Prior to Sunday’s win against the Green Bay Packers, the New York Giants had played 10 quarters of poor football. The second half of the Dallas Cowboys game plus two games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinatti Bengals went wrong in all aspects of the game. So the Giants were looking for motivation to get them prepared for the Sunday night’s contest with the Packers.
They found it in 15-year old Adam Merchant.
Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Merchant was able to visit Giants practice on Friday. Merchant was diagnosed with Stage 3 Burkitt lymphoma, a cancer disease, back in March. Thankfully his cancer is in remission now, and Merchant provided words on Friday that lifted the spirits of his favorite team, propelling them to a rout of the Packers on national television.
The message was a simple one from Merchant, but it rang throughout the locker room as if from the Liberty Bell itself. He simply told them to “go out and play, show them why we’re world champs.”
After the win, Giants players credited Merchant’s words as the inspiration for the romp of Green Bay. It also likely had something to do with a particular play in the game that sparked the entire team.
The teams exchanged quick touchdown drives in the first five minutes of the game, but on the third possession, Eli Manning had one of the plays of the game that probably went unnoticed by most.
Most except Giants players and coaches.
On third and seven from the Packers 34-yard line, Manning stepped up in the pocket to find his receivers covered. With Green Bay in man coverage, he took off. I swear I didn’t recognize the player running. He was running faster than I had ever seen. My brother actually confused him for punter Steve Weatherford on a fake (he had just walked into the room). But no, this was Eli Manning running.
After he had picked up the first down, the thought immediately came into my head: “Slide!!” Not on this day. Manning decided to run through Tramon Williams, “lowering the boom” as Victor Cruz put it.
“Once he got up and he was okay, shrugged it off, I was excited because we needed that first down. It was a little bit of a turning point for us,” Cruz said. “Once we got back in the huddle, we joked about it a little bit during one of the TV timeouts. We were just like, ‘You lowered the boom!’ He gave him a nice shot, so it was good to see from him.”
It was a good play because it extended the drive, but as his teammates had never seen anything like that before, it ignited a team in need of a message. It provided something tangible on top of Merchant’s inspiring words. After that play, his team took notice.
The Giants offense exploded for 31 more points while the defense held the Packers to just three points the rest of the way.
“[It] sent a message to the rest of our team.” Tom Coughlin said of the run, “in terms of whatever you have to do to succeed, do it.”
Was this a coincidence, or did Manning have extra motivation from a 15-year old who stared death in the face and beat it into submission? I’d like to believe the latter, as it makes for an incredible story. Only Manning knows why, on a play where he slides 99 times out of 100, he decided to channel something I’d never seen from him before.
This could be seen as a defining moment for the 2012 Giants. Let’s hope they continue to build on the success of Sunday night. They’ll need all the motivation they can muster in this final five-game stretch.