The Boat’s Not The Goat; Stop Blaming The Boat For the Giants’ Loss
Football in Miami, FL has seen better days than January 8, 2017. In the early hours of that afternoon, their beloved Miami Dolphins, making their first playoff appearance since 2008, were swiftly eliminated by the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the evening, the city was also blamed for the day’s other pro football playoff loss.
When the New York Giants lost to the Green Bay Packers 38-13, fingers were quickly pointed at a trip taken by several Giants’ receivers to Magic City on New Year’s Day, shortly after the Giants wrapped up a 13-10 victory over the Washington Redskins. This being the age of social media, the trip was well documented across several social platforms, including Twitter and Instagram, depicting the receivers partying and socializing, the posts featuring cameos by recording artist Justin Bieber and Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel, two figures well known for the negative antics outside their fields of expertise. To cap it off, a photo soon emerged of the group posing on a yacht, said to be owned by another recording artist, Trey Songz. Further rumors emerged from that photo, as well as accompanying videos, implied that there were drugs on the boat, though this was not proven.
Naturally, the minute the Giants fell behind in the game that eventually ended their season...not to mention several key drops early by the “sailors”...the blame immediately shifted to the receivers’ unique way of ringing in the New Year.
The thing is, however, that trip was the least of the Giants’ problems on Sunday afternoon.
Admittedly, there are better ways the receivers, many of whom were making their debuts in the unforgivable tournament that is the NFL playoffs, could have spent their lone off day before venturing to Wisconsin. But in the end, they are adults, grown men who are capable of making their own decisions, decisions, I may add, that they know they will be held accountable for, especially by the ever watchful prescience of the New York City media.. They put themselves in a position to, win or lose, be inevitable asked about the trip. Cowboys stars Tony Romo and Jason Witten, for example, still hear about an infamous bye week trip taken to Cabo in 2008, shortly before they became victims of a Giants team making an improbable run to Super Bowl XLII.
The Giants, for their part, did a good job of deflecting the inevitable boat questions in the buildup to Green Bay, with most players only jokingly expressing disappointment that they were not on board, while Manning humorously criticized his receivers for their lackluster packing skills. No issues were reported for any of the boat boys in terms of showing up for work, and players and staff repeatedly insisted that the team had a good week of practice headed into Sunday. Ben McAdoo acted incredulous when asked if the players would be disciplined for their voyage, repeatedly insisting it took place on an off day for the players.
Much like that Dallas incident, the trip was not to blame for ensuing loss, rather a convenient excuse, an excuse that creates easy headlines, for a good team whiffing in a big game. And to say the Giants whiffed in a big game on Sunday afternoon...as a team...is an early frontrunner for understatement of the year.
Had the trends from the early stages of Sunday’s wild card showdown kept up, it almost would’ve been understandable to blame the boat for the loss. The Giants defense were their usual selves, at one point holding Green Bay to negative yardage into the second quarter, but the offense, particularly the scrutinized receivers, were blowing opportunities. Both Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard failed to bring in solid Eli Manning passes in the end zone that could’ve added to a slim Giants lead, a lead that summited at 6-0 after the dropped passes forced Robbie Gould to clean up stalled drives.
Already, however, there were signs that this was not to be the Giants’ day. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, maker of several clutch plays during the Giants run to a 11-5 season, had already left the game with an injury, and the special teams unit was in the process of having a not-so-special day. Ill-advised catches of punts by Dwayne Harris set the Giants up in uncomfortable starting field position, and the normally dependable Brad Wing had trouble kicking in the frigid Green Bay air. In fact, it was Wing’s mere 37-yard punt, preceded by a 3-and-out and Harris fielding a punt at the New York 8, that indirectly cost the Giants their final lead of the season. With a net of just 29 yards after Micah Hyde took it to the Giants’ 38, the Packers offense scored three plays later, as Aaron Rodgers found Davante Adams from five yards out.
And that was just the beginning of the non-receiver related calamities.
It’s no longer a shock to see the Giants’ run game have trouble, and that was no exception in their playoff game, picking up 70 yards on 17 carries. After a three and out, ending with a failed 3rd and 1 that featured Bobby Rainey’s lone carry of the game, the iron will of the Giants defense shattered thanks to an ill-timed occurrence of deja vu.
Five years after Manning and Hakeem Nicks dealt a backbreaking blow to the Packers in a divisional playoff game with a first half-ending Hail Mary, Rodgers, he of several notable Hail Mary heaves over recent history, found Randall Cobb for a 42-yard score that would dictate the direction of the remainder of the ball game, the score more or less breaking the Giants’ will, breaking the iron illusion of the mighty blue defense. Songz, his Twitter mentions filled with boat-related vitriol from Giants fans, even chimed in, saying on the platform “DB’s weren’t on the yacht. Just a lil [sic] FYI”.
The second half, as a matter of fact, actually featured Giants heroics from an unforeseen party who was on the boat, WR Tavarres King. Maker of two receptions during the regular season, King, who did not appear in the infamous photo because he was “getting food” according to Songz, scored what became the Giants’ lone touchdown of the day, narrowing the score to 14-13.
However, the mighty defense, responsible for keeping a low scoring offense in a good number of games this season...and, again, featured no members on the infamous yacht...allowed Aaron Rodgers to do Aaron Rodgers things. The State Farm spokesman threw for 362 yards and four scores, earning two of his receivers 100+ yard days. Special teams again were not immune to the chaos, with Rainey shockingly fielding a Packer kickoff that seemed trajected for out of bounds, unable to keep his balance as he caught it at the edge of the field of play. The game, almost appropriately, was more or less sealed in a display of New York silliness when Clay Matthews swiped the ball away from Manning, and no one from the Giants went after it. The Packers took it for their final score of the day, setting up the 38-13 final score and a divisional playoff date with the Dallas Cowboys this week.
The person who greatest exemplifies the perfect balance of business and pleasure is Rob Gronkowski, football’s best tight end. Time and time again, we’re reminded of “Gronk’s” hard partying antics, his escapades resembling party scenes from The Wolf of Wall Street. So why isn’t it that every time Gronkowski is caught living it up, we question his ethics, his morale, his desire? Simple...because he and his teammates come to work on Sunday and do their thing every single time. Gronkowski, like the Giants’ receivers, is an adult and free to do as he pleases. He also knows he is depended up on to do a job on Sunday, and does it to success each time.
So, in hindsight...25 points, 2 turnovers, 406 yards, and a Rodgers miracle is a lot to pin on some trip that had taken place a week prior.
And now, thanks to a performance...a team performance that featured careless football at all three levels of the game...on display not in the warm seas of Miami, but rather the icy winds of Green Bay, the Giants will have plenty of time to set sail until training camp begins.
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