I've challenged Jeremy Fuchs, site editor for GiantsGab, a leading Giants blog, to a series of debates in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. Jeremy is a longtime New York sports fan who is looking forward to the Giants raising the Lombardi trophy one more time against the Pats.
Today's topic: Which team caught the biggest lucky break to reach the Super Bowl?
Jeremy Fuchs says: Itís hard to quantify luck. How do we truly identify it? What is luck, what is coincidence? Fortunately, I write about sports, not about philosophy and the deeper meaning of luck.
To make it to the Super Bowl, teams, over a course of a season, need to get lucky. Itís impossible to make it that far without bounces going your way. In fact, unlucky teams are the ones that tend to finish 6-10, not 10-6.
The Pats and Giants, for sure, have gotten very lucky. This was never as clear as it was in the Championship games.
The Pats, it can be argued, are in the Super Bowl because Billy Cundiff missed a game tying field goal that would have sent it into overtime. With the way the Ravens were playing, especially on that last drive, itís very likely that the Ravens would be heading back to Indy, not the Pats.
The Giants, it can be argued, are in the Super Bowl because Kyle Williams fumbled not once, but twice on returns, the second one that set up the game winning field goal in overtime. The 49ersí defense made the Giantsí life torturous; without the two fumbles, itís hard to imagine the Giants winning without the two fumbles.
So which team got luckier? Which team is thanking their lucky stars just a little bit more tonight?
Like I said, itís hard to quantify luck. But letís be honest. The Pats got very lucky.
Letís review the two fumbles, shall we? The first fumble was due to a very aware play by Giants wideout Devin Thomas. The ball grazed off of the left knee of Williams. It was very hard to see live. TV replays magnified it to the nth degree to make sure it was clear. Thomas, running down the field at full speed, his head bobbing up and down, did not have replay. He did not have a magnifying glass. He somehow saw the ball dance off of Williams, and went running for it. Thatís not luck; thatís incredible awareness.
How about the second fumble? Williams began to pass the first level of defenders, when, out of nowhere, Giants linebacker Jaicquan Williams reached out his right hand and stripped the ball out. Again, thatís not luck. Kyle Williams had passed Jaicquan Williams. So Jaicquan was able to, while Kyle was past him, to stick his arm out and make a play. Thatís impressive.
The Pats, on the other hand, got lucky. Cundiff, for some reason or another, did not stay true to his pre-kick routine. And then he shanked it. Iím not pretending that I can make that kick, because I canít. But Cundiff is a good kicker. He missed. The Pats got lucky. End of story.
Thomas Jefferson added: "I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it."
And Bill Belichick said: "It's amazing how lucky I am when I can secretly tape the other team's practice."
OK, Belichick really didn't say that. Although you'd think that was the case given the moans and groans of Patriot bashers, who want to put an asterisk next to each of Belichick's three Super Bowl wins with the Patriots.
Of course, in the minds of his detractors, Belichick was also the second gunman in the Grassy Knoll, piloted the spaceship that brought the aliens to Roswell, is a life-time Freemason who tried to hide the "National Treasure" from Nicholas Cage, sneaked into Rose Mary Woods' office to erase those 18 1/2 minutes off that tape from Dick Nixon's recorder and shredded Barack Obama's original Kenyan birth certificate.
The Patriots "luck" continued last weekend when Billy Cundiff missed his chip-shot field-goal attempt that would have tied the AFC championship game. It took all of about 15 seconds for the excuse/conspiracy stories to surface because the scoreboard operator at Gillette displayed the wrong down and distance during the final minute.
When will Cage come out with that sequel: "National Treasure 54 - The Scoreboard Scandal?"
The real source of the Patriots' "luck" was Sterling Moore's season-saving strip of Lee Evans in the end zone. Meanwhile, the Ravens have a special-teams coordinator, an assistant special teams coach, kicking consultant and, of course, a head coach None of these team leaders thought to use their final timeout while Cundiff scrambled to get himself set for the Ravens' most important kick in 11 years.
Lost amid that hoopla - at least by delirious Patriots fans - were the dual gifts given to the New York Giants by Kyle Williams. The fill-in punt returner flat out blew it on both plays. The first seed of luck for the Giants was planted when Williams took the spot of the team's regular punt returner - Ted Ginn, Jr. - who had been sidelined due to an injured right knee. Injuries happen after 18 weeks in the NFL season. But Williams had only returned four punts this season. There was no reason for him to attempt a fair catch on the first punt nor was there any reason for him to attempt a return on the second.
His first muff - in the fourth quarter - gave the Giants the ball at the 49ers 29-yard line - setting up a touchdown that gave New York a 17-14 lead. His second bungle came in overtime - right after his defense had recorded a 10-yard sack on Eli Manning to set up a 4th-and-13. That gave Big Blue the ball at San Francisco's 24-yard line. Four running plays and one delay of game later, Lawrence Tynes kicked the Giants back to the Super Bowl.
John Harbaugh and his staff failed under intense pressure in the waning seconds of the game in New England. Jim Harbaugh and his staff failed miserably twice - without the pressure of the clock on them - by allowing Williams to catch and try to run back both punts. No luck there, just plain dumb. Given, neither Son of Jack had a shot at outcoaching the Tuna's two top guppies. "It was one of those situations where I tried to turn it upfield and it just didn't work out," Williams told The Associated Press. Problem was, he should not have been put in that situation in the first place.
Let's not forget the non-call after Ahmad Bradshaw's fumble at the end of the fourth quarter. The 49ers recovered at about the 20 but the refs ruled Bradshaw had stopped making forward progress before his turnover and the Giants were able to retain possession and eventually punt. That one could have gone either way, as well.
We won't even go back to the regular season and Victor Cruz's 99-yard TD against the Jets. For once, we didn't want to see Toes Ryan left speechless.
The Giants have been living a charmed life this season. It's time for their luck to run out Sunday in Indianapolis.
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