And Now For Something Completely Different: A “Giant” Reminder That Defense Truly Matters

First things first… We hate the Giants. REALLY hate them. If it wasn’t for the Cowgirls, all of our football scorn would be directed at the NFC’s New York New Jersey team. Watching them win, on the road, against the best team in football, in such convincing fashion, flat-out sucked.

It sucked as an Eagles’ die-hard. It sucked as an Eli-hater. But what it didn’t suck as… a strong believer that Defense wins in January. In fact, it was a huge reminder — and a prime example — that a dominating Defense is more important than a dominating Offense.

So buckle your seat belts, for we’re about to do the unthinkable: we’re going to praise the Jersey Giants…

Overall, the Giants’ Defense did not rank particularly high during the 2011 season — 25th in points, 27th in yards — but their obvious strength is the front four. Jason Pierre-Paul(*) has transformed from a raw talent to an outright stud of a Defensive End. It’s sad to admit it, but he is carrying on a strong recent tradition of dominate Giants’ DEs — from Michael Strahan to Osi Umenyiora to Justin Tuck — and is now a legitimate star, anchoring a solid line. The Giants barely blitzed Aaron Rodgers. They simply rushed four down-linemen and dropped everyone else into coverage, taking away the Packers’ strength, their passing game.

(*)And yes, it must be pointed out that Andy Reid traded up to the 13th pick to take undersized (to say the least) Brandon Graham, who has 3 career sacks in 16 games, allowing the rival Giants to take JPP at 15th overall. JPP has 21 sacks in 33 games (including playoffs). To be fair though, we were screaming for the Eagles to take Safety Earl Thomas, who went to Seattle at 14th overall and is also a stud (7 INTs, 127 tackles in 32 games). Ugh.

Sure, Green Bay was horribly out of sync on Offense — either attributed to the layoff (resting starters in Week 17 and the bye) or the emotional toll due to the death of Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin’s son during the week leading up to the game — but this was an Offense that threw the ball even more than Andy Reid-led Offenses. The Packers had a simply putrid run game all season (ranked 27th overall), with Rodgers being their superior runner throughout the Divisional Round game. Not too mention the fact that the Pack’s O-Line got hit bad with the injury bug late in the year. Add all of those factors up and you can see why the Giants were able to get four sacks, while hitting Rodgers on five other plays, and pressuring the most accurate passer in the league to throw his seventh INT of the year.

But it wasn’t just a dominating front four. As Grantland.com’s Bill Barnwell points out in his weekly “The Fabulous and The Flops” column, Giants’ Linebacker Michael Boley played an integral role:

As the only Giants linebacker with much in the way of speed, Boley often spends his time as the coverage guy by default. With a total of three sacks during his three seasons with the Giants, you would have been forgiven if you didn’t expect to see him making big plays in the backfield on Sunday. Instead, Boley delivered the game of his life. He sacked Aaron Rodgers twice, picking up a third-down sack that forced a punt and set up the Hail Mary drive, and then adding to it with a sack on fourth-and-5 early in the fourth quarter. With the Packers inside Giants territory while down by just seven, they might even have been favorites to win the game at that moment. Instead, after Boley’s sack, they didn’t touch the ball again with a chance to tie the game on one play. Boley also broke up a pass and had three tackles for loss.

Huh… so Linebacker ARE important?! Who knew?!

But credit also needs to go to Giants’ Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell. The interim Head Coach of the Bills in 2009, Fewell will surly be considered for a Head Coaching gig this offseason — EARTH TO THE EAGLES!!! — and his unit’s performance against the #1 Offense in the NFL should be at the top of his resume. Taking a page right out of former-Giants’ DC (and our personal favorite for the next Eagles’ DC) Steve Spagnuolo’s Super Bowl 42 playbook, the Giants’ gameplan in last week’s game was pressure, pressure, pressure. Get to Rodgers, disrupt his rhythm, knock him down. It’s how the Giants beat the Patriots in 2007 and it’s how they beat the Packers here(**).

(**)And in no way are we discrediting the fact that Rodgers’ receivers betrayed him with bad drops all game. We will, however, discredit Eli Manning’s lucky hail mary at the end of the first half. Eli pulled a horseshoe out of Hakeem Nicks’ ass.

So, as always, Defense wins in the playoffs. We got push back on Twitter over the weekend, with some claiming that the Packers won last year’s Super Bowl with a dominate Offense. Let it be known that the 2010 Packers had the 2nd overall ranked Defense in the NFL… and the 10th ranked Offense.

Which brings us to an interesting question… Is Tom Coughlin a better Head Coach than The Walrus?

Before 2007, we would have said no way. Then the guy whose team seemingly quits on him annually, won a Super Bowl. Even then, we couldn’t put Red Face over Big Red. But let’s look at their numbers:

Removing his years with the Jaguars, in eight years with the Giants, Coughlin has a Regular Season record of 74-54, for a winning percentage of .578. In thirteen seasons, Reid is 126-81-1, for a winning percentage of .608. Red Face Coughlin is now 6-3 in the playoffs, with four of those wins coming on the road — two of which had a ridiculously high degree of difficulty at Lambeau Field against superior teams — and one being a Super Bowl win. Big Red Reid is 10-9 in the playoffs, with four of those losses coming in the NFC Championship Game (three of which his team was favored to win).

Coughlin’s teams have failed to make the playoffs more frequently than Reid’s and have been one-and-done three times — with two of those ousters coming at the hands of Reid and our Eagles. The Walrus’ teams seem to always find a way to the second season, but haven’t won there since 2008. Coughlin’s teams have a tendency to underachieve and/or stop listening to their coach. Andy’s teams don’t quit (minus this season’s game in Seattle) but can’t win the big game or play up to their abilities. Both coaches have had Defensive Coordinators carry them (Jim Johnson with Reid, Spags/Fewell with Coughlin). So, it’s really a wash.

But Red Face has what the Walrus doesn’t: the Super Bowl trump card.

We hate to admit it, but Tom Coughlin is a better coach than Andy Reid. Seriously, how does The Walrus still have a job?

We will now go lay down on I-95.

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