You can have all of the talent in the world and sometimes that does not amount to a hill of beans. Heart, determination and smarts are the ingredients that usually propel most teams to victory. However, you have to throw luck in there as well. Just ask Gang Green and Big Blue.
Both the Jets and Giants won games this past weekend that under most circumstances they would have and should have lost. The Jets found themselves faced with a fourth and 6 down on the three with a little over a minute to go. They were bailed out by a 40-yard pass interference penalty which led to an easy three yard TD scant by LaDainian Tomlinson to win the game 24-20.
The Giants sleepwalked through their 28-20 victory over the Detroit Lions just a few hours earlier. This was a contest that could have easily went the other way if the Lions could have drummed up a few more big plays like the 80-yard Calvin Johnson TD reception that never should have happened.
Yes, God was smiling on our local NFL representatives on Sunday. But neither team should apologize for their good fortunes. Some say that they are lucky but luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity. Both teams were prepared and just took advantage of the opportunities presented to them.
I know that the good folks in the Rocky Mountain region are heated. They might feel that the refs gave the Jets a huge break with that interference call towards the end of the game. The truth of the matter is that there were two penalties on that same play. First, the reason why Santonio Holmes found himself falling to the ground was the result of Broncos DB Renaldo Hill basically putting him there. Then, to compound matters, Hill grabbed, invertedly or not, Holmes’ facemask as he lunged for the ball. Now there are some who are crying that Holmes had no chance at catching the ball. Nonsense! He had two hands on the pigskin. And the overwhelming sentiment in football is that if a receiver gets two hands on the ball, he should catch it, especially, at the NFL level.
Basically, the Jets put themselves in a position to win this game despite being out run in the air and on the ground, and losing the turnover battle, 3 to 1. In the final period, they marched through the Broncos defense like General Sherman’s march on Atlanta. We would not be even be talking about that interference call if Holmes did not fumble the ball on that end-around when he looked like he was going to take it to the house if he would have avoided his own blocker, Braylon Edwards. Moreover, there were at least three other interference penalties that the refs did not call against Denver in the fourth quarter. Hell, the Jets were due to get one call.
It may seem that the tide has turned for Gang Green. Traditionally, that would have been a game that they would have lost. Most Jets fans can tell you that the Grid Iron Gods have not smiled on us since Super Bowl III. We had to live through the Mud Bowl, the Spike Game, Gastineau’s late hit and Elway’s Comeback. The list goes on and on and is too painful to recite. Yet, through it all, we have endured and keep on coming back to support our beloved Gang Green. I don’t think that the Jets were lucky on Sunday. I am beginning to feel that they are destined. Now the Giants, on the other hand, were lucky.
Even though most people felt that the Giants were not going to lose on Sunday, they still made things interesting. Ahmad Bradshaw had another monster game, rushing for 133 yards on 19 carries. Eli Manning had a modest day throwing for only 177 yards but he connected on two TDs (Mario Manningham and Travis Beckum) and rediscovered that Steve Smith was an eligible receiver, 70 yards. Yet there was an eerie feeling about the contest.
The Giants held the explosive Lions WR Johnson in check for the most part while they held on to a 21-10 lead going into the final period. Then out of nowhere, Johnson took advantage of a blown scheme by Big Blue and snagged a 6-yard catch and turned it into a 87-yard TD reception. Just like that Detroit was back in the game. Now we have seen this act before. The Giants allow a team to hang around, then, surrender the lead late in the contest.
Fortunately, for Coughlin’s Crew, the natural order was restored when Jacobs barreled his way in for 6-yard TD jaunt. But things got too close for comfort for my liking. As Parcells used to say, a win is a win. There are no style points in the NFL. Computers do not determine the standings like in college. Therefore, as long as you win, you determine your own fate. Things look good for Big Blue and, if they can put the Dallas Cowboys out of their misery this weekend, things will look even better for them at 5-2. They are on top of the NFC East. Let’s just hope that they can capitalize on this and keep it going.
Like I said, neither the Jets nor Giants should have to apologize for being in first place in the respective Divisions. They beat the teams they should have beaten, with the exception of the Giants vs the Titans, and have earned their first place status. Now it remains to be seen whether they can keep it up. My feeling is that they both will have something to say about who ends up in Dallas in February. They are two of the most complete teams in the NFL. Now all they have to do is play like it.