I occasionally like to branch out into non-baseball territories. This is one of those times.
The 2008 NY Giants proved one important thing, despite their early exit from the playoffs: they were no fluke. I’ve always said that when a team, especially in football, learns how to win, well that means something. When the Patriots shocked the Rams, the conventional wisdom was that they got lucky and would probably go back to being mediocre. Well, that didn’t happen.
Similarly, the Giants stayed competitive and were arguably the best team in the regular season (obviously, the Titans have a pretty convincing argument too). Suddenly, an offensive line that was supposed to be a weakness just 2 seasons ago became the best in football, especially in run blocking. The Giants lost their top 2 defensive players, Osi and Strahan, to injury and retirement respectively. They won anyways.
The Giants did have 2 major weaknesses, however. 1) They had trouble scoring in the red zone (which is why Carney had so many field goals) and 2) they didn’t rush the passer like the 2007 team (probably a direct result of losing Osi and Strahan).
Well, those 2 weaknesses haunted them in their playoff loss to the Eagles. They simply could not put the ball in the end zone and they could not sack McNabb. And those two things were really the difference in the game.
There is some complaining to be done: I can’t believe the Giants refused to run the ball once they got into Eagles territory. Manning clearly couldn’t pass with the windy conditions and the Giants were able to run the ball effectively. But as soon as they’d near the Eagles’ 30, they’d begin passing almost every down. Media pundits blame the lack of Plaxico Burress, but that wasn’t it. Manning had been throwing the ball just fine without Plax around. I think the Giants play calling just became too pass happy for Mannings’ accuracy that day. It’s that simple.
All hope is not lost, however. After last season, no Giant fan can complain. And few teams in the NFL currently draft and evaluate talent better than the Giants do. With the exception of maybe Amani Toomer, the Giants shouldn’t be hurt terribly from aging another year.
So yeah, a Cardinals-Eagles NFC championship game is pretty depressing. But look on the bright side: it’s not like the Giants were one win away from the first ever 19-0 season.