IT (VIRTUALLY) ALL GOES BACK TO PLAXICO

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

It’s finally dawned on everybody how much the Giants missed Plaxico Burress in their failed defense of last year’s miracle Super Bowl win.  Could the Giants have won it all without him?  Sure they could have, but their margin for error disappeared in a Manhattan night club during Thanksgiving weekend.

If you’re a Giant fan, it didn’t take long to notice how much Burress would be missed in Sunday’s loss against the Eagles.  The Giants get the ball, get great field position on the opening kickoff (Eagles 35), go for it on fourth and two (Jacobs for three yards) and then have a third and eight from the Eagles nine (the game is barely four minutes old).  They’re certainly not going to run it from there and it’s hard to believe they would get a first down.

It was time for the perfect Plaxico play:  that fade into the corner of the end zone where, even if double-teamed by two 5’11” defensive backs, Burress would almost always find a way to bail out Eli, out-jump the DBs, give the Giants a lead and set the tone for the game.  The TV announcers didn’t quite understand that because this was about who was on the field, not who was off the field.

    

But, of course, Plaxico, rightly or wrongly (we’ll get to that later), had already been banished from Giant Land.  So Eli threw a short pass to Derrick Ward out of the backfield and Ward got five yards to the Eagles three which led to an unsatisfying field goal and a 3-0 lead.

    

And it would be mostly worse from there.

     

MVP:  JIM JOHNSON

      

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson made no bones about how much better off his defense would be in the Giant game with Plaxico off the field.  Indeed, it was obvious early on that Johnson put that extra man in the box and, while the Eagles didn’t shut down the Giant running game, they certainly limited it.  The wear and tear over the course of a game that bruising Brandon Jacobs would normally put on a defense never happened in this game. 

    

In fact, it was late in the game when the Eagle defense seemed fresher, stopping the Giants on third and short and fourth and short multiple times.  Say what you want about the play calling in the fourth quarter (especially that bizarre wildcat-like call on third and three), the reality is that the Giants couldn’t rush the ball for a first down on fourth and inches, fourth and two and a few other key situations.   

    

So Eli couldn’t throw to his favorite receiver and the Eagles put an extra man down in the box to control and, at key times, shut down the Giant running game.

    

And it’s all because of Plaxico.

      

THE WIND, THE DEFENSE

      

Others can blame the wind and the stunning difference between the ability of Donovan McNabb to throw the football and the inability of Eli Manning to throw the football.  And they’d be partially right. 

      

Others might blame the Giant defense but that would be unfair.  They played well and, even though they never sacked McNabb (for the third time this year, astounding), they shut down Brian Westbrook and made the Eagles earn every yard and point.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE FIELD GOAL KICKER?

      

Well, it’s hard to blame John Carney, who had a stellar season for the Giants.  But the whole should-we-have-two-kickers (Lawrence Tynes kicked off and was available for long field goals) and when-does-Carney-not-kick-it-and-Tynes-does (50 and out, according to the coaching staff) was always a little strange.  So, when Carney kicked and missed field goals of 46 and 47 yards (both had the distance but not the accuracy), it makes you wonder what would have happened if they had decided to let Tynes kick them from 45 and out instead of 50 and out. 

    

Of course, we’ll never know but that could have been a turning point in the game.

 

IS PLAXICO COMING BACK NEST YEAR?

      

Fascinating post-game stuff as Tom Coughlin, intelligently, refused to answer any questions about the possible return of Plaxico.  Interestingly, however, general manager Jerry Reese seemed to welcome the return “if things work out.”

    

The more interesting question was whether the Giants should have brought Plaxico back for these playoffs after a four-game suspension.  After all, he’s still innocent until proven guilty and he hasn’t been indicted yet (although that might be coming in March). 

    

The Giants made a decision in early December to rid themselves of Plaxico for the rest of the season.  From a football perspective, that was a damaging, even season-ending, decision.  But from a public relations perspective (presumably), it had to be done.

    

The notion that they will bring him back next year (absent an acquittal or dismissal of all charges, both longshots in this writer’s opinion) is strange.  If they’re going to do that, then why didn’t they bring him back for the playoffs?  He certainly seemed to have player support in the locker room.  Maybe the conflicting interests of Plaxico and team leader Antonio Pierce (at the club with Plaxico and he (Pierce) maybe – or maybe not – tried to “hide” the gun) got in the way of team solidarity.

    

Whatever the truth, the reality is that a stupid night clubbing in Manhattan with a loaded firearm cost the Giants a better chance than they had to win the Super Bowl.

    

And that has to be hard to swallow from the top of the organization down to the water boy.  And equally hard to swallow for the lifelong, die-hard Giant fan.

    

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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