles with 74. Mathias Kiwanuka did have a solid year but gets lost out there at times if his hand isn’t on the ground rushing the passer. Super Bowl hero Chase Blackburn was re-signed after a short trip through free agency. Aside from Boley, Kiwanuka, Blackburn, Greg Jones, and company are pedestrian linebackers each with clear shortcomings. Kiwanuka struggles in space where Jones, Blackburn can’t disengage if linemen get their hands on them. Hence the Giants can be run on…hence their 19th ranking against the run. They don’t have a true middle linebacker and until they do this is the only weakness of this defense. Linebacker is below average.

Corey Webster should become a Pro Bowl at corner in 2012

Secondary: The most versatile secondary in the NFL yet the loss of CB Aaron Ross would have been a greater impact had the Giants not drafted CB Jayron Hosely out of Virginia Tech. Truth be told the Giants run a lot of zone behind that pass rush. So this team should be good with current corners Corey Webster and Hosely if he can get into camp and develop quickly. One of the personnel packages that worked out well was when the Giants could use S Antrel Rolle, a converted corner, to drop down and cover a TE or 3rd WR as well as most corners. If Hosely isn’t ready and the G-men have to go with a veteran on corner opposite Webster. Speaking of Webster, he’s coming off his best season as a pro where he picked off 6 passes, returning them for 71 yards. Webster should make his first Pro Bowl this year. With a 3rd safety in Deon Grant seeing playing time the Giants were able to play with 3 safeties and gave extreme flexibility to their exotic coverages.

Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell utilized his backfield in a varitey of ways. They played a cat and mouse game in obvious passing situations as in Super Bowl XLVI. In the second half they lined up safeties Kenny Phillips and Rolle just 15 yards off the ball in what looked like a cover two. At the snap Brady read cover two yet the safeties DIDNT go deep, they stayed in the 15-20 yard zone right off the line of scrimmage and dared the slow Patriots to throw deep. Which they couldn’t and the Giants shut them down in the last two drives. They need rookie CB Hosely to develop or they’ll have to go more vanilla with personnel and play call manipulation. Early on there will be some defensive breakdowns and it’s imperative the pass rush shows up as the 2012 season begins to cover these shortcomings. The last line of defense is a “B” right now but can improve to Super Bowl quality if they can get the corner situation handled.

Overall: Again Giants fans will be frustrated by the Giants inability to roll up their fists and hit their opponent with a haymaker and win the game big. They will always play close to the vest affairs and should finish this season with a 10-6 record. Manning will have a great season and is unquestionably a leader on this team. In defensing their title, we believe they’ll make the playoffs yet lose in the divisional round after a typical late season push to gain the playoffs.

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Next up: San Francisco 49ers

Super Bowl XLVI: The Chancellor’s Thoughts On The Game

Now that was a hell of a Super Bowl. The New York Giants roped the New England Patriots into another slugfest and won their eighth world championship 21-17. It was a mirror of Super Bowl XLII all over again only this time there was a glaring difference. The Patriots were unable to stretch the field as they could in 2007 and the Giants knew it. During the second half of yesterday’s football game the Giants played plenty of subtle tricks on Tom Brady that ultimately won the game. OK Eli Manning had something to do with it.

Now a two time Super Bowl winning coach in 4 years; What’s Tom Coughlin’s chances for the Hall of Fame??

Once the Giants gave up the touchdown to start the second half, the Giants deployed an interesting defense. They came out in a nickel cover 2 look with a linebacker taking the deep zone and safeties Kenny Phillips and Antrell Rolle actually playing just fifteen yards downfield.  They stayed put rather than go deep. Think back to the Patriots final drive. Remember the two passes over the middle that were incomplete to Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez?? Well the first one you’ll note was tipped by Phillips and went behind Branch. The second Hernandez took his eye off the football. This was an example of that play. Another was when we watched LB Chase Blackburn run all the way down the field to intercept a bomb for Gronkowski.

You’ll notice that Tom Brady had to come off his first and second reads many times in that second half and up until that final drive was the story of the game. They got pressure on him by crowding his crossing routes without a deep threat.  The forgotten sparkplug to it all was Antrel Rolle (The [[_]]) who came over from the Arizona Cardinals over a season ago. His athleticism as a former cornerback, helped disguise when the Giants were going to blitz,  go man to man, or deploy him as a slot corner with his taking on Wes Welker much of the evening.  Welker caught 7 balls for 60 yards and had little yardage after the catch. These defensive tactics were overlooked by pundits thanks to Eli Manning’s final drive. The Patriots were exposed for being slow just as the Jets had in last year’s AFC divisional playoff loss.

Eli avoids Ninkovich to throw during Super Bowl XVLI

Yet there was Eli Manning, whom we dubbed the silent killer before the NFC Championship Game, just played his way into the Hall of Fame.  How?? Did you see that laser of a pass to Manningham for 38 yards at the start of that final 88 yard drive?? In the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl with everything on the line, he threw atop the cornerback and before the safety in cover 2?? In XLII, he fought off the pass rush and got lucky with David Tyree holding the ball against his helmet making a circus catch. This time he looked off the safety, kept his feet in throwing position and rotated into the throw. One of the best passes ever in a championship game. The throw was perfect and took guts.

Today’s quarterbacking has been reduced to throwing to the running back if the read takes away your receivers. Very passive. Manning knew where he was going the whole time. Even when the read tells him to go elsewhere with the ball. You’ll notice him take those subtle steps in the direction of Manningham to shorten the throw and gain the trajectory necessary to squeeze that throw in there taking the angle away from S Patrick Chung. THAT is quarterbacking!! Not only did Eli Manning gain 7 first downs on that drive, just like Super Bowl XLII. Not one of his throws was off during that final drive as he methodically marched the Giants to the go ahead touchdown. Going 30 for 40 for 296 yards and 1 touchdown.

Hall of Fame?? Well the last time we saw Peyton Manning in a Super Bowl, he threw the critical interception that Tracy Porter  returned for a touchdown to put the nail in the Colts coffin in Super Bowl XLIV. Eli didn’t do that. What about the 92 yard drive in Super Bowl XXIII, when Joe Montana drove the 49ers to the winning touchdown against Cincinnati?? Eli equaled that with an 88 yard drive in this one and Montana didn’t have a throw as lethal as the 38 yarder to Manningham. Eight years ago in Super Bowl XXXVIII, we anointed Tom Brady to Hall of Fame status when leading his second Super Bowl winning drive against the Carolina Panthers. Well guess what Eli just led his second. Yes he’s a Hall of Famer!! Yes we said it just as we forshadowed this may be his run to greatness before the NFC Championship Game.

What is the legacy of Tom Coughlin now that his Giants won Super Bowl XLVI over the Patriots this past Sunday?? Talking heads are bantering in Indianapolis over this 5 game run to the Super Bowl, yet no one is regarding that he may be a great coach. He won his second  Vince Lombardi trophy in five years. Equal to that of his mentor Bill Parcells who won two in a four year span.  Is he a Hall of Fame coach?? Well they just removed the 1988 San Francisco 49ers from the record book for winning the Super Bowl with the lowest record. (9-7 to 10-6 for 49ers)

Super Bowl XLII Championship Ring

Everyone also forgets he almost went undefeated in 1999. His Jacksonville Jaguars went 14-2 and had homefield throughout the playoffs. Before game 15 they were on pace to break the record for fewest points allowed in a 16 game season also. However they got swept during the regular season by the Tennessee Titans and Jeff Fisher. The Titans also beat them in the AFC Championship Game to end Coughlin’s Jags season 33-14. They did have a rousing win in the AFC Divisional round with a 61-7 win over Jimmy Johnson’s Miami Dolphins.

Eli Manning just became a Hall of Fame quarterback tying Terry Bradshaw and Bart Starr as fellow 2 time Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks.

Want some irony?? Fisher had some parting verbal shots at Jacksonville and the Jaguars were never the same. Coughlin gets fired a few years later. Fisher goes on to lose Super Bowl XXXIV to the St. Louis Rams. Now Jeff Fisher is the St. Louis Rams head coach after NOT winning a Super Bowl in Tennessee. Guess what Fisher did this Sunday?? He sat his ass on a couch and watched Tom Coughlin win his second Super Bowl to put his name on the short list of great coaches who have accomplished that.

Right now, the New York Giants are World Champions and a parade awaits. Congratulations on a remarkable run.

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