As we wait for the Giants and Patriots to take the field in Indianapolis, we're going to be running down the 10 biggest reasons why the Giants are headed to Super Bowl 42. Coming in at No. 2 is Jason Pierre-Paul.
There's little need to resort to hyperbole when talking about how big the Giants' Sunday Night game in Dallas on Dec. 11 was to the team's season.
At 6-6, a loss would have left them two games behind the Cowboys with three to play and taken away the possibility that they could control their own playoff destiny. On top of that, it would have been a fifth straight loss amid mounting criticism that could have wound up costing Tom Coughlin, Perry Fewell and plenty of other people their jobs once the year was out.
A lot was at stake, but, as had been the case for much of the season, the Giants defense wasn't capable of rising to the occasion. Well, most of them weren't.
One guy stepped up and put the team's chances of making anything out of their season on his shoulders. Jason Pierre-Paul played the game of his life that Sunday night and there's not even the slightest reason to believe that the Giants would be in the Super Bowl without his efforts.
Pierre-Paul sacked Tony Romo twice, one of which was a safety that led to a short field and a Giants field goal that put them up 5-0 in the first quarter. That early lead was huge, because the Cowboys would go on to outscore the Giants 34-17 from that point until there were five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
But even those 17 points wouldn't have been possible without JPP. He forced a fumble deep in Dallas territory before halftime, leading to another field goal, and was all over the field making tackles that stopped plays before they started or halted them before they could become big gainers.
And then, finally, Pierre-Paul sealed the win by blocking a game-tying field goal attempt on the final play of the game. Dan Bailey actually kicked once, a try negated by Tom Coughlin's timeout, and Pierre-Paul used that play to diagnosis a vulnerability in the Cowboys blocking scheme that he exploited for the block that won the game.
The scariest part of the whole night? That might not have even been Pierre-Paul's best game of the season.
He had multiple sacks in four other games, he made 16 tackles while trying to carry his feckless teammates in a loss to the Redskins and was generally an unblockable beast who made opposing offenses change their gameplans in futile attempts to slow him down. Amazing all by itself, but unbelievable given how little help he got from the 10 other players on the field most of the time.
Of course, as you've heard a million times by now, the Giants defense has come back with a vengeance in the last five weeks. Pierre-Paul's numbers have gone down while Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora get all of the attention for their big plays.
They are playing well, but you've got to ask yourself whether that's because they are so good or because offenses are devoting so many resources to stopping Pierre-Paul that they can't possible block the end on the other side of the line? That seems pretty reasonable and it should make for a lot of watery mouths around the Giants when they consider that JPP is just scratching the surface of what he can do in the second year of his career.
The future is bright for Pierre-Paul, but the present is bright for the Giants because of him.