No matter a man’s level of education, sophistication or red meat intake, there is a primal thrill when his favorite sports team wins any sort of championship. The New York football Giants are now the NFC East champions after a thorough destruction of the hated Dallas Cowboys.
Having grown up a hardcore Giants fan, trained by my older brother, this Sunday’s victory was one of the greatest things about being a fan. When your team makes it, when they beat a hated rival in such convincing fashion it’s like you’ve accomplished something too.
Of course this is ridiculous. Being a fan no more makes the team’s accomplishments your own than playing video games makes you a soldier. But the thrill is real, the emotional investment is real and this weekend “we” beat the smugness out of “america’s team.”
For much of the season, however, there was not a lot to be excited about. The Giants were depleted by injuries in many areas, but were still fielding a defense filled with first round draft picks. Aaron Ross, Kenny Phillips, Corey Webster, Antrel Rolle, Michael Boley, et al, were all starters and had all been in the same defensive system for the past two seasons. Yet, they were often confused and out of place, giving up embarrassing touchdowns. The Giants defense, once considered one of the greatest in the league, disappeared.
Not any more. Since they Gmen beat the loudmouthed Jets, they have been playing with a ferocious pass rush, good coverage and smart hard-hitting play in back-to-back wins over mid tier and quality opponents.
Next up: the Atlanta Falcons. The two teams match up well, but the Giants have one edge: they’re playing at home. The New Meadowlands is a loud, cold place for a southern team that is used to playing indoors. It will be interesting to see how the Falcons adjust to it. We may even see some dirty tactics if the game starts to get away from Atlanta.
Sunday’s win over the Cowboys was not just a great win, it was the return of the Giants’ defense. Once feared, the Gmen were ranked near last all season on defense. This was the result of injuries, a poorly laid scheme and some players just plain sucking. But Sunday saw the return of Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora in monstrous fashion. Osi raked up three sacks and five tackles. He was in Dallas quarterback Tony Romo’s face all day long. With Osi, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Chris Canty up front (all had sacks) playing at an impressively high level, the Giants have suddenly turned themselves into a real contender.
Atlanta better watch out. The Giants have returned!