Quick 24 News
News Blog

NFL’s loaded championship games had no room for Giants


The Giants lost. Football fans at large might have won.

After a weekend of divisional-round matchups, we are left with four teams that belong. No squad has to be fit for Cinderella slippers. There is not a team that schemed its way around a talent deficit, as the Giants did. Instead, there are four giants.

Left standing are the league’s best passing offense (Chiefs) and best defense (49ers). Still playing is a quarterback (Joe Burrow) who seems on a mission after falling short in last year’s Super Bowl. Still alive is the contender with probably the fewest holes: The Eagles can beat you in so many ways.

There are no miracle runs. The Eagles’ 38-7 stomping of the Giants, whose problems tackling were on full display, made sure of that.

There are no true underdogs or feel-good darlings. The Bills, who became America’s Team this season as they rallied around Damar Hamlin, and the Cowboys, the original America’s Team, are gone. The Bills, a powerhouse themselves, could not match Burrow’s brilliance, and the Cowboys made far too many mistakes to overcome San Francisco’s defense.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) tosses the ball back to running back Joe Mixon (28) against the Buffalo Bills during an AFC divisional round game.
Joe Burrow was sensational Sunday in leading the Bengals past the Bills and back to the AFC championship game.

We are left with the top-seeded Chiefs and Eagles, No. 2 seed 49ers and No. 3 seed Bengals, who are the closest thing to a scrappy, upstart outfit there is left in this postseason — and they’re the reigning AFC champions. Last year, the No. 4 Bengals slipped past the No. 2 Chiefs in the conference title game, and the No. 4 Rams knocked off the No. 6 49ers in the NFC Championship. Upsets are fun and make for unforgettable moments. But as favorites advance, the odds of good games increase. It is difficult to imagine any of the remaining four getting crushed the way the Giants did.

Bengals-Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium last year was a classic. The Bengals buried themselves in an 18-point hole, climbed out with suffocating second-half defense and a pair of Burrow touchdowns and eventually survived with a field goal in overtime. This year, the matchup promises to be just as intriguing, pitting the offense with unfathomable numbers against the team that appears to have its number. Patrick Mahomes’ group — which brushed off the Jaguars on Saturday — led the NFL in points and yards, and always seems to be on the verge of blowing a game wide open. But the Bengals, who seem to be gaining confidence each week behind Burrow, have won their past three games against the Chiefs — by a total of nine points.

49ers-Eagles will showcase the defense that allowed the fewest points in football (49ers) against the offense that scored the second-most points in football (Eagles). Both teams boast creative, dominant running games, and both have untested young quarterbacks who continue to impress. Jalen Hurts threw for just 154 yards, but still guided the Eagles offense to 38 points against the Giants. Brock Purdy only needed 214 yards through the air — which included a spectacular circus catch from George Kittle — but did not throw the game away against the Cowboys, which is what has been asked of him.

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) runs from Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (90) during an NFC divisional round game.
Deebo Samuel and the 49ers shook off the Cowboys for their 12th consecutive victory.

Maybe NFL executives would have preferred Tom Brady’s Bucs and New York’s Giants and Jerry Jones’ Cowboys to continue advancing. Ratings equal money, and this season’s powerhouses are not necessarily the most marketable.

But the best teams playing one another adds an element of justice and gives diehard football fans what they have wanted all season.

Can Burrow outclass Mahomes and make a case that he is — somehow quietly — the best player in football? Can Mahomes, playing on one leg after suffering a high ankle sprain, show that there is no slowing the Kansas City juggernaut?

Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks to pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the fourth quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 21, 2023.
Patrick Mahomes added to his legend by returning from a nasty ankle sprain to lead the Chiefs past the Jaguars. How will the injury affect him in the AFC title game?
Getty Images

Which strength is stronger: the 49ers’ defense or the Eagles’ rush game? Is Kyle Shanahan football’s best mind, whispering Mr. Irrelevant Purdy to the Super Bowl, or will Nick Sirianni — a front-runner for Coach of the Year — be the latest rising and innovative offensive mind to come into his own?

These are the types of matchups that fans have wanted to see all season. There won’t be a David, but there will be four Goliaths.

Today’s back page

Back cover of the New York Post for Jan. 23, 2023
New York Post

Read more:

🏈 VACCARO: Giants GM must now be cold-blooded

🏀 Knicks’ defense missing again in loss to Raptors as skid hits four

🏀 Kyrie Irving rallies Nets to thrilling win over Warriors

Big Blue’s to-do list

It is tough to find disappointment in a team that did everything it could.

And the Giants did everything they could. Winning one playoff game, on the road, with a subpar roster and a group of no-names at wide receiver was remarkable. Winning a second, in Philadelphia, would have been nearly impossible.

New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll walks off the field after being eliminated from the NFL playoffs by the Philadelphia Eagles on January 21, 2023.
Brian Daboll walks off the field after the overmatched Giants were eliminated from the playoffs by the Eagles.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

The Giants hit their ceiling, which should validate their coaching staff and serve as an indictment of their previous front offices. There is a lot of work to do to close the talent gap with the Eagles — and maybe others in the NFC East. The Giants went 1-4-1 against division opponents this season. The NFC East put three teams in the divisional round (and the Eagles in the NFC Championship), and the worst team in the division (the Commanders) won eight games.

Giants fans should have confidence in Brian Daboll, who has maximized Daniel Jones as he did Josh Allen and created a playoff team nearly out of thin air. It is now GM Joe Schoen’s turn to show he can help Daboll’s crew take the next step. The Giants were demolished by the Eagles’ running game, which exposed a weak Giants linebacking corps that will need to be revamped. The Giants need more talent and need answers on the future of Jones and Saquon Barkley.

The Giants played with heart Saturday, which counts for something, but does not win games. Ability wins, and the Giants need more.

Weird way to get your kicks

Why are games that feature Micah Parsons — a 6-foot-3, 245-pound freak with track-star speed — and Deebo Samuel – a 6-foot, 215-pound monster with the footwork and spinning ability of a ballerina — often settled by soccer players?

Each kick from Cowboys kicker Brett Maher made you hold your breath and was greeted, in plenty of social-media corners, with mockery. Maher, who missed four extra-point attempts in the wild-card win over the Bucs, got blocked on his first PAT try Sunday night. If San Francisco’s Samson Ebukam did not get his hand on the ball, it likely would have been pulled left for a miss anyway.

Dallas Cowboys place kicker Brett Maher (19) is congratulated by Bryan Anger (5) after kicking a field goal during the second half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Brett Maher (19) connects on an anxiety-inducing field goal in the second half of the Cowboys’ narrow loss to the 49ers.

Maher rebounded and made a couple field goals, perhaps getting over a case of the yips. Still, a missed extra point in a one-score game — the Niners won, 19-12 — loomed large.

You have to feel for the 33-year-old Maher, whose professional life melted down in public and who surely heard from teammates. Kickers are a strange part of NFL locker rooms, part of the team, but not really part of the team. They work out on their own, perfecting a niche skill that few truly understand, and usually become well-known only in failure.

There is too much history logged for the sport to change to such a degree, but the view here is kickers — and extra points and field goals — have an outsized impact on the game and probably are not needed. The NFL ideally would allow its best athletes to decide who wins. Games with 350-pound men clashing in the trenches should not be determined by the leg and specialized skill of a 180-pound NFL journeyman.

Maher cost his team a point and thankfully not the game. He can exhale. There will be plenty more kickers, though, who become a punchline because of one of the strangest quirks in sports.


Source link

Comments are closed.