Two sweet victories today for my NFL stalwarts.
New York Jets 27
Buffalo Bills 11
New York Giants 24
New England Patriots 20
In the morning game, Gang Green thoroughly whupped the Buffalo Bills. They've been doing that for a few years now, but this year's Buffalo squad was supposedly to be different, and had the home field advantage besides, so I was anxious about this one. And the first half made me nervous, I must admit. The Jets were shutting down the Bills, driving up and down the field, and dominating the time of possession... but none of that was translating to points on the board. That situation ALWAYS makes me nervous. Ten minute, eighty yard drives are well and good, but unless they end in a TD or at least a FG, they count for nothing, and in the NFL the worm can turn at any moment. The Jets enjoyed a 3-0 lead at halftime, not nearly enough considering how they'd owned the half.
Thankfully, the second half was a different story. The D stayed tough, and Mark Sanchez and the offense finally started finishing some drives with scores. Buffalo's last hope expired when Gang Green's defense stopped them on fourth and inches late in the fourth quarter. This victory belonged to Rex's defense, I thought... but Plaxico Burress deserves some kudos as well. Plax has really been coming on these past two games.
The Giants/ Pats game, in contrast, was a real nail-biter. Not the crispest game ever played, no. Both teams committed way too many ghastly turnovers and way too many costly penalties. But you can't say it wasn't exciting, especially the second half.
The first half featured even less scoring than the Jets game, and halftime ended in a 0-0 tie when the Patriots blew a chance to tack on a late field. The G-Men looking like they were taking control in the third quarter, and seemed on the point of pulling away to a two score lead when they had second and goal from the 2 yard line... until an inexcusable delay of game penalty pushed them back five yards. The Eli threw a horrible interception in the end zone, and that worm I mentioned up above turned with a vengeance. Tom Brady drove the length of the field, and instead of being up 17-3, Big Blue found itself in a 10-10 tie.
Then things really got exciting. As the clock wound down, the game took on an eerie similarity to the Giants/ Patriots Superbowl. The Pats took their first lead with a FG, but Eli and the Giants answered, and Eli tossed a TD to Mario Manningham in the corner of the endzone... the same corner where Plaxico Burress caught the winning TD in Superbowl 42. That made the score 17-13; the final score in the Superbowl was 17-14. Echoes, indeed.
Only... when Plaxico caught that TD, there were only 39 seconds left on the clock. Not enough time for Tom Brady to work a miracle (though, damn, he came close on that one long pass). This time, Manningham caught the go-ahead TD with 3 minutes left on the clock. When I saw that, I broke off my cheering long enough to turn to Parris with a frown. "Too much time," I said. "They left Brady with too much time." And then Manningham compounded the situation by getting flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for taunting the Pats defender, a truly bone-headed move, since it gave the Pats great field position after the kickoff.
And sure enough, Brady wasted no time in taking the Patriots right down into the red zone. But maybe he should have wasted some time... when he threw a fourth-down TD to his tight end, to put the Patriots up 20-17, there was still a minute and a half left. "Too much time," I said said. "They left Eli too much time. We have a chance."
And we did. The closing seconds stopped my heart a couple of time, and REALLY brought back that old SuperBowl deja vu. An incredible catch by the new Giants tight end Jake Ballard (who has made me forget all about Kevin Boss) reminded me of the Tyree miracle catch, and when Ballard caught the winning TD with seconds left, it was once again in the same corner of the endzone where Plax made his catch.
And this time they only left Tom Brady fifteen seconds.
This was a big, big victory for the Giants. The Patriots had not lost at Foxboro since Calvin Coolidge was in the White Hosue, I think. And the G-Men did it without Ahmad Bradshaw, their best running back, or Hakeem Nicks, their best wideout. But Brandon Jacobs ran like the old Brandon Jacobs, and Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard stepped up big time. I love these guys. Both of them came out of noweher, but they come up big in crunch time.
So the Giants maintain their two-game lead in the NFC East. Now all they have to do is do it again next week... and the week after... and the week after that... and the week after THAT... and... well, the schedule is a meatgrinder, no doubt, but I'll worry about that later. Right now I'll just enjoy this win.
As for the Jets... they're now in a three-way tie for the lead in the AFC East, and next week they get the Patriots at home. Should be intensev.