Monday, January 21, 2008

Today's NFC championship game was one of the most entertaining football games I have ever seen, though certainly not the best-played. It was supposedly the third-coldest game in NFL history, played in a wind chill of -30 C, though aside from steaming black guy breath, the weather was immaterial. The lead went back and forth, a spooked kicker added some drama and for a while, it looked as though this game might continue well into the spring. Somewhere around the time I started heaping unmitigated abuse on him, Eli Manning started to respond, in a bit of Tom Coughlin-like tough love. His numbers weren't fantastic in this game, but yours wouldn't be pretty either if you tried to throw a football with your bare hand in that sort of weather. (Parenthetically parenthetical note: I ran 17 km today with two pairs of gloves, wearing two more gloves on my right hand than Manning and Brett Favre combined.)

Probably more important than Manning was his fabulous phalanx of running backs and a stout Giants defense led by cornerback Corey Webster. Webster has now neutralized deep threats in two playoff games and effectively won a third for the Giants. The result is that the Giants keep hanging around despite my near-guarantee, like a bad cold. They certainly are a cold, of course, because they don't inspire fear in anyone, and yet here they are lingering three weeks later. As smart as Manning played and as good as the Giants are at applying pressure (they led the league in sacks), they certainly are the cold virus to New England's machine gun.

About the only good that came out of New England's victory over San Diego was that they beat Philip Rivers. Rivers has always struck me as an runty, inbred hick with fetal alcohol syndrome who gets into a fight with guys twice his size in gym class. Of course, I was rooting against New England as anyone with any trace of a moral conscience ought to have. This particular game ended when San Diego cut New England's lead to 14-12. It's not often that you score more often than your opponent and lose, but the ability to score touchdowns and prevent opponents from doing so has been crucial in New England's three biggest games all year. Indianapolis kicked two field goals when it needed touchdowns in a 24-20 loss, Jacksonville lost contact with the Patriots when it answered touchdowns with field goals, and San Diego produced a whopping 9 points from three drives inside the New England 10.

At any rate, now we have the machine gun against the common cold, the Gatling gun against the rhinovirus. I'm sure the Giants will find a way to lose this one and do so quite badly. On the other hand, the Giants, who really had no business even being in the playoffs and have less legitimacy than the University of Phoenix, have nothing to lose. Defensive co-ordinator Steve Spagnuolo can do his best to knock Tom Brady to the turf over and over, knowing the alternative is to lose by about 45 points. In the meantime, maybe the cold will linger a little longer, like a paper cut you don't realize you have.

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