Monday, February 4, 2008

The Tuck Rule

I am still in disbelief. Somehow the Giants, the same Giants who allowed 80 points in the first two weeks of the season, held the most potent offense in the history of the NFL to two touchdowns. To 45 rushing yards on 16 carries. To under five yards a pass attempt. Unreal numbers.

In hindsight, the Giants learned more about the Patriots from their week 17 matchup than the Patriots learned about the Giants. Steve Spagnuolo must have seen some cracks in the Patriots offensive line, and Belichick never adjusted. Which is eerily reminiscent of the Patriots' monumental upset of the Rams, where Mike Martz never called any max protect. The Giants repeatedly pulled Fred Robbins outside and brought Justin Tuck (not a starter) up the middle, and rushed Tuck at the right guard almost every down after Stephen Neal left the game.

If the Redskins pull up the Brinks truck to Steve Spagnuolo's jersey estate today (rookie coaches typically make $2-$2.6 million for a 3 or 4 year deal, Snyder would probably pay him about $3 million) then they totally redeem themselves for their extended head coaching search. NFL rules penalize assistant coaches on Super Bowl teams, as the Redskins are the only opening left. Spagnuolo may turn Snyder down, with him not being able to choose his coaching staff or players, but it won't come down to money.

So where does this rank all time in terms of upsets? The Jets/Colts is from a different era in terms of media exposure of the AFL and NFL, so it really can't be compared. So that just leaves Patriots/Rams and Broncos/Packers. The Broncos upset was clearly the smallest upset of these three, in terms of point spread and revisionist history. Looking back it isn't that big of a surprise the Broncos undersized cut-blocking line were able to hold the aging, less athletic Packers defensive line in check. With the scandal emerging around the Patriots/Rams Super Bowl, revisionist history says of course the Patriots won because they did a better job cheating. Maybe in a few years we'll hear the Giants bugged Patriots practices, or they were all on HGH, but after this weekend it's hard not to call this the biggest NFL upset in 39 years.

From the start of the playoffs, the Giants are by far the most unlikely Super Bowl champ. They're the second wild card team to win the Super Bowl, but the 2005 Steelers were a year removed from going 15-1 and were just getting healthy in the playoffs. The Giants lost Tiki Barber to retirement and Jeremy Shockey to injury. The were blowed out, as Emmitt would say, by the Vikings Thanksgiving Day weekend. I believe the Giants were something like 25:1 to start the playoffs; Vegas Watch had them as the second longest odds in the playoffs.

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