For Big Blue, It’s About Tynes

Plaxico Burress caught 11 passes for 154 yards; Eli Manning solidified his seat at the Manning dinner table with a performance worthy of his brother; 33-year old Amani Toomer made a diving, toe-scraping grab along the left sideline which sustained the critical 4th quarter rally; and the defense was a fortress. There was no shortage of heroes Sunday at frigid Lambeau field, but the Giants’ supremacy was not reflected in the scoreboard. 20-20 it was, in overtime.

The New Yorkers’ passion bucket was filled with stirring performances by big-time players; but in an NFC conference title match with more back and forth bounces than a game of pong, it fell to the most unlikely hero of all to propel them to the Super Bowl

His name sounds like the third lead in a ‘40′s film noir. He looks like the eager beaver nerd sitting in the front row. When he bounded onto the field to make the decisive kick from 47 yards after missing earlier from 43 and 36, I was yelling no, no, no! I preferred a 4th and five attempt to the prospect of Lawrence Tynes hooking another lame duck offering in the general direction of the end zone. But then, magically, to the surprise of every Giant fan, and most of the other 70,000 plus in attendance, Tynes booted a soaring right to left missile which could not have more precisely bisected the goal posts so far away.

Who and what is Lawrence Tynes, and where did he come from? First, he was born in Scotland and played there for the Scottish Claymores in NFL Europe for two years before being signed by the Kansas City Chiefs, where he was the regular kicker from 2004 – 2006. He’s the parent of 6-week old twins. His nickname, much to the chagrin of long-time Giant followers, is LT.

Early this season he almost lost his job amid a flurry of missed field goals and extra points. He ranked 24th among the league’s 29 regular kickers; and prior to Sunday, he had not been called upon once this season to win a game in the fourth quarter. After Tynes’ two fourth-quarter shanks, who in his right mind would have called upon this errant Scotsman to save the day? If you listen to Tom Coughlin, he didn’t do it, either. At the deciding moment, Coughlin said that he looked for Tynes to read his body language and couldn’t find him. Reason? Tynes was already on the field lining up for the kick.

The Giants’ season was rekindled when they lost a tight game to the Pats, 38-35, in the season finale at Giants Stadium December 29th. In that game, as in others, the Pats’ killer instinct decided the game in the fourth quarter. If the stout Giant defense can interrupt New England’s ability to make the big play, then it says here the Giants can keep it close, and even win.

Other teams have parlayed a late season resurgence into a Super Bowl title. The 2000 Ravens, after enduring a spell of no touchdowns in five games, steamrollered their last several opponents. The 2001 Patriots were late bloomers. The 2005 Steelers were 7-5 after twelve games. It took fifteen games for the Giants to achieve the proper balance of pass and run; and it has taken Eli Manning that long to acquire the patience and discipline to avoid turnovers. In the last four games, Manning has thrown eight touchdowns and only one interception. Prior, he threw nineteen of each and had a bunch of fumbles. On December 23rd alone, against Buffalo, he fumbled five times.

Now, Manning sports the confidence and easy demeanor of his more accomplished brother, Peyton. Following a spate of midseason injuries to running backs Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward, the backfield has regrouped with a healthy Jacobs and shifty rookie Ahmad Bradshaw. Battering ram Jacobs and Bradshaw offer a one-two punch that keeps defenders off-balance. The Jints are among the leaders in the run and in stopping the run, which historically is a barometer of success. They are familiar with the Patriots from their encounter a few weeks ago.

Maybe it’s fools gold to believe the Giants can upset the mighty Patriots. After all, this is a team on the brink of perfection. But the pursuit of perfection exacts a heavy toll. Momentum lies with the Giants. And so does Lawrence Tynes.

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