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If you thought the biggest game in the history of the series between the Jets and Giants was going to be a ho-hum affair, you were dead wrong.
You were also wrong if you thought it would be particularly well played by either side, but that probably won't matter all that much to Giants fans. Their team won 29-14 and that means they will play the Cowboys at home next Sunday for a shot at winning the NFC East.
You can break down the game into as minute detail as you like, but that's the only thing that matters for Big Blue. They didn't play all that well and made mistakes that a better opponent could have exploited, but they came up with a big effort in the second half and rolled away with the game by the final whistle.
Much credit for that has to go to an offensive line that found itself after halftime and allowed the team to consistently make plays in the running game. Eli Manning was held mostly in check by the Jets secondary, finishing with an ugly 9-of-27 line, but he hit one big pass when it mattered the most.
With the Giants backed up on their own one in the second quarter, Manning hit Victor Cruz for what looked like a first down and breathing room. Cruz made three Jets miss, though, and sprinted his way for a Giants-record 99-yard touchdown that turned a Jets-dominated first half into a 10-7 Giants lead.
As for the Jets, all their boasts of being big brother in New York went down in flames thanks to a performance that won't have anyone clamoring to see them make the playoffs. Not that they'll have much chance of making them, thanks to wins by the Raiders and Bengals, and they certainly don't deserve a chance to do anything other than end their season quietly.
Figuring out the right adjectives to describe the Jets offensive performance on Sunday would stretch the limits of the greatest thesaurus ever written. Against a Giants defense that has been torn apart on a weekly basis, the Jets chose to neither throw the ball down the field nor run the ball against a soft unit that was yielding yardage.
Give credit to the Giants' pass rush for making life difficult, but the combination of Mark Sanchez and Brian Schottenheimer was as bad as it has ever been on Saturday. Sanchez put the ball up 59 times, threw two interceptions and had two fumbles wiped out by instant replay thanks to a game plan that put entirely too much of the game on his shoulders.
Not that you shouldn't expect your quarterback to handle such a workload, mind you, but if you aren't going to go big then why would you make passing the centerpiece of your approach?
It is impossible to imagine the Jets coming back with the same offense again next season. They simply can't compete as things are currently constructed and, given Sanchez's contract, that means they need someone else pulling the strings.
He also fumbled a snap (which appeared to be Nick Mangold's fault, if such details matter) at the Giants goal-line with a chance to cut a 20-7 Giants lead to six points in the fourth and that's when the game got weird. Instead of trying to run the clock out, the Giants chose to throw at Darrelle Revis and were punished with a deflection turned interception that led to a Jets touchdown.
The Jets would get the ball back twice more, but each possession ended with a sack. The second of those came when Chris Canty corralled Sanchez in the end zone for a safety that essentially ended the game.
It is a very sweet win for the Giants and one they fought hard to get. They haven't accomplished anything unless they beat the Cowboys next week, but they deserve much credit for keeping the faith through seven weeks of mostly bad football.
They just need one week of good football to make that all irrelevant, which should make for quite the exciting start to 2012.