The Packers and the Giants were in an incredibly hard-fought battle on Sunday night in the NFC Championship game. Unfortunately, they seemed to be fighting to lose. Green Bay opened the game with two first downs, then decided they didn’t feel like moving too much further. So after punting it, I figured that the Packers defensive secondary would shut down Eli Manning. Thing was, Al Harris didn’t seem to feel like playing defense. Bump-and-run apparently requires way too much energy to expend in the cold, so Plaxico Burress was allowed to roam free for most of the game. Oh, but the Giants didn’t want to win much either. Amani Toomer had some key drops, and on their first two drives the Giants offense conveniently stalled once they got into field goal range. Favre’s 90-yard TD pass to Donald Driver was the last attempt any Packer would make at winning this miserable game, and the first of many attempts by both team to simply lose and get back to the warmth of the locker rooms.
It took Mike McCarthy three quarters too long to figure out that single coverage against Plaxico Burress wasn’t working. But even when they shut down Burress, the Packers 0bviously weren’t ready to win yet. Otherwise, Nick Collins wouldn’t have taken such a late shot at Giants QB Eli Manning way after he had gotten rid of the football. And Al Harris wouldn’t have shoved Plaxico to the ground before a pass that probably wouldn’t have been caught anyway. If Green Bay truly wanted to win, then why couldn’t Aaron Kampman have been a little more alert when Brandon Jacobs fumbled and the ball ended up between the defensive end’s legs, only to sit there for at least a second before a Giant picked it up. Why, if the Packers wanted to win, why would they commit two offside penalties in a row near the Giants goal line, inching the Giants so close to the endzone that they had virtually no choice but to score. And if the Giants wanted to win, why did they fumble away a Favre interception deep into their own territory?
No, it became obvious that neither team wanted to win after Giants return man Domenik Hixon fumbled on a punt return, and Jarret Bush tried to pick up the frozen ball with his frozen hands and run with it, rather than simply fall on it to give the Pack great field position in the waning minutes of the game. Of course, the ball clunked off of Bush’s hands and squirted out from beneath numerous Packers and Giants players, who were probably only going to the ground to get closer to the heated surface of Lambeau Field. Not to be outdone, Giants kicker Laurence Tynes missed not one, but two potential game-winning field goals, one from only 36 yards as time expired in regulation. In overtime, the Packers won the coin toss, but the way the rest of the game had gone, they might have been better off electing to kick. Sure enough, Favre threw an interception two plays into overtime. Laurence Tynes, determined to miss yet another field goal, kicked it to the right of the goalpost, but God must have decided that this atrocious game needed to end, because he sent a last-second gust of wind that redirected the ball’s course straight through the uprights. The Giants then realized they were going to be playing in the Super Bowl, so they were mildly pleased that they would have a much easier time of losing to the New England Patriots.
But in all seriousness, this was a difficult game to watch. I give credit to the Giants (Please beat New England), because when it came down to it, they made fewer mistakes and capitalized on more of ours. This loss was a tough pill to swallow. The Packers had better learn to win in the cold, because they play in Green Bay, Wisconsin, which was colder than Moscow and North Pole, Alaska last night. Homefield advantage doesn’t mean that some powerful, mysterious mystique will win games for you. You have to outperform the other team, just like you do on the road. The Giants proved that last night, and the Packers have hopefully learned a lesson. If Brett Favre returns (which he better, because he can’t go out with his last play of his Hall of Fame career a season-ending interception), then he and the Packers need to learn from this horrifying experience and come back more determined than ever. Good luck next year Packers, I’ll miss you until September.