You may think that the Giants hit a new low yesterday with a 34-0 thrashing at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons. But not so, I think.
I think the Giants are testing a new strategy, one they worked to perfection at the end of last season. You’ll recall that at the end of the 2011 regular season Big Blue was just 9-7 and gave up more points on defense than they had scored on offense. Half a dozen times over the last 5 games they could have been eliminated. Then they stormed through the postseason, winning 4 straight, including the Super Bowl – exactly as they had done at the end of 2007.
If the plan worked last year, it ought to work even better this year. No team could have done a better job of lulling the opposition to sleep than the Giants did against the Falcons. Eli Manning was awful, just 13 of 25 for 161 yards, no TDs, and 2 interceptions. His QB rating for the game was 40.7, his worst performance since 2007. (I’m going to take the Fox analyst’s word for that, as I don’t know how to figure the NFL passer rating.)
New Jersey’s finest had just 10 first downs, 3 turnovers to the Falcons’ none, and held the ball for just 21 minutes compared to Atlanta’s 39. Any future opponent who looks at the game films of this one is certain to be lulled into a false sense of confidence.
Unless … the team wearing blue helmets in Atlanta yesterday was the real New York Giants. How do we know? No team in football is as wildly, insanely unpredictable as the Giants. On Nov. 25 they beat Aaron Rodgers and the Packers 38-10, practically shutting them down altogether. Yesterday against the Falcons they ran 5 plays before finding themselves behind 14-0, after which it really, really got ugly.
What accounts for his? As Fox color man Daryl Johnston pointed out in the first quarter when the Falcons ran 3 straight running plays down the Giants’ gullet for a touchdown, “The Giants didn’t really tackle on that possession. They were just making arm tackle, not putting their bodies into it.”
How can a team fighting for a playoff spot show up like that for a big game? I don’t know, but it’s something that Giant fans have pretty much come to expect from Tom Coughlin-coached teams. Coughlin’s career record in the NFL is 150-120 for a .556 Won-Loss%. That’s 82-60 with the Giants, .577%. The funny things is how much the postseason runs leading up to the 2008 and 2012 Super Bowls inflate his record and his reputation. Without those 8 postseason wins, Coughlin’s record with the Giants is 74-60 for a lackluster .552%.
But who cares what your overall record looks like when you have two Super Bowl rings? The wretched performance by the Giants in Atlanta should be seen in that perspective: Coughlin must have something truly spectacular in store for us in this season’s playoffs. Start planning your Super Bowl party now.