It is a funny game they play in the National Football League. Sometimes, the post-game discussion and analysis is even funnier.
This past Sunday, the New York Giants won an important home game against the upstart Buffalo Bills. A 24-24 nailbiter turned on a late red zone interception by the Giants’ Corey Webster, setting up a game-winning field goal for Big Blue.
On Monday morning, the New York media heaped praise upon Tom Coughlin’s team, and rightfully so. The Giants were feeling “Super” (wink, wink) at 4-2 heading into their bye week, and Eli Manning was praised as an elite quarterback, despite not throwing a touchdown pass in the Giants’ victory (and nearly being intercepted to kill the eventual game-winning drive).
On Monday night, at the very same stadium, the New York Jets won a game by 18 points, against a division opponent that always challenges and plays them close. Similarly, this game also turned on a red zone interception, complete with a highlight film 100-yard run-back, the only moment which garnered a significant reaction from the lifeless MetLife Stadium crowd. Darelle Revis’ goal-line interception righted the ship for the Jets, who settled in for an eventually comfortable, if imperfect 24-6 victory.
But if you picked up a newspaper, logged onto a blog, or listened to a sports-talk radio show on Tuesday, you’d have thought the Jets lost. The main talking points hadn’t changed much from what they were when the Jets were mired in a 3-game losing streak: the quarterback was inconsistent, the running game was not explosive, the defense gave up too many yards.
Isn’t winning supposed to be fun?
I am aware that the Buffalo Bills are a much better football team than the Miami Dolphins, who are probably now considering full tank-mode so they can draft Andrew Luck. But my point in comparing the two scenarios is to bring to light just how asinine and absurd some of the post-game analysis of the NFL truly is.
A lot of people made the point on Tuesday that if Revis’ pick-six doesn’t happen, there’s a strong chance the Jets don’t recover from a 10-0 deficit and lose the game. First of all, there’s no way to prove that. Secondly, how does the Giants game turn out if Webster doesn’t make his interception? For that matter, how does any NFL game turn out if key plays don’t happen, or go the other way? That’s what makes them key plays, right?
And really, that’s what it is all about in the NFL. The salary cap makes it arguably the most competitive pro sports league in the world. The “any given Sunday” cliche is one that actually holds true, especially in division games, where you always throw records out the window. A lot of NFL games are decided by one or two plays. The Giants were praised for theirs, the Jets were scolded.
Again, I’m under no illusions here. I know the Dolphins are a lost cause, and that the Jets need to play much, much better football, especially at the start of games. I’m not apologizing for what I think is a defense that has some holes personnel-wise and an offense that is being held back by their offensive coordinator. But, the Jets won a game and are right back into their season now. And oh yeah, they won by 18 points, thoroughly dominating their opponent in the second half. People seem to have overlooked that.
Perhaps it’s a product of Rex Ryan’s change in the culture of the team, but it seems as though Jets fans are not satisfied with anything other than a 63-0 victory in any contest. It has gotten a little absurd, quite frankly. And if you think back to last year, the Jets weren’t exactly juggernauts, either, despite all of the good will an 11-5 season and a 2nd straight AFC Championship Game appearance created. They needed 4th quarter comebacks and/or overtime to beat some below-average competition. Their defense looked just as vulnerable last year (at times) as it does this year, especially on third downs and late in games.
People predicting a special season this year from the Jets were probably a bit misguided, which has led to an enormous amount of criticism – some justified, some not – of this .500 team so far. But in the NFL, it often boils down to one or two plays in a close game. The Jets aren’t currently great, but they’re probably not far off either.