By Tony Mangia
It was all in the cards for a Giants last week. The team was being called the best in the NFL, they were two touchdown favorites over a reeling Dallas Cowboys squad and it was the first game of the second half of the season. It was the perfect storm for a let-down and the Giants didn't disappoint. In what has become an annual occurrence under the realm of Tom Coughlin, the Giants began their end-of-season meltdown.
Quick what's 16-31 and blue all over. If you said the Giants second half record since 2004 you win a prize. With the exception of 2005, the finish the season with a .500 or worse--usually worse. This year will be different, the players say.
It's too easy to use last Sunday's blackout in the New Meadowlands Stadium on as a game summary. Sure, the offense had a power failure...the Cowboys played lights out...but I think the fans, themselves, felt like passengers on that cruise ship drifting off the coast of Mexico--plied with leftover liquor for a wonderful while, then getting fed Spam.
Justin Tuck is all too aware of the team's second-half failures. Except for the Super Bowl championship season in 2007, the Giants (6-3) have either not made the playoffs or lost in the first round since Coughlin became head coach. He is adamant it will not happen this year.
Tuck said, " This team is different. I think we learned our lesson. Guys understand how it felt last year to have the debacle that we had." Funny, I think he said that last year too. "I think we're poised to make sure that doesn't happen again. I think as a whole , we were completely sick to our stomach by how we finished the season last year." The fans know that feeling too.
Then he used that old standard excuse that is supposed to knock a team out of their complacency. Here it comes, "I'm kinda glad that the things happened to us [Sunday] night, because it puts us back on alert, it puts us back to thinking," the defensive end said. I hope that Eagles quarterback, Michael Vick gets the message.
Quick, what has wings, is red hot and is green all over. Sounds like a nacho plate but no it is Vick. The Eagles QB, who is less than two years away from 3-squares-and-a-bed, is on his way to an MVP caliber season. He has yet thrown an interception this year and was the first player in NFL history to throw for 300 yards, run for 50 yards and score two TDs on the ground and throw for four more in NFL history. All this after coming off a cracked sternum--one of the most painful injuries-- after getting sandwiched between two 300 pound men just a few weeks ago.
With Vick calling the signals, the Eagles (6-3) look invincible. Their total devastation of Washington on Monday night should leave Giant fans feeling more seasick than the passengers on that stranded ship. Even Donovan McNabb's new $78 million contract couldn't rally the Redskins.
Now Big Blue will be traveling into hostile Philly, with their rowdy fans, for the biggest game of the season and first place in the NFC East up for grabs. The Eagles soar in with momentum and a hot signal caller. The Giants limp in with a depleted receiving corps and a busted up offensive line. A consecutive division loss could be the beginning of another second-half swoon.
Are the Giant players cognizant of the collapses? "It's a new season, " said Eli Manning, "Play this year. Why don't we talk about '07 then?" None of the veteran players really want to talk about the past--and it is the past--but it has been the team's history.
The Giants hope to return to being the team that plowed over Seattle, 41-7, two weeks ago and made the Texans wish they were the Oilers again. There have been flashes of brilliance by Eli and Company in their victories, but penalties and stupid turnovers have cost them games and deservedly so.
The Giants hope they shake off the ugly defeat to Dallas. "You prepare. You play Philly," said Manning, "You prepare for your next game. It's all you can do. It's all you think about."
The G-Men were flying high at 6-2 until that loss to the rudderless Cowboys. Will their second half history repeat itself? The past is hard to ignore and so will be Michael Vick.