The New York Giants were easily one of the NFL’s most exciting stories in 2011 before capping off their dazzling season with their second Super Bowl victory in five seasons. But as triumphant an end as the Giants’ 21-17 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI was, there path to get there was about as shaky and uncoordinated as Madonna’s halftime performance.
True, we sat witness to the rise of Eli Manning from mediocre “Manningface” to the elite class of NFL quarterbacks. The franchise’s future stars came alive in the form of salsa-dancing receiver Victor Cruz and athletically-gifted pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul. Head coach Tom Coughlin was lifted from overrated and out-of-touch bum to underrated leader, motivator and champion.
The 2011 New York Giants appeared to be a much better team than the 2007 New York Giants—whom upset the undefeated New England Patriots in dramatic fashion in Super Bowl XLII. Their success, however, legitimized the character of Manning and Coughlin with their second Super Bowl ring.
Nevertheless, their astounding success did not come without a hitch. While the Giants overcame many obstacles to win games last season, the way in which they went about it is unlikely to work for the team again in 2012.
It took an NFL record-tying seven fourth-quarter comebacks for the Giants to even be in the discussion in last season, resting all their laurels on the unparalleled ice veins of Manning to guide them back in nearly all of their 16 regular season contests. And Manning did, happily, with a record 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes in heroic performance after heroic performance.
To expect such a sequence of events to pan out in their favor on a weekly basis once again would be foolish and dangerously risky. Of their nine regular season victories, just three were by 13 points or more.
2011 was an awkward year for the NFL. Passing offenses exploded in production as many defensive coordinators struggled to find an answer throughout the season. While running backs were used mostly sparingly, teams succeeded like they never had before without a ground game.
Some blame the NFL lockout. Others blame new NFL rules that unquestionably favor passing the football to be successful. With a year of such a strange, sloppy defensive season out of the way, it should be expected that NFL defenses will be much more constricting when defending against the pass this season.
Should that be the case, the Giants will need far more than 89.2 rushing yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry if they wish to make a valiant run at defending their Super Bowl championship. They will need the offensive line to be more dependable in both pass protecting and run blocking. Meanwhile, the defense will need to do more to keep opposing teams off the scoreboard after surrendering 25 points per game in 2011.
In Coughlin’s first eight seasons with the Giants, there has not been a year without ups and downs. That’s fine, there will always be turmoil throughout the regular season; if there’s not, that turmoil will come when you want it least—in the postseason, just ask New England.
But a season that starts hot and ends hot would be a nice change for Coughlin, Manning and the Giants, because more often than not, their perennial roller coaster ride has resulted in a disappointing finish rather than a shower in confetti and Super Bowl glory.
The Giants have the talent to compete this season, despite being lined up against the NFL’s most difficult schedule. There is no better time than this season to step up and play dominant Giants football with an opportunity to make a run at repeating as Super Bowl champions.
Louis Musto is a New York Giants Featured Columnist for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @LouisMusto.