Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. will be the most famous names in road white jerseys when America turns its TV eyes to Lambeau Field on Sunday afternoon.
But when it comes to actually deciding the Giants’ wild-card playoff game against the Packers, history suggests the most important thing will be what happens when those two are watching from the sideline.
As anyone paying attention since 1925 knows, when it comes to the Giants, it almost always comes down to defense.
Friday brought another reminder, when The Associated Press put two Giants defenders on its All-Pro first team (safety Landon Collins and tackle Damon Harrison) and three on its second team (cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and end Olivier Vernon).
“We definitely knew we could be special, but how special could we be?” DRC said. “You still have to go out there and play, and for the most part, that’s what we did.”
This tradition began at the beginning.
In the Giants’ first NFL championship season, 1927, they outscored opponents 197-20 and recorded 10 shutouts en route to an 11-1-1 record in an era before postseason games.
They played their first playoff game in 1933 and have a 24-24 record in the postseason. In those 48 games, opponents have averaged only 18.5 points (the Giants have averaged 18.0).
In the 24 victories, the Giants have allowed an average of 11.4 points, including seven games in which they have allowed seven or fewer. And they never have won a playoff game while allowing more than 21.
The list includes some of the most storied games in franchise history:
Beating the Bears, 30-13, in the “Sneakers Game” in 1934; routing the Bears, 47-7, in 1956; shutting out Jim Brown’s Browns, 10-0, in 1958; a 17-0 shutout of the Redskins in 1987; a Super Bowl run in 1991 in which they allowed a total of 35 points in three games, including 19 to the K-Gun Bills; a 41-0 rout of the Vikings in 2001, and a quirky 24-2 win over the Falcons in 2012.
And remember, as much as Super Bowl XLII is recalled for Manning to David Tyree and Super Bowl XLVI for Manning to Mario Manningham, the Giants held the explosive Patriots to a total of 31 points in the two games.
The point is, there is a long, blue thread that runs from Sam Huff to Lawrence Taylor to Michael Strahan to the likes of Harrison and Collins, who on Friday were sporting new “NYPD” hats — the hats courtesy of real New York cops and the nickname courtesy of Newsday’s Tom Rock.
A victory over Aaron Rodgers’ Packers would go a long way toward turning the “New York Pass Defense” into a national brand.
“I don’t know who did the scouting or brought this group together,” said Harrison, who like Jenkins and Vernon arrived via free agency this season. “I know [general manager] Jerry Reese had a big part in it. But the group of guys that were here before and the guys they brought in, you don’t see that too often that different groups genuinely get along on and off the field.”
Vernon said the chemistry has developed organically. “It just shows the type of caliber guys we’ve got on our team,” he said. “They’ve been putting in the work since Day One, even before they got here.”
The last time the Giants had a first-team All-Pro was defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul in 2011. That also was the last season in which they won a Super Bowl.
“I mean, honestly, I’m very appreciative of the recognition,” Vernon said, “but now it’s time to get back to work.”
The work to this point has allowed the Giants to yield an average of 17.8 points in the regular season, best in the NFC and second in the NFL to the Patriots’ 15.6.
Hmm. Might we be headed for another low-scoring Giants-Patriots Super Bowl? What else is new?