-It would be very easy to start off with the Giants following what was one of the best NFL games of the season with the defending Super Bowl champs showing mettle rallying from 21-10 down in defeating the Panthers 34-28 in overtime at Giants Stadium clinching homefield.
We’ll get to that later.
-Whether or not they deserve it, the Jets’ latest collapse is front and center with them falling in humiliating fashion to the three-win Seahawks 13-3 in snowy Seattle. Somehow, Eric Mangini’s club went from 8-3 and looking like a possible AFC Super Bowl representative following road wins over the Pats and Titans to 9-6 having dropped three of four- well it should’ve been all four if Dick Jauron wasn’t coaching Buffalo- having lost badly at home to a mediocre Bronco team along with a brutal performance at hapless San Francisco.
By falling yesterday to Seahawk backup quarterback Seneca Wallace and Maurice Morris in Mike Holmgren’s home swan song as Seattle coach, Gang Green discovered a new way to tease their fans. When WFAN midday host Joe Benigno goes into rant mode with partner Evan Roberts later today, the S.O.J. (Same Old Jets) mantra about how their coach made some baffling decisions such as not going for fourth and less than a yard from inside the five early on settling for a Jay Feely field goal.
In a game you need, you can’t play conservative. Especially with how poor the conditions were. The Jets had their only good drive where Brett Favre and the offense were in sync. So, why not go for the score when you’re at their 2 with a chance to set the tone? Especially when everyone knew this team was 0 for the West coast coming in having even lost to the woeful Raiders on a 55-yard Sebastian Janikowski kick.
Not this coach. If you thought that decision was bad, then what of the choice after a mistimed delay of game penalty negative a Feely 45-yard kick that would’ve cut the deficit to 10-6 opting instead to punt in the fourth quarter with it slipping away? Utterly ridiculous when Feely’s first kick had plenty of distance and the Jets desperately needed the three points just to give themselves a realistic chance on a day Favre looked every bit the age of 39 finishing with under a 50.0 rating tossing two interceptions including a dreadful throw which stood no chance.
If the QB is not throwing it well, then why did Thomas Jones carry the ball only 17 times for 67 yards? Even if the AFC rushing leader wasn’t chewing up chunks on the ground, that’s not enough carries for a team who much like the more reliable New York football team rely on a balance of running setting up the pass game. How is it possible that Morris got the ball 29 times for 116 averaging 4.0 yards to Jones’ 3.9?
What’s a better philosophy for winning in snowy windy cold conditions? Not the one the Jets employed with triple threat Leon Washington (3 rushes, 14 yds, no receptions) an afterthought.
Making matters worse, when they were facing fourth-and-two from their own 20 trailing by a TD with over two minutes left and all three timeouts, for some reason Mangini opted to go chancing it all and then watched helplessly as Favre’s best throw sailed off Laveranues Coles with his main target defended well by Kelly Jennings. He still could’ve made the catch but you have to wonder why it was thrown 30 yards on a short yardage play with it all hanging in the balance.
When they didn’t convert, it allowed the Seahawks to essentially run it three times forcing Mangini to use two timeouts before Olindo Mare drilled a 38-yard kick ending any chance of a Jets comeback.
And just like that, here are the Jets 9-6 a game behind Chad Pennington and the Dolphins and the Patriots, who will be pulling hard for a Jet win over their former QB while they probably destroy the Bills.
With the Colts already having locked up one wildcard and the Ravens after a great road win over Dallas a home win over Jacksonville away from clinching the remaining spot, the Jets essentially need a miracle to make January.
Someone might ask how is it possible? It’s the Jets. That’s how.
-As for the Giants, they stepped up after two poor showings in divisional losses to the Eagles and Cowboys by playing a great second half outscoring the Panthers 21-7 if you include Brandon Jacobs’ third TD of the night which sealed the deal finishing off a nice comeback win in front of their supporters on a cold windy night improving to 12-3.
They deserve a lot of credit because Carolina played very well getting four TDs from impressive rookie back DeAngelo Williams (24 rushes, 108 yds), who twice pulled away from Giant defenders with scores of 13 and 30. The difference was that Tom Coughlin never deviated from the gameplan despite falling behind 21-10 with the Panthers scoring TDs on their first three possessions due to a nice balanced attack with Jake Delhomme finding main target Steve Smith for key pickups.
The combination of Williams along with Jonathan Stewart was working well for John Fox’s club in the opening 30 minutes. But Big Blue also got back to what they do best running the ball with Jacobs who returned and ran for a hard 87 yards while teammate Ward (Wind) hammered the Panthers on the ground establishing a new career high 215 on only 15 carries.
It was as impressive a performance as you can have in a big spot on national TV with everyone watching. Certainly, the return of Kareem McKenzie to a strong offensive line which boasts Pro Bowlers Shaun O’Hara and Chris Snee helped the Giants get back on track after not being able to get a consistent ground attack the past two weeks while allowing eight sacks to Dallas including three by NFL sack leader DeMarcus Ware.
Instead, the line was back doing the job clearing space for Jacobs and Ward to do their thing while blocking well for Eli Manning, who managed the game well not making any mistakes going 17 of 27 for 181 yards with a TD pass to improving tight end Kevin Boss, who also did a solid job making holes for the two-headed run attack that roasted the Panthers for 301 yards.
If the Giant D was brutal in the first half unable to get stops, then they were much better after the half shutting out Smith while limiting the damage to allow Manning and Co. to comeback.
While many might point to the brilliant Jeff Feagles punt following a Julius Peppers sack where the Giant special teams came through pinning Carolina inside their own 2, perhaps the biggest play during the comeback was Manning’s patience on a critical third-and-long waiting for his blocking Boss to bounce away before finding him for a huge first down with the second-year player getting to the marker.
Afterwards, the Jints’ ground game along with some timely Manning completions allowed them to methodically drive down the field using almost nine minutes before Eli found Boss on third-and-goal from four yards out cutting it to 21-20. They had gotten a John Carney 35-yard kick before the half to make it an eight-point deficit. A workable margin considering how well their opponents played.
If they were going to give in following a great Williams 30-yard scamper putting them back down eight midway through the final quarter, the Giants never panicked with Manning doing some of his best work completing three passes including a couple on third down to move the chains to setup Jacobs from a yard out making it 28-26 with 3:21 remaining.
Needing a two-point conversion, he made no mistake using a perfect playfake to Jacobs before threading the needle to a wide open Domenik Hixon tying it.
Now it was up to the defense. One which saw leading rusher Justin Tuck hobbled on and off the field with the flu gutting it out. They hadn’t gotten much pressure on Delhomme but made enough tackles on the Panthers’ ground game to force Jon Kasay to attempt a 50-yard FG with nine seconds left. Certainly no gimme in these conditions. The reliable lefty kicker had the distance but the wind pushed it just wide right allowing the Giants to breathe a sigh of relief getting to sudden death.
In it, both offenses stumbled going three and out before the Giants got it back. With Manning going off, they stayed with Ward, who used three great blocks to pull away for a 51-yard dash inside the Carolina 40. A couple of more Ward double digit runs for first downs got the ball all the way to the 2 setting up Jacobs (Earth) to plow in from two yards out for the game-winner.
It was easily one of the most entertaining games of this regular season with two good NFC teams going toe to toe but in the end, the Giants were left standing thanks to Earth and Wind along with their line which wore down Carolina’s front.
A sharp contrast from the Jets who once again letdown their fans making it nearly impossible for them to make the cut. So much for that all New York Super Bowl.
-It could be worse. You could be a Lion fan where their team made history becoming the first in the NFL to lose its first 15 games in a season Sunday getting trounced 42-7 by the Saints. They can complete the first ever 0-16 season next week when they visit Lambeau Field and the Packers where they haven’t prevailed since 1991.
Just how sad is the franchise which went a preposterous 31-84 before Team President Matt Millen was axed following an 0-3 beginning? Even their own fans have created “Yes We Can” t-shirts with 0-16 on them believing and rooting for their own team to lose every game.
The only team in league history to go winless were the expansion Tampa Bay Bucs when they finished 0-14 in 1976. According to center Dominic Raiola, this dubious distinction would be much worse with him going on to say:
“It’s very real. It’s right there in front of us … It’s pretty sad that its come to this.“
-One question that remains is whether Mangini will survive if the Jets miss the postseason following their 8-3 start. Many fans and talkshow hosts want him gone. Will Woody Johnson listen? Get back to us after the New Year.
-On the flipside, it would be great for Pennington to comeback to the place where he had lots of success and lead his new team to a road win and the AFC East title taking a one-win Dolphin team a year ago to 11-5.
With Kurt Warner and the Cardinals falling apart before the playoffs and no real frontrunner, why not Pennington for MVP? While it’s true he doesn’t possess the gaudy stats of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Philip Rivers, all the QB does is win and put up respectable numbers with lesser talent.
Who had Miami winning this many games? It had plenty to do with a gutsy quarterback who is fearless and has comeback from two reconstructive shoulder surgeries and not missed a beat. Pennington was always a well stated classy guy here but he also was a leader.
He’s a winner who’s always been easy to root for. I want him and his team to make it next week. They deserve to!
-One final thought on the Seahawks making a winner of Holmgren in his final home game before he takes a break. Watching how intense the players were led by Wallace was fun stuff. You could tell how much they wanted to win the game for him. The celebration in the snow was nice.