Traditionally, the list of the Greatest Games in NFL History begins with The Greatest Game Ever Played, the Colts' 23-17 OT victory over the Giants in 1958. Next, the list usually puts Super Bowl III in second, with our Jets defeating the nearly unbeaten Colts in January 1969. Now, we finally witnessed THE greatest game in NFL history, and Joe's Guarantee will take a tertiary place in history, with Alan Ameche's game-ending touchdown now in second.
First, some crow. In my entry entitled "Of Prospects Drear," I said the following: "The Giants will not go far in the playoffs. What possible chance against New England or the Colts? This is Tom Coughlin's last year. Like other New York teams, they look like a team that's still hoping that no one notices how scared they are to win outright." So I eat crow, willingly and gladly. I'd rather be wrong than the Patriots be 19-0. I know I'm not alone in getting Coughlin and the Giants wrong. However, I do recall suggesting to many people that the Giants really were the only team that could beat the Pats. Somewhere in all our hearts - and I suspect in the hearts of many Pats fans - there linked the inevitable sense that Big Blue would not just endure, but prevail.
As my brother, the Giants fan, said to me, second only to his team's glorious victory was his knowing that Tiki Barber was watching from home and that Jeremy Shockey was watching from the press box and not from the field.
He has every right to his euphoria, and not just for being a Giants fan. This year's Super Bowl was exactly what the game of football - America's game - desperately needed after a year riddled with ignominy and underachievement (and not just the Jets'). It was a beautiful, majestic game played heroically by two teams who met each other's match, no matter what their records. I think it so extraordinary that no matter how titanic the persona of the Unbeatens, we all sensed that the New York Giants, one of the lowest performing teams to make it to the Super Bowl, were exactly the team - indeed the only team - capable of performing the awesome job put before them. Players and coaches on the Giants had failed to prove themselves under different pressures during the past year, yet they found a new sense of resolution and calm under the greatest pressure possible. In this sense, in his final drive against New England as time was expiring, Eli Manning found a groove that is often elusive to players throughout their entire careers.
And it was beautiful to watch because I despise the Patriots' industrial precision. The plain truth was that Tom Brady was beaten because it had been a long, long time since he had played under such continuous pressure from such a defensive rush. He was constantly battered, thrown, rattled and distracted by a front line that had decided to play a relentlessly perfect game of its own. He overthrew Randy Moss once too often as a result. Then, to see Belichick misjudge the game clock so as to leave the field before the final play was an appropriate gesture from a character riddled with flaws.
It may have been unconscious of him, but then a coach never misses sight of the clock. He knows how much time there is all the time, and to rush the Giants to their celebration before the game was done may have been the shoddiest gesture of all, as if what was most important was not the Giants' extraordinary win but the Patriots extraordinary loss. In his postgame interview with Chris Myers - an admittedly thankless task for any losing coach - Belichick did not even acknowledge that the Giants were to be congratulated on what they had done; he said "they" made the plays and "we didn't." It was ungracious and unmanly of him to speak thus.
But enough bile. There will be plenty of it for two games next year when we play the Pats at home and away. Meanwhile, this game alone will keep my spirits high until pitchers and catchers arrive late in February. It was the greatest game ever played.