When the Giants were rolling their way through the first three months of the season, it wasn't hard to find people waxing rhapsodic about Earth, Wind and Fire. Nor was it hard to hear voices singing the praises of Justin Tuck or proclaiming Eli Manning's arrival as an elite quarterback. Somewhat more muted, though, were the odes to the offensive line.
Throughout history, linemen have been the invisible fundamentals of any good team and the Giants were no different. There weren't players more important to the Giants than David Diehl, Rich Seubert, Shaun O'Hara, Chris Snee and Kareem McKenzie but you'd never think so from the amount of attention paid to Plaxico Burress. In fact, the only time the spotlight really found them was in their worst game of the season in Dallas last week.
It should be shining on them again this Monday, however. The Giant running game came back in a major way on Sunday night, and it wasn't just because Brandon Jacobs was back in the lineup. Most of Derrick Ward's 215 yards came through holes big enough to be tourist attractions and the five linemen didn't wear down as the game reached the fourth quarter and overtime. They overwhelmed the Panthers defense, which was missing massive defensive tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu, and spurred the victory.
As defenses adjust to the post-Plaxico Giants, the play of the line will continue to loom large. More defenders will play close to the line, missed blocks will mean blown-up plays and the offense will grind to a halt. The offense has had to adapt to not having Burress as well. Big passing plays are out and ball-control is in, something that puts even more pressure on the line.
After losses to the Eagles and Cowboys, there was reason to wonder if the group was up to the task required of them. Sunday night's performance, though, proved that rumors of their demise were exaggerated.