Monday, January 21, 2008

Title Game Link Fest

3rd Tynes a Charm! - Paul Schwartz, NY Post

And certainly not the need for retribution on a historic night when heroes and villains intermingled until finally, ultimately, a kicker named Lawrence Tynes who had caused so much angst allowed the Giants to erupt in jubilation and exultation with a boot that somehow, some way, sends them to a truly improbable trip to the Super Bowl. This is the stuff of dreams.
“Not in this weather, not from that distance and not at Lambeau Field," Tynes exclaimed afterward.

Chill is Gone, Baby - Samuel Goldsmith, NY Post

The Giants quarterback had urged fiancée Abby McGrew to brave the elements of a sub-freezing Wisconsin night, believing the Giants always lose when she's seated in a sky box and not out in the stands.

But a flu-ridden McGrew insisted on staying behind glass - and Big Blue still won.
"I broke the curse!" a jubilant McGrew said, holding up yesterday's Post that reported the luxury-suite hex. The Giants got to Green Bay after beating the Dallas Cowboys, who had to answer questions about quarterback Tony Romo and the alleged bad luck brought by his gal pal Jessica Simpson.

McGrew, Manning's college sweetheart from Ole Miss, said she wouldn't have held up in the Lambeau cold with her flu.

"I want people to know the only reason I didn't sit in the stands is because I have the flu and I'm on antibiotics," she said.

Manning and the Giants Can be Doubted No More - Harvey Araton, New York Times

The country watched the evolution of a quarterback this month, and in prime time Sunday, Manning throwing and throwing through the wrath of winter, in conditions that were supposed to numb him into submission, minus 20-something with the wind chill and all that.

“It was all right,” he said. “I was able to throw the ball.”

Twice, he led the Giants from behind in the second half, moved them up and down the field, and finally came the winning points after an interception of Favre by Corey Webster in overtime. It was a crazy, compelling classic, all while the huddled masses kept waiting for Manning to stumble, and fail.

Balls were fumbled around him, untimely penalties committed. Place-kicker Lawrence Tynes missed two fourth-quarter field goals, including one from 36 yards at the end of regulation, before converting a 47-yarder to give the Giants a 23-20 victory over the Packers that turned Lambeau as dark as it was cold.

Manning never did make the crucial mistake so many expected him to, the one Favre made on the pick by Webster. He has not thrown a postseason interception. He outgained Favre through the air, 254 yards to 236, while putting the ball up 40 times.

Loss Hits Favre Hard - Jeffri Chadiha,

But Favre certainly didn't help the situation in the second half. Ultimately, the same man who had won so many big games with his arm wound up costing Green Bay a win with a poor decision.

To understand Favre's impact on the game, all you have to know are his stats before and after halftime. He completed 10 of 18 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He completed just nine of 17 passes for 73 yards with two interceptions in the second half and overtime.

That last turnover was the most critical because the Packers had won the coin toss in overtime and figured to end the game quickly. Instead, Favre threw one of his worst passes of the day.

In fact, he actually thought the pass was in trouble from the moment it left his right hand. Wide receiver Donald Driver was supposed to run a "shake" route on second-and-8 from the Packers' 28-yard line, but Favre's pass sailed behind the receiver after Driver made his out cut. All Webster had to do was step in front of the ball and catch it at the Green Bay 34.

"I just didn't throw the ball far enough outside," Favre said later.

Cold Reality: Burress Couldn't Be Stopped - John Clayton,

Watching Burress was an illustration of how determination and talent can get you to the Super Bowl. In Pittsburgh, he was considered an underachiever. Although he made a young Ben Roethlisberger a successful quarterback by catching most high passes thrown toward him, Burress was allowed to leave Pittsburgh in free agency and signed with the Giants.

"I said to myself, 'If I ever get back to this opportunity again, I would take full advantage of it,'" Burress said.

Burress spent more time studying Packers tape this week and less time talking to the media. He was focused. On the field, he blocked out the cold weather, which was made easier because of the Green Bay defensive scheme. Packers Pro Bowl cornerback Al Harris lined up in bump-and-run man coverage throughout the game.

Thanks to Burress, Harris was the warmest person in the second-coldest game ever played at Lambeau. Why? Because Burress burned Harris enough times to heat half the stadium. Against Harris, he caught nine passes for 135 yards and caused two defensive penalties.

"I was loving it," Burress said. "You've got to love when you get bump-and-run coverage like this. I was getting doubled a lot in the playoff games against Dallas and Tampa Bay. I was a little disappointed last week against Dallas not to make many plays. To play a guy like Al Harris -- a Pro Bowl guy -- matched up one-on-one and just see who is the better guy…"

Cold Facts Jar Disapointed Favre - Tom Silverstein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinal

Immediately after it was over, Favre was asked about his future, whether the disappointment of this loss would affect his decision whether to return. Favre admitted taking the loss hard but didn't seem like someone ready to give it up.

"Had we won this game and gone to the Super Bowl and whatever happens in that game when it was over, I was going to go home and think about where I wanted to go from there," Favre said.
"I don't think that's going to really change because we didn't make it. It's been a great year.

"I'm very disappointed. I'm not going to rush to any quick decisions. It will probably be quicker than it has been in the past. I'm not going to let this game sway my decision on way or the other."

Manning Cool Under Pressure - Jason Cole, Yahoo Sports

In reality, Manning and the Giants were simply great. In recording their NFL-record 10th straight road game, they dominated the second half. In fact, the game only went into overtime because Lawrence Tynes – who connected on the 47-yard game-winning kick – missed two fourth-quarter attempts.

And the same way New York didn't let the frustration of blown opportunities fester, it's headed to Glendale, Ariz., for Super Bowl XLII because the quarterback doesn't seem to take any of the pressure or obstacles too seriously. Even more, it was Favre who more often looked like the panicked youngster, hurting the Packers with a pair of brutal interceptions. The second pick came in overtime, setting up the winning field goal.

"Talking to him last week, not that he didn't think it was a big deal, but he was so casual," said Cooper Manning, Eli's oldest brother. "Sometimes you can't tell during the week whether it's the offseason, the middle of the season or whether he's playing for the Super Bowl."

Or as dad Archie put it: "That's the one thing I'll always say about him. He never let the pressure of being in New York or the criticism get to him. It's really remarkable to watch him handle it."

In completing 21 of 40 passes for 254 yards, no touchdowns and, for the third straight game, no interceptions, Manning was on point when it was hard to feel anything but the pain of brittle limbs and fingers.

"I don't know why he has played so much different," Toomer said. "It's like everybody says, we've always thought this is the quarterback he could be. Why it has all come together right now, I have no idea."

Maligned Eli Becoming the Man in New York - Pete Prisco, CBS Sportline

Here was a player who was shredded for most of his first four seasons in the league, hearing countless people insist he would never live up to the brother hype, and yet here he was on the big stage, outgunning one of the game's all-time great gunslingers on a night that was so cold it made the North Pole feel like Aruba.

With wind chills dipping into the minus-20 range and a wind blowing at 10 mph, Manning completed 21 of 40 passes for 254 yards, but most importantly he did not throw an interception. It was the third consecutive road playoff game that Manning did not throw an interception, an amazing feat made more impressive this time by the conditions.

By contrast, Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre threw two interceptions, one in overtime to set up Tynes' winning kick.

"It's not about me," Manning said when asked if the victory proved the critics wrong.

Oh, but it is.

Since coming into the league in 2004, his career has been one of constant criticism. It started when he didn't want to play in San Diego for the Chargers, resulting in a trade to the Giants on draft day.

It continued as he made ill-timed throws for interceptions and then sat there with a blank expression on his face, leading many to say he didn't care and could never care as much as his brother Peyton. That led to a rip job from former teammate Tiki Barber before the season in his first network television performance.

You know what Manning did Sunday: He stuck it up Tiki's behind.

Lonesome Giants Kicker Pays Attention to all the Tyne Details - Gregg Doyle, CBS Sportsline

After the game Tynes was asked repeatedly how he had been able to make that kick in overtime after missing two tiebreaking attempts in the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter, including a 36-yard shank on the final play of regulation.

The unspoken question was clear: After choking twice, how did he not choke a third time? Answer: Tynes doesn't think he choked. Not the first time when he missed a 43-yarder with 6:49 left in regulation, and not the second time when he badly missed from 36.

The first miss was the wind's fault, Tynes said of gusts that dropped the wind chill to minus-20 throughout the game and then pushed his 43-yarder wide left. He learned from that one and started his winning kick a little farther to the right than normal, and let the wind guide it through the goalposts. The second miss, he said, was "the operation," referring to a high snap that had holder Jeff Feagles stretching to catch the ball and then rushing to set it down.

"A little bit of a high snap threw the timing off," he said. "I'm moving into the kick and then when I have to slow down, there's nowhere for me to go, so I go sideways -- and so does the kick. To me that was not a perfect operation. If everything had been perfect (on the final kick of regulation) I'd have been upset with myself, but I knew we could do better."

Yes, Belichick Really is a Genius - William C. Rhoden, New York Times

His mantra — maddening to a press that thrives on speculation — has been a novel variation on Satchel Paige’s sage advice, “Don’t look back.” Belichick tells his players to focus on what’s in front of them.

We want to talk about posterity, where this squad ranks in history. Not Belichick.

After Sunday’s game, someone asked him if he ever thought an N.F.L. team would win 18 games in a single season. He didn’t bite: “It’s been one week at a time for us all year, it really has,” Belichick said. “I think there’ll be a time and a place to sit back and reflect on it, but right now I’m just proud of our team for winning this game and having a chance to play for the N.F.L. title.”

A Smashing Success - Bob Ryan, Boston Globe

Here's something else that's important: having a coach with nerve, although in this case it may not be nerve as much as good, old-fashioned common sense.

What I'm saying is that if you're trailing the New England Patriots by 9 points with 9 minutes and 21 seconds remaining in Gillette Stadium, and it's fourth and 10 at the New England 36, then perhaps you might give serious thought to going for it. You might reconsider the idea of meekly handing the football back to Tom Brady with a 9-point lead, and never mind the fact that Brady already had thrown three interceptions (one in the end zone). Earth to Norv Turner: HE'S TOM BRADY!

Let the record show that the next time the San Diego Chargers will touch the football in a real, live game is August. Yup, the Patriots held the football right through the final two San Diego times out and the two-minute warning. They held it for eight Laurence Maroney runs behind that great offensive line and four Brady completed passes (one a clutch third-and-11 grab and run by the estimable Kevin Faulk) and even a sack. The game ended with Tom Brady taking a knee twice. It was exactly what Norv Turner deserved.

Throes of Agony Passed Just in Time - Jackie MacMullan, Boston Globe

Instead, he would do what he was paid to do: manage his offense, which on this day meant handing off to Laurence Maroney, lining up in multi-tight end formations, and, when it was all said and done, bleeding the clock down to nothing.

You don't earn the moniker as the best player in the NFL by allowing your miscues to drag you down. Brady is a master of positive self-talk, and even though his afternoon was not how he scripted it, that would have no bearing on his ability to close the deal down the stretch.

"I don't think anything bothers him," noted tight end Kyle Brady. "If it does, he sure doesn't show it. Tom is unflappable, to say the least."

While Maroney deserves the headlines this morning for yet another spirited playoff contribution in this 21-12 victory, it should not go unnoticed that the quarterback who was struggling so mightily submitted a flawless fourth quarter, going 7 of 7 for 63 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown toss to Wes Welker with 12:15 left.

Seau Not Running Fron History - Dan Wetzel, Yahoo Sports

"Junior's 100 percent emotion," Tom Brady said.

So it was no surprise that as everyone else talked about leaving the undefeated goal behind when they finished the regular season or preaching about how the playoffs are a series of one-game seasons, here was Seau talking straight from the heart.

"Right now, we're going to embrace this time, this moment," Seau said.

Here in an era of parity and salary caps, where the league's motto of "On Any Given Sunday" is proven true on every single Sunday, the idea of a perfect season seemed perfectly impossible.

No one ever really came close, even the greatest teams stumbling in December under the pressure of the chase and the amped up performance of their opponents.

But New England is a veteran team of winners handpicked by Belichick. Seau was one of them.

He was retired and mostly hanging out at the beach when the phone rang nearly two years ago, Belichick on the other end.

"He said, 'I've got a position for you,' " Seau said. "He didn't say, 'Would you like to come and play?' He said, 'I have a position for you.' That's the world champion coach calling a guy that had just gotten into surfing.

"I'm going to answer that call."

Pats Look Vulnerable, Which Doesn't Rule out Victory - Mike Freeman, CBS Sportsline

As ridiculous as it may sound, the Patriots might be ripe for the picking. New England is the most vulnerable it has ever been, both all season, and maybe during the Bill Belichick era.

One problem might be the health of Brady. He could be fine, but since the Patriots are like Vladimir Putin when it comes to injuries, we may never know if Brady is just bruised or if something more serious has developed. Early in the fourth quarter, he walked slowly toward the sideline holding his leg. Once there, Brady spoke to one of the team's medical staff, while slightly rocking his leg like a pendulum. He had a noticeable limp during and after the game.

The title game demonstrated that the Patriots are no longer superhuman. The gravity well that is the grind of an NFL season, as well as being a fat, juicy target, has made them mortal again.
The game also demonstrated that New England is the deepest, best-coached team maybe ever.

Chargers Couldn't Handle Patriots and Fate - Nick Canepa, San Diego Union-Tribune

And the Chargers had their chances. Man, they had so many of them we always will be throwing out “what ifs” like confetti. And they tried. For the second playoff game in a row, they three times intercepted New England quarterback Tom Brady, the best there is, who had been picked just eight times all season.

Because of LT's knee, it became Rivers' game to win. He didn't have any choice. It was such a gutsy performance by a young man with two bad knees (including a partial ligament tear in one that probably will require surgery), that it's almost hard to describe.

Rivers doesn't move that well when he's 100 percent. But he made big play after big play. What he couldn't do was get his team into the end zone, and that was the difference.

Tomlinson Felt "Helpless" When His Help Was Needed - Tim Sullivan, San Diego Union-Tribune

The Chargers had characterized the injury Tomlinson sustained last week in Indianapolis as a hyperextended knee, and team officials may have created some false hope among fans by omitting LT from their official injury report Friday. Yet Tomlinson said yesterday the injury was originally diagnosed as a sprained medial collateral ligament, and that the tenderness returned with “the first lick” the Patriots applied.

Tomlinson would participate in only four of the Chargers' 60 offensive plays. Though reserve running backs Michael Turner and Darren Sproles combined for 99 yards on 20 carries, neither man can match Tomlinson's broad range of skills or his knack for negotiating narrow openings near the end zone.

“Obviously, with LT in there, it is truly run or pass,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “You never really know. ... With Michael (Turner) and Sproles – it's not a giveaway, but it's a little bit of: Sproles is in there, we're probably throwing it and (with Turner) vice versa.

“You've got to be a little more choosy when it's Michael and Darren. Whereas with LT, pretty much any play can go. But I think that would be a crazy reason to think that's why we didn't score down there. It was a matter of execution.”

Monday Morning QB - Peter King,

We can roll our eyes at the control Belichick and Coughlin exert over their teams, and we can seem sure that without independent thinkers like Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey and Drew Bledsoe around either team's locker room that it's going to be easier to stay singularly focused. Maybe. But I do know this: The Patriots have bought into Belichick and the Giants, now, have bought into the Coughlin way.

"He's great to me, and he's great for me,'' said Giants running back Brandon Jacobs. "He's one hell of a coach. He treats me like a man. He gets us prepared for everything. What it comes down to with coach is he just wants you to be good. He's going to cut out all the things that take away from your chances to be good.

"I'll give you an example: For a long time, ever since I've been here, he has told us penalties lose games. So cut the penalties. You have a bad turnover ratio, that loses games. During meetings, he'll stress to us, 'This is how this team will try to strip the ball.' And we have started to be that kind of team.''

No comments: