Fresh Rushing Game Just One Reason New York Giants Are ’13 Super Bowl Contenders

Once Dez Bryant’s knuckles were ruled out of bounds on this play October 28th, the New York Giants sat comfortably atop the NFC East at 6-2, 2.5 games ahead of the Eagles and Cowboys, primed for another playoff appearance. Coming off a Super Bowl championship, it was logical to feel confident the experienced Eli Manning could lead his team through a serious championship push for the second straight year.

Ultimately, it seemed the Giants grew complacent with their game and let their guard down to ultimately miss the playoffs entirely, an utter disappointment for a franchise and fan base expecting more.

But 2013 will be different for Eli & Co. The brightest light at the end of 2012’s depressive tunnel was a renaissance of New York’s running game, one with energy we haven’t seen since Tiki Barber’s pre-Eli days. Journeyman-turned puzzle piece Andre Brown showed fans his brute force capabilities and rookie David Wilson showed us the explosive step Ahmad Bradshaw never offered. Couple this with New York’s weaker schedule and the fresh pressure to avoid a second straight “losing” season, the New York Giants will contend for the Super Bowl in 2013.

An athletic neophyte, Wilson’s agility and 4.40 40-yard dash (video) offer a glimmer of hope Big Blue can represent a game-changing back comparable to a Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, or even Robert Griffin III (According to the New York Times, Wilson has run the 40 in 4.29 seconds). While a long shot, there’s finally enough quickness to evoke a glimmer of hope.

In the last five games of the regular season, Brown recorded five touchdowns on only 35 carries, many in Brandon Jacobs-like short yardage situations. While I couldn’t find the numbers, I don’t remember Brown rushing for a loss many times in those games.

If there’s chemistry, this duo has the potential to propel the Giants to the other end of the rushing spectrum. Both of their ’12 performances qualify for guaranteed rushes in ’13, but this “friendly” competition will add fuel to their respective fires. That extra drive should ultimately bring out the best in one, if not both of the Giants’ running backs.

In its best-case scenario, the Giants’ new-found rushing game will force defenses to allocate more attention on the ground, therefore leading to more open receivers and an even more successful passing game.

*How the Giants won last year’s Super Bowl with the league’s worst rushing numbers is a mystery I will never solve. And while given his fair share of kudos, I feel Eli’s 2011-12 accomplishment is still underrated given that statistic.*

The only other silver-lining of New York’s underachieving season is the motivation it offers for the upcoming campaign. Before this year’s Baltimore Ravens, no team since the 2006 Steelers won a Super Bowl the year after winning a playoff game. While winning is always the ultimate goal, I theorize an underachieving season finale is heavier motivation to win than the fire to repeat. Look at the 2012 Miami Heat.

But while arguments supporting New York’s new rushing game and theories of losing seasons are nice, they’re subjective. Plus, coming into 2012 Wilson and Brown combined for four career rushes. How will they tweak their game to counter defenses’ adjustments? Brown will enter 2013 off a broken fibula and Casper the Friendly Ghost could have blocked better than Wilson. But New York’s 2013 strength of schedule is the most tangible reason the Giants will at least make the playoffs. The scheduling committee gave the Super Bowl champion Giants games against all winners¬† of the ’11 NFC conferences – Packers, Saints, and 49ers. This year, New York will face a much weaker schedule, one that includes the dreadful AFC West. Take out the 13-3 Broncos and that conference boasted a 13-35 overall record this year (2012 standings).

With fresh assets at hand in 2013, a favorable schedule and a new-found motivation to elude the taste of failure, it will be a season Giants fans should look forward to. I correctly predicted the Giants would not make the playoffs in 2012, but am predicting a serious playoff representation in 2013.

Plus, the Giants have home-field advantage in this year’s Super Bowl whether they play or not. That cherry-on-top motivation may put them over the hump should they hit their stride come December.

Bill Belichick’s Poor Time Management Cost the Patriots the Super Bowl

Mario Manningham’s catch was a key turning point in yesterday’s Super Bowl, but not for the obvious reason.

Of all the storylines of yesterday’s game – Manningham’s catch, Wes Welker’s drop, Gronkowski’s absence, why is no one talking about Bill Belichick’s time management decisions late in the fourth quarter?

Why don’t you call a timeout after Bradshaw’s seven yard run on 1st & 10???

This is the most underestimated moment of the Super Bowl, and I can’t figure out why this has garnered zero attention. After Bradshaw’s run on 1st & 10 with 1:45 to go, I smirked when I realized Bill Belichick was not going to call a timeout. The Patriots had two left, and it was 2nd & 3.

What on Earth are you saving those timeouts for? Offense? The Giants are going to run the full 40 seconds off the clock – about 40% of the time you have to work with.

They ran the time off, then scored two plays later. Here’s what Belichick should have said during the timeout he should have called:

“If they get the first down, call our last timeout to stop the clock. We’ll let them score the next play. But when you stop the Giants on this second down play, call a timeout, and we’ll stop them on third down.”

The worst case scenario of either listed above is the Giants get a first down on third down. You let them score the next play, which would take those same 40 seconds off the clock. The only drawback at that time would be one less timeout, but that’s the educated gamble you need to take.

The ideal, yet realistic Patriots’ scenario late in the game was to have the ball after they let the Giants score, but with 1:37 left to play, not :57.

Ninety-seven seconds is enough for Tom Brady. Fifty-seven seconds was not. His head coach let him down.

On another note, I’m almost 100% sure Belichick would have called a timeout if he had three left. He only had two because of earlier in the drive:

Challenging Manningham’s catch was the wrong decision.

…most importantly because no highlights showed any indication Manningham’s feet were out of bounds, but that’s the guys upstairs’ fault.

By challenging the play, you put yourself at risk to lose a key timeout. I think it was more beneficial for Belichick to keep the challenge flag in the arsenal, play the cards you were dealt, and save the timeout.

With about 3:40 to play, the Giants are at midfield, and if they score quickly, you put yourself in the exact position Tom Brady said he wanted to be in: down and with the ball late in the fourth quarter (but with more than :57 seconds).

If the play came on third or fourth down, challenge it, but the Giants were in four down territory. In the self-destructive “prevent” defense every team plays in that situation, Eli Manning would have gotten a first down in three plays anyway.

Granted, you can say, “Corey, so then why don’t you just not play defense and let them score from midfield?” I’m not arguing let them score, but the lost timeout ended up leading to a huge Belichick mental error.

I am arguing if Tom Brady had 1:37 left instead of :57, the Patriots are your Super Bowl Champions.