That Giant Sucking Sound

Feats of Super Bowls Past Echo Through Big Blue’s Sunday Performance

Legend has it that Giants fans were the first to spur on their team with the "DEE-fense DEE-fense" chant, back in the 1950s. And defense was indeed the hallmark of Big Blue's previous Super Bowl teams, as they finished second in the NFL in total defense in each of those two seasons.

So how did those teams do in the big game? Not great, but certainly better than the 2000 unit did Sunday. In Super Bowl XXI, New York allowed Denver and John Elway to gain 372 total yards (320 passing). During the regular season that year, they allowed an average of only 297.3 yards per game (217.1 passing). Similarly, the Giants Super Bowl XXV defense bent a bit more than it had in the regular season, allowing 371 total yards (166 rushing); their average that season was 262.9 (91.2).

Statistically, the Super Bowl XXXV Giants actually bettered their regular-season numbers. They allowed Baltimore only 244 total yards (133 passing and 111 rushing), compared to 319.5 (206.9; 112.6) during the 2000 season. But whereas their Supe XXI and XXV predecessors kept high-octane offenses from taking off, these Giants failed to make big defensive plays on Sunday and allowed the previously powerless Ravens offense to generate 20 points.

A Michael Strahan sack aside, Big Blue's big-time defensive players were a big bust. Jessie Armstead's only highlight, an interception return for a TD, was called back on a (phantom) holding penalty. And cornerback Jason Sehorn was beaten deep on three plays—one for a TD, and two (fortunately) for Tent Dilfer overthrows.

"We played just well enough to lose," Sehorn said after the game, speaking of the defense. Added Fassel, "We've got a good defense, we just got them in a hole."

Unlike many championship-caliber teams, the Giants aren't burdened by an untenable salary structure or a load of old, declining players. True, the average age of this year's 22 offensive and defensive starters is 27.7, slightly higher than the '86 (26.9) and '90 (27.4) teams, but this figure is skewed by the organization's decision to bring in veteran leadership via free agency last summer (in particular offensive linemen Parker, Brown, and Dusty Zeigler, and linebacker Mike Barrow). They are young at key positions—quarterback, running back, receiver, defensive line, defensive back—and have only two notable unrestricted free agents: Barber and Sehorn. With a 2000 payroll of $56.4 million (one of the lowest in the league), signing them should be no problem. Neither should the 2001 playoffs.

"How good we'll be next year depends on our turnover rate in the offseason," Sehorn said in the sober postgame Tampa locker room. "It depends on who's here and who's not here."

The veteran Barrow added, "One of our young players came up to me toward the end of the game and said something that meant a lot to me. He said, 'You know, Mike, we got to keep the faith.' It's easy to talk about faith when you're winning, but it's a lot tougher when you're losing. For a young player to say something like that after a game like this says a lot about the character of our team. I believe we'll come back strong."

« Previous Page