Super Upset

All hail the New York Giants!!! Wow … what a terrific Super Bowl performance by the G-men. They did it by putting great pressure on Tom Brady, by moving the ball on offense in disciplined fashion with a good mix of run/pass to keep Brady off the field, and of course they cemented it with probably the most suprising thing of all … an Eli Manning-led, clutch TD drive when they absolutely had to have it. (Awesome catch by Tyree was the play of the game). Although the Giant win is surprising, it is not shocking to this fan since the “underwhelming” Patriots never seem to dominate in big games. I figured this game would be close … and was it ever!

So historically, what does it all mean? Certainly, this Giants win has to be one of the biggest Super Bowl or championship upsets in history. They were 12-14 point ‘dogs, and maybe 10-15% of the football “experts” predicted a NYG win. So, it’s probably not quite the upset that the Namath-led Jets put on the Colts in Super Bowl III. I think the Jets were 16 point ‘dogs and NOBODY predicted an upset … except Broadway Joe himself. Still, this Giants win is one for the ages.

So what does this say about the Patriots? Well, for one, the book isn’t closed on this team, and we should expect NE to contend again for the next season or three. They’re an excellent organization, and as long as Belijerk, Brady and Moss are together, they’ll win a bunch of games and go far in the playoffs. But FOR NOW, I think this is what we can say: In terms of being a “dynasty”, they settle in at #5 for now … behind the ’70s Steelers, ’80s Niners, ’60s Packers and ’90s Cowboys. These Pats have gone to 4 Super Bowls and won 3 … certainly one of the “all-time teams”.

In terms of their single season significance, you can put these 2007 Pats near the top of the list of once-defeated teams who DIDN’T win the chan’ship, but clearly they are behind the ’72 Dolphins and the ’85 Bears … teams that actually won the biggest game of the season. And since they didn’t win it all, we can probably pick 3-5 other champions who had dominant seasons. Ironically, the Giants beat the Pats yesterday the same way I hypothetically envisioned the ’85 Bears would beat them … with an over-powering defensive line giving Brady little time to think, let alone pass. Plus, a steady, balanced offensive attack that would control the ball and the clock. You’ve got to have a really good running game to beat the Pats … the Giants have one and the Bears of 20+ years ago had it too.

Now we come to Tom Brady. He’s 3 for 4 in Super Bowls, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him. But for now, he’s still a notch or two below Montana … the all-time clutch QB who never failed to deliver in the BIG GAME. Tom looked fairly ordinary yesterday with all that pressure on him … he coulda been Donovan McNabb if you weren’t looking for the name on the back of the jersey. In the end, Brady simply proved he’s human after all … he didn’t have a great game … something that we’ve come to expect, probably unfairly, time and again. Without question, though, he’s somewhere on the Mt Rushmore of great QBs.

As for the G-men, why shouldn’t they contend for the next couple years? Eli looks like he’s got the right stuff … can they stave off Strahan’s retirement … or adequately replace him? I think all the tools are in place for several solid, if not spectacular, seasons

Well, that’s it for another NFL season … one ended in dramatic and satisfying fashion. Pitchers and catchers report in 2 weeks, college football signing day is Wednesday, and March Madness is right around the corner. Spring is in the air … except for here in Alaska, where the “Frozen tundra” will be just that for a coupla more months. Cheers!

Wally

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23 Responses

  1. Wally,

    You gotta love ND grad, Justin Tuck, playing so well. Guy was awesome and looking for a sweet pay increase.

    Casey

  2. Yes, Tuck has been a real force and will probably get better. Don’t think he’s an ND “grad” just yet unless he’s been taking summer courses since joining the NYG. If you recall, he left after his junior year, which was a major disappointment to ND coaches and fans because a) he was really good and b) left a big void in their D-line where they could ill afford it. On the other hand, here’s more evidence that ND does get talented players … also add Ryan Grant to the list of recent ND players doing well in the pros.

    CFB signing day is Wed. The Irish are poised to sign a Top 5 class … probably their best overall class since the early ’90s. This, added to “Top 10” classes the previous 2 years, fuels hope that 2009 might be more than just another season for the Irish. But Uncle Charlie & staff need to come through and do their jobs well … which means developing these players ASAP. My prediction: ND is 7-5 in 2008, possibly 11-1 in 2009.

    Wally

  3. you’re right – Justin Tuck – grad of the ND football program.

    Gee Wally,

    Shouldn’t we include the ’72 Dolphins when we talk about ‘underwhelming’? The teams they beat in the regular season had a collective winning percentage under .400, and the ‘fins were UNDERDOGS in the Super Bowl. What does that say about Shula’s gang?
    And the ’72 Fins knew as much about the salary cap as Bill Clinton knows about fidelity.

    Your disdain for the Pats is dripping, but they are supposed to be underwhelming. That’s what the 21st century NFL is about.

    21st century = no NFL dynasties.

    Yet the Pat shave managed to get in the ‘neighborhood’. They deserve more props.

    Oh My – espn just announced that Bob Knight has resigned from Texas Tech.

    Casey

  4. The Patriots are clearly the better team overall. But last night, the Giants were the better team on the field of play and deserved to win.

    Congratulations to the Giants fans.

  5. Casey, point well taken and pretty much agreed. The ’72 Dolphins were a bit “underwhelming”, but they won all their games that season, including THE SUPER BOWL. So, if we’re talking about the best “single season” teams ever, ya gotta take the Dolphins over the Pats cuz they finished the job in the last game, whereas the Pats failed in the end.

    Two more points: 1) the Pats division (AFC Least) sucked this year, so I’ve never been sold on their “unbelievable regular season”. 2) As I’ve said before, the “Eye Test” carries more weight with me than statistics … which is to say “it’s not only WHAT you do, but HOW you do it.” Were you dominant, or did you squeak by more often than not? So if we’re still talking about “single season greatest teams”, the ’85 Bears (18-1) kicked the crap out of the opposition, especially when it mattered most in the playoffs when they outscored opponents something like 90-10, including two shutouts. There are a few other once or twice defeated Super Bowl Champs that should also be considered among the best single-season greats: one of the 49ers teams and one of the Steelers teams for sure.

    That’s why the Pats don’t get higher billing from me … either as a single season great or as a dynasty. I readily admit they are a dynasty, because on paper they’ve won 3 SBs in a short amount of time, but they’ve never convincingly passed the “Eye Test” because the vast majority of their notable playoff wins have not been dominant … they’ve squeaked by.

    Wally

  6. Hmmmmm………. Casey, I think I shall argue your claim of: 21st century = no NFL dynasties

    If you are talking about a Team dynasty then I shall agree, BUT….. I think we have a family dynasty starting. Maybe a Manning dynasty? The last 2 superbowls were won by a Manning as the QB, and both were projected to lose.

    So I think it is safe to say we may have a Manning Dynasty forming. They have to win one more first of course…..

  7. Snydez,

    You da man! Great insight mah man.

    Casey

  8. I don’t agree with ranking the Pats “dynasty” behind the Cowboys and I certainly think it ranks right there with the 49ers. 4 Super Bowl appearances, 3 Super Bowl titles, 5 AFC Championship appearances in 7 years. In an era that was NOT supposed to have dynasties. After all, that was the reasoning behind the salary cap.?

    So for the Pats to do, what was not supposed to happen – it is incredible. In the current NFL, (outside of the Colts) there are different teams that rise every year and make a run. Case in point, Pittsburgh one year, Jacksonville this year, San Diego, St. Louis, Tennessee, etc. … So many teams load up for a 2 year run and then it is time to start over – case in point Baltimore.

    I also think that is why you don’t see teams dominating in the playoffs. It is also why so many games week in and week out are unpredictable. There is alot of parity in the NFL and a signing here, or a good draft pick there, and balance of power shifts in the NFL.

    The NFL is set up for teams NOT to be dominant, which is what gives every NFL franchise hope. It is what separates it from the NBA or Major League baseball. It is why there is hope next year for the Cleveland Browns, and others. Year to year, new teams rise and other teams fall. But the fact that the Pats remain where they are is more impressive then other dynasties in my book.

  9. Doliack,

    You have a great point. The era of the Salary Cap cannot be ignored. Granted the Pats don’t always win in impressive fashion, but they get the job done.

    Quick question. If defense doesn’t win championships, then somebody please explain how the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl?

  10. Pats Dynasty: 4 Super Bowl appearances, 3 Super Bowl victories, 4 AFC Championships, 5 AFC championship game appearances, 6 AFC East championships.

    I’m devastated by the loss and yet still comforted by the fact that I root for the most dominating team of the last seven years.

    I’m good. 🙂

    Congrats to the Giants. Good luck with Eli going forward. I know Brady will return to form next year, better hope Manning doesn’t.

    -SeanMC
    PS: I’m a little bitter and catty right now. Hope you understand. It’s been a rough couple of days.

  11. 1972 Dolphins were “underwhelming?” Yes – it was their defense that made them successful. People forget that Bob Griese went down with a broken leg in the 5th game of the season. What if that happened to Brady this year? Pats would have lost to Ravens and Giants in the regular season.

  12. Brother Reynell
    Good point about Griese’s injury.

    Casey

  13. Some very good points brought up regarding the “salary cap era” and how the Pats have somehow stayed “on Top” this decade. Great job by them … no argument. But here’s the difference between the era’s. The SC Era has generally led to mediocrity and convergence to the mean overall in the league. There’s always teams suddenly emerging as contenders, or even Super bowl Teams, that were pathetic the year before (e.g Packers). And then they suddenly disappear. That point’s been made. The Pats and even the Colts have somehow managed to stay on top, to their credit. What team will rise from the depths to contend next year? I think it’s the Lions turn (well … maybe not). Hey … I’m a Bears fan, but I think the Bears were a poor excuse for a Super bowl team last season … how the hell did they get there? Where was the competition??? That’s right … the whole NFC was mediocre.

    So let’s turn the clock back to the ’70s – ’90s (pre-salary cap). This era was characterized by having ~3-4 teams in each conference that were very strong or outstanding year-on-year which made getting to the SB, let alone winning it, a real achievement. My point is that, pre-SC, we had dynasties playing near-dynasties almost annually on their way to the SB. Good teams were able to maintain consistently strong rosters for several years. Playoff competition was much tougher back in the day. There were fewer teams, so talent was more clustered, and every playoff game figured to be a battle, unlike today. Take a look:

    ’70s AFC: Steelers, Raiders, Dolphins, Broncos
    ’70s NFC: Cowboys, Vikings, Redskins, Rams

    ’80s AFC: Steelers, Raiders, Bengals, Dolphins
    ’80s NFC: 49ers, Redskins, Bears, Cowboys, Giants

    ’90s AFC: Bills, Dolphins, Broncos, Oilers
    ’90s NFC: Cowboys, 49ers, Giants, Redskins

    These teams were perenniel division winners … many of them with great coaches, QBs, and many HoF players.

    The only think remotely resembling this today is that the Pats and the Colts are in the AFC. Both teams have been excellent for several years and have had some classic battles.

    Wally

  14. I agree with much of that and really enjoy how you put the decades into a capsule format – great remembering those rivalries.

    But doesn’t this just support the Pats? They are fending off the Colts and whoever happens to ascend from the abyss.

    Remember when Craig Morton led the Broncos from out of nowhere to the Super Bowl? Does that make the Cowpokes victory over them any less?

    Casey

  15. Casey — I’m gonna address your point … with apologies to anyone reading who doesn’t remember the ’70s-’80s. First of all, I want to reiterate that I feel the Pats have had a hell of a run and are definitely one of the all-time teams/dynasties. I just don’t rank them quite as high as 3-4 other such teams. This is where I harken back to my so-called “Eye Test” and remember how I felt watching the playoffs “back in the day”. (Casey … we are almost same age so you should have great memories of the following).

    Here’s an example: ’70s … after the Dolphins faded, how many times did the Steelers wage epic battles with the Raiders in the playoffs just for the right to go to the Super Bowl? Recall that the Raiders won two SB’s in this general timeframe (’77, ’81) and were loaded with talent (Madden, Stabler, Belitnikoff, Branch Casper, etc). This was the type of rivalry between excellent teams that was waged for several years. Then, if the Steelers happened to win the AFC, who was waiting for them more often than not? It was America’s Team … the Dallas Cowboys with Landry, Staubach, Dorsett, Pearson, Bob Lilley, Randy White and the Doomsday Defense. They appeared in a mere 5 Super Bowls in ’70s on those occasions when they snuck by the Rams and the Vikings (4 SB appearances) for the NFC title.

    Eventually, the NFC torch was passed from the Cowboys to the 49ers as we transitioned into the 80’s. Specifically, the torch was passed during that awesome NFC Chan’ship in ‘ 81 when Montana came of age and Clark made “The Catch” which set the 49ers on their way to 4 SB wins over 8 years.

    Like I said in a previous note, this era featured dynasties having to beat other dynasties (or “near dynasties” or “falling dynasties”) during the playoffs to either get to the SB, win the SB, or both. That’s what made it special … the competition and excellence on the field, during the playoffs, was much better than it is today … IMO. Today, other than the Pats, there are no other dynasties or near-dynasties … the only meaningful rivalry is Pats-Colts … and the Colts have been to only 1 SB. I think these Pats of 2001+ have had it easier than dynasties of the past and they’ve won their big games by the slimmest of margins.

    Here’s another example: the ’90s Cowboys played the Steve Young 49ers three years in a row in the NFC title game. Then they played the AFC’s juggernaut, the Buffalo Bills (4 SB appearances), twice in the SB and squashed them. Prior to the SC Era, it took a lot more pure grunt work and sustained excellence to win a SB or two.

    That’s my opinion … and I’m sticking to it 🙂

    Wally

  16. This is an interesting argument. I can see both sides, but I think I’m leaning toward Wally’s. It’s like the Patriots are Mike Tyson (pre-Buster Douglas) and the older dynasties are Ali, who had to deal with Frazier and Foreman. Is Tyson (the Pats) better because he pummeled everyone, or is it just that everyone else is no good? I don’t think it’s an either/or proposition, but I’d say that the Patriots greatness is lessened slightly by the lack of truly great competition. I would put the 70’s Steelers and 80’s 49ers ahead of them for sure.

  17. Yes, there is a fine line between parity and mediocrity. And the 21st century NFL has neatly positioned themselves in a gray area. But does that mean that if one team excels, their accomplishments are diminished by others around them.

    Take for example College Hoops and Pigskin. I haven’t read of many ‘consistently’ strong challengers for John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins. Since then recruiting has become significantly more involved as institutions now realize the financial rewards to be gained from having a great sports’ program. So does that mean that Wooden took advantage of a less-competitive era? How about Knute Rockne for that matter?

    The Pats are playing with the hand dealt to them. They can only be as good or bad as the situation allows.

    The 21st century NFL has done everything to keep dynasties from occurring, yet the Pats have still managed.

    Do I think the Pats are as good as ‘The Steel Curtain’? No way. As Montana’s 49ers? Probably not. Lombardi’s Packers? No. Jimmy Johnson’s Cowpokes? Hmmmm… (Wasn’t Leon Lett kinda important in the Pokes scheme?). Do I think they are ‘underwhelming’? NO!
    Do I think they have risen above the rubble in an exceptional manner? YES!

    Do I wish we had the 70’s and 80’s back with those rivalries? – absolutely.

    Ya know as I am writing this, I am thinking – Thank God for the Yankees. I know Chas and Mike just fell off their chairs. At least with the Yankees around there is this sense of accomplishment – the Indians beat the Yanks, and the Sox beat Tribe. Somehow that makes it all worth it.

    Look what I’ve been reduced to: giving props to the Yanks.

    Casey

  18. Chas —
    Thanks for agreeing with me! Finally I’ve got someone on my side … looks like Casey is coming around as well. By the way, I wouldn’t compare the Patriots to Mike Tyson for 2 reasons: 1) they are way on the opposite end of the intelligence spectrum from Mike, and 2) they certainly don’t pummel everybody … actually they usually win only by split decision against good competition (the playoffs). The Pats are like a really good finesse fighter with a great winning % … Sugar Ray Leonard.

    Casey — Not that they haven’t done a lot already, but what could the Pats do more of to further distinguish themselves? Or what could they have done better? Well … for one … they could’ve won Sunday’s game, which would’ve given them 4 SB wins … pretty elite territory. Second, they could have won their other SBs by more than a FG, two of which were last second jobs. What if Norwood was their kicker instead of Vinatieri? They may only have one title … gasp.

    Anyway, I agree with you that rivalries are really good for sports … and, yes, the Yankees serve a really good purpose. That’s why ND fans can tolerate USC’s existence … it’s good for the game.

    Wally

  19. Coming around?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t part of the Montana mystique that he led the 49ers on a bunch of last minute drives. What if Clark was 6 inches shorter?

    At what point are you willing to dismiss the ‘underwhelming’ tag?

    Casey

  20. Wally,

    When you talk about the Pats having it easy, how can you say that when the salary cap affects every team year in and year out. The beauty of those Steeler teams and the 49ers teams is that they were able to keep them together for so long. I am sorry, put both of those teams in the salary cap era and I guarantee other teams would be raiding them after the first and second Super Bowls.

    That is the nature of the beast in the NFL. If you are successful, other teams view your players as being successful and offer them bigger contracts to come play for them. Even the ’90s Cowboys were victims of it. Guys like Russell Maryland and Larry Brown jumped ship as soon as they tasted success in Super Bowls. Same thing with players like Dexter Jackson of the Tampa. And the same thing has happened with some of the players from the Pats. David Givens, Deion Branch, and a couple others whose names are slipping – ahhh Adam Vinateri.

    The fact is the NFL is designed so all teams are competitive . Year in and year out. Every team has flaws. That is the design of the league. It is why its popularity has risen to new levels. This years Pats are no exception. They need to decide what to do with Moss, Samuel, Bruschi and others. The fact that the Pats not only continue to win, but get players to accept contracts that are below market level. They get players to buy into the system that checks egos and the door and it united in one cause – winning. So for me, the fact that the Pats continue to win year in and year out, is far more impressive then how they win games.

    So let just understand, if a team doesn’t win Super Bowls or playoff games in dominating fashion, then they are underwhelming? So the like Casey says, the 49ers beat the Cowboys in the Miracle catch game in underwhelming fashion? Same when they beat the Bengals on a last minute drive?

    So technically the Giants win on Sunday was underwhelming?

  21. Wally,

    Before you get carried away and dislocate your shoulder patting yourself on the back, I’d like to redirect.

    We agree on the level of play in the NFL between the 70’s and now. That the 70’s NFL consisted of a higher level of competition amongst the league’s elite – it was a great time. As you said: dynasties competing against dynasties. The product on the field was better 30 years ago than it is now.

    As we are saying this though the NFL money machine is stronger than it ever has been. The Super Bowl made its way into more homes that it ever has been before. The Harris Poll recently came out and the NFL by far is the most popular sport in America. Yet the product on the field is substantially less than what we know it to be. This has been a deliberate act on the NFL’s part. More teams and more moderately competitive teams makes more people happy and drives the NFL marketing machine.

    The NFL is more popular than ever, but is it better?

    Is it safe to say that what is popular is not always better. Do you see any way that the NFL can change this, or will we continue to have these ‘underwhelming’ conversations?

    Wally, both you and I know that at least 75% of the people watching that game Sunday could not come up with ten facts about the NFL from the 1970’s, yet they are considered fans because they have a closet full of authentic jerseys. The 21st century fan wears a LOT of team apparel, but cannot recognize any nuances of the game. That does not make them bad people. In fact it makes them good people because we now have sooooo much sports on tv.

    But this also creates a warped sense of reality. Money and popularity does not necessarily equal competition – at least not in sports.

    Which leads me to this – not too long ago Wally you asserted that Tiger Woods had to be better than Roger Federer because golf is a more popular sport. How does that assertion fit into our present discussion?

    You can argue that because golf is so popular more kids are getting into it so therefore it is better. Really? I could think of a number of arguments against that – too many players fighting each other off leaves Tiger to swoop in and clean up. Too many players means that Tiger won’t go head to head on Sunday against the best players. Yada, yada, yada.

    I don’t care about those arguments, but I do care that one sport is given more relevance on the CLIPBOARD because it is more popular.

    I can carry on and on and on with examples – like Kel’s theory: scratch a Yankee fan and you’ll get a Tar Heel fan or vice versa. No offense intended to Chas, Mike, Snydez or any Yankee or Heel fans on the Clipboard. You guys don’t fit into this theory. You actually know what you’re talking about. Kel’s theory is that those apparel-wearing fans are all front running / bandwagon jumpers. And yeah fandom has to start somewhere, but at least follow a team. Just don’t take credit for them winning. These fans spend money though, and that’s what twists our consciousness. Oooh this sport is making a lot of money; it must be good.

    But we know better Wally.

    While you are chewing on all that, consider this the #4 sport in the Harris Poll? Yeah, you got it NASCAR.
    #2 was MLB.

    #3 was college football.

    Hmmmm….I guess Jeff Gordon is better than Tiger Woods.

    Casey

  22. Awesome win by the Giants Sunday. I was honestly overwhelmed by their performance. Great game plan, great execution. And they beat a great team, the Patriots … one of the all-time NFL dynasties (ranked #5 by Wally). Everyone happy?

    The ’80s 49ers didn’t rely on their field goal kicker to bail ’em out time after time. Or the “Tuck Rule”. When they beat the Cowboys with “The Catch” … please remember that they beat THE COWBOYS … a team with awesome talent and a very impressive track record during that period. And to answer Casey’s question “What if Clark was 6 inches shorter?” Well, Joe would’ve simply thrown it 6 inches closer to the ground and a little more to his right. Same result.

    Great defense, alone, usually never wins championships. I can think of two instances where you could say it did. Baltimore Ravens early this decade and the Alabama Crimson Tide in the early ’90s. Love great defense, but almost always need an offense, too.

    Wally

  23. Great blog!!!
    allways enjoy reading

    thanx for the time and effort

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