Monday, December 20, 2010

Dodge Ball

Hey, Matt Dodge. There's at least someone who's not blaming you for what happened to the Giants yesterday against the Eagles.

TigerBlog's got your back.

Dodge, for those who don't know, is the Giants' punter. If they haven't cut him by now, they're not going to, figuring that he still has a good future. And maybe he and Tom Coughlin can look back on the end of yesterday's disaster and laugh someday.

It won't be today, of course. Nor will it be anytime soon, not after the Giants, uh, punted their chance at winning the NFC East and possibly getting the No. 2 seed for the playoffs.

While it was a disastrous collapse, it was hardly Dodge's fault that the team lost.

If you missed it, the Giants lost 38-31 when DeSean Jackson - who has to be the easiest professional athlete in quite some time to hate, long before he torched the Giants - ran Dodge's punt back for a touchdown as time expired. Dodge had been told to kick the ball out of the bounds and send the game to overtime, but instead he hit a low line-drive that Jackson at first muffed and then picked up and ran right through the Giants to the end zone.

TigerBlog would love to give Jackson the benefit of the doubt and say that he stopped short of the goal line and ran parallel to the end zone for a few moments to kill the rest of the clock, but TB is pretty sure time had expired by then and Jackson was just being a jerk.

Anyway, the fact that Jackson ran that punt back had zero impact on the outcome of the game, because the shell-shocked Giants had no chance in the overtime. Had the Giants gotten the ball first, they never would have scored. Had the Eagles gotten the ball first, they would have scored in, oh, five plays at the most.

Beyond that, how was it Dodge's fault that the Giants couldn't hold a 31-10 lead in the final seven minutes? That they weren't prepared for the onsides kick? That they suddenly stopped figuring out how to contain Michael Vick? That the offense suddenly shut down?

TigerBlog remembers the "Miracle in the Meadowlands," when Joe Pisarcik and Larry Csonka couldn't connect on a hand-off, which resulted in another Giant debacle against the Eagles.

This one, back on Nov. 19, 1978, ended when Herm Edwards picked up the loose ball and brought it back for a touchdown on the final play, giving Philadelphia a 19-17 win.

TigerBlog watched that game, at least until the final seconds, at 336 Taylors Mills Road, which used to be the Zucker family compound. The assembled group had moved outside and never saw the final play - and for that matter didn't believe it to be true when Mr. Zucker came outside to say what had happened.

As for yesterday's game, TB had to take TigerBlog Jr. to his basketball game, so he actually was in the parking lot listening to the end and figured he'd miss the overtime when he heard Bob Papa on WFAN say how Jackson was running for a touchdown. "Of course he is," was all TB could think to himself.

TigerBlog's two favorite professional sports teams are the Giants and the Knicks, and so, still shocked by the outcome of the football game, TB was excited to see that the ESPN 30 For 30 series replayed the Reggie Miller-kills-the-Knicks documentary last night.

Of course, TB remembered it all, how Miller had almost single-handedly beaten the Knicks in 1994 and then actually did do it in 1995, the year the Knicks would have won the NBA title had they been able to get past what Miller did to them in Game 1 and had Patrick Ewing's finger-roll gone in at the end of Game 7.

The game yesterday was probably the most crushing Giants' loss TB remembers, and it led TB to send a text message after the game that said "Eli won a Super Bowl" three times.

As for the Knicks, Game 7 against the Pacers in 1995 was worse than Game 7 in 1994 against the Rockets in the finals in 1994.

And there they were yesterday, both on full display.

As far as the most crushing loss TB has ever been around, though, nothing the Giants or Knicks have ever done can touch the second round of the 1998 NCAA men's basketball tournament, when Princeton lost to Michigan State.

TigerBlog remembers everything about that snowy day in Hartford.

Princeton, with a 27-1 record and 20 straight wins, was the fifth seed, playing fourth-seeded Michigan State. What TB didn't know was that the Spartans would start four players in that game who would start two years later when they won the NCAA championship, and that of those four, three would go on to NBA careers. In fact, one of them - Morris Peterson - is still playing, these days with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Princeton had sprinted away from UNLV - whose coach, Bill Bayno, sat next to TB at the pre-tournament meeting and guaranteed that his team had no chance to beat the Tigers - in the opening round. For the winner of the Princeton-Michigan State game, there was a trip to Greensboro to take on North Carolina, the top seed.

Michigan State got out to a 10-0 lead, forcing Princeton to play catch-up the whole game. And catch-up the Tigers did, eventually pulling even on James Mastaglio's jump shot in the final minute. Except that it could have been a one-point lead for the Tigers had Stags not had his foot on the three-point line, and Mateen Cleaves then joined the ranks of Lance Miller of Villanova by breaking Princeton's heart, this time with a long three-pointer that TB can still see swishing through the net.

TB's most vivid memory of the postgame was when he sat with Steve Goodrich behind the interview area, waiting for Princeton's turn to speak to the media. From where TB and Goodrich sat, they could hear everything that the Michigan State players said, all of which was extremely complimentary of the Tigers and their talent. Each answer, though, made the reality even more vivid for Goodrich that his great college career was over, in a blank.

And yes, Princeton probably would have gotten thumped by North Carolina in the Sweet 16 had it gotten there, just as MSU did (losing by 15). But Princeton had played Carolina close at the Dean Dome in its only regular-season loss that season, and the Tigers were playing great basketball at the end of the year.

And so what if they had lost there anyway? They would have been a Sweet 16 team, a designation that would have separated that team even more among the Ivy elites of all-time, in much the same way that Cornell did last year (though not against a team nearly as good as Michigan State).

Now it's 13 years later, and TB still can remember the crushing feeling that he had after the 1998 Princeton Tigers were eliminated.

It's something that'll stay with him long after Matt Dodge develops into the NFL's best punter.


CAZ said...

I still feel disgusted! No, it's not Dodge's fault -- he's just one cog in the miserable wheel that gave up a commanding lead. Just like it wasn't solely Eli's fault when they lost to the Igles the first time, Dodge’s punt & Eli’s slide were the icing on some very miserable cake. In my mind this one’s going to last forever as “The Meltdown on The Meadowlands”.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go throw up again.

BTW, Arnie would be proud that you remembered :-)

Anonymous said...

How 'bout up by 24 with 4:27 left in 3rd quarter, only to lose 39-38 in regulation to Jeff Garcia and the '49ers in 2002 season playoffs!

Gib Kirwin SF

Anonymous said...

Sour grapes PU fans, get over it, it was 12 years ago, Cornell may have played a weaker team but you cant choose who you play we got it done you didnt

TigerBlog said...

TigerBlog readily admits that it's sour grapes. He's written those exact words on three separate occasions. Having said that, TB saw the 1997-98 Princeton team and the 2009-10 Cornell team and simply thinks the 1998 Tigers were better.