Monday, October 15, 2012

So can we talk about how awesome a day Sunday was?

You know, there are occasions where you suffer really annoying days or even really annoying weekends in the sports world. It's just kind of the nature of things unfortunately, but those things, I've found, are necessary. After all, how could I have enjoyed the Giants' two Super Bowl wins in the last five years with the appropriate amount of appreciation were it not for all of the really devastating, demoralizing and infuriating setbacks they've suffered in the tenure of my fanship. In all fairness, I probably could not have enjoyed the high points the Giants have brought in the last few years without the perspective that heartbreak brings. After all, if I ever see the Mets win a World Series, it will doubtlessly be all the sweeter after having experienced the embarrassment and pain that has been being a Mets fan for the past 20 years or so.

But in addition to enjoying championships, there are simply little things, a lucky confluence of events that make you happy -- great days where everything in the sports world that you're hoping for goes your way. And boy howdy was yesterday a great day.

See the New York Giants entered this week about to experience what can in no uncertain terms be considered an utterly brutal stretch of their schedule. Every game Big Blue plays from here on out will either be against a division rival or against a team that made the postseason last year. This includes matchups with the Steelers, Falcons, Packers, Eagles, Cowboys -- even the Redskins are looking less and less like the NFC East's weak link by the week. So when New York headed out to San Francisco for a rematch of last season's NFC Championship Game, the prevailing narrative appeared to be that the Niners, perhaps deserving of consideration as the best team in football after consecutive poundings of the Jets and Bills, were destined to get revenge for January against a Giants outfit that, despite its defending-champion status, was simply not up to snuff after a rocky 3-2 start to the season.

Indeed, it appeared that very well might be the case when the game started, as San Francisco reeled off back-to-back 12-play drives that seemed to show offensive versatility and dominance even though the 49ers managed to come away with only three total points. It was at this moment that I started to get concerned the Giants might be missing out on a golden opportunity considering what had happened earlier in the day.

Dallas and Philadelphia didn't exactly have easy match ups this weekend. The Cowboys were visiting the always strong Baltimore Ravens while the Eagles hosted the Detroit Lions, an explosive team that made its first playoff berth in more than a decade last season. But these also weren't exactly opponents the Eagles or Cowboys couldn't handle. In fact, Dallas was in its game against the Ravens right until the final seconds, with a mere botched two-point conversion the difference between a crushing road defeat and overtime, and a shanked field goal for the win as the clock wound down punctuating the loss.

Seeing the Cowboys lose a tough game, often, is good enough for me to be emotionally satisfied with any Sunday on which the Giants haven't kicked off yet, but then the Eagles did me one better moments later. Philadelphia had ruled the roost most of the afternoon, and with a 10-point fourth-quarter lead at home against a team that, while decent, probably wasn't as talented as the Eagles, well, it seemed Philly was practically a sure thing to end the day with a win. But bit by bit, the Lions chipped away as Matthew Stafford began wracking up passing yards and Calvin Johnson asserted his authority in the secondary.

Suddenly, Philadelphia and Detroit were tied, then they were in overtime, and then the Eagles were walking to the locker room with their heads down with reports of teammate infighting. There are few things in life more satisfying than that.

So with all of that having taken place, the Giants stood a chance to settle into a tie for the division lead if they could simply knock off the big bad Niners, but surely with San Francisco gunning for its rightfully deserved vengeance, that probably wasn't in the cards. Most TV pundits said before the game that the Niners were simply the better team right now, and most previews by New York beat writers seemed to agree.

But then the revenge didn't go down so smooth.

Yes, the Niners got off to a solid start, but after that the Giants got moving. And the Giants rolled. And rolled. And rolled. New York so thoroughly dominated San Francisco from the second quarter on that some of the 49ers' biggest pre-game talkers were conceding the Giants might be the class of the NFL. I am not exactly ready to make that concession -- not when the Falcons remain undefeated, the Texans are loaded and the 49ers still aren't half bad. But there is no questioning that this was on of those statement games that leaves a fan about as satisfied as can be.

This wasn't just a run of the mill victory. This was a dominating win over what is one of the consensus best teams in the League in its own barn. This was the Giants serving notice to the rest of the league that rocky start though it may have been, New York is still the defending Super Bowl champion. And the Giants will play like it when they need to.

Sometimes a team needs a day like that to remember how good it can be, and sometimes a fan needs a day like yesterday -- where everything goes the right way -- to remember how fun sports can be. Granted, a 4-2 record and a win over the 49ers hardly guarantees anything down the line for New York in its title defense, but it's still a decent place to be as the gauntlet begins. And rolling into that gauntlet with a significant amount of momentum is about as much as you can hope for.

And to do it on a day like yesterday, well, that's just awesome.

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