Monday, January 08, 2007

Hustle Play of the Game

You know what stuck out to me as I review my Tivo recording of the first half? This hidden gem on what was a broken play for the Eagles D: the run blitz that back-fired into Tiki Barber's longest run of the game, putting the ball deep into Eagles territory.

Let me set the stage: Eagles winning 10-7 and have taken the momentum from the Giants. Eli & Co muster up a reply...Shockey has his signature play of the year (getting belted by OG after making a catch, losing his helmet and still flailing forward for the first down)...and the Giants are moving the ball effectively, ball on the Eagles side of mid-field...

-- This sets up my hidden hustle play of the game....those few plays that will often be forgotten but which have an undeniable impact on the get to it already, why is a broken run-blitz that resulted in a huge gain for the Giants one of the plays of the game: because it is not the Giants who were ultimately the most affected by the play. In my humble opinion, the Eagles were, and it was made possible by the hustle of cornerbacks Rod Hood and Lito Sheppard, who would eventually knock Tiki out of bounds. You see, Tiki looked like he was on his way to matching an earlier game-breaking run by Westbrook--that is taking one "to the house" from mid-field. The Eagles run blitzed SS Sean Considine from the corner, but Giants FB Jim Finn picked it up, turned SS Sean Considine to the outside, and the footrace was on. Tiki put a good juke on FS Brian Dawkins and the only folks between a 14-10 Giants lead were CBs Rod Hood and Lito Sheppard. The problem, Hood was on the far-sideline and had gotten blocked by the WR. He was beat on the play--Tiki raced past him, but Hood kept hustling, and by doing so, drew the attention of the only other Giants player downfield -- WR Plaxico Burress. Burress moved to cut off Hood -- he did knock Rod out of bounds behind the play -- but Burress left his man Sheppard to get that block....turns out if Burress had stayed with Lito, Tiki probably would've out-raced Hood to the endzone...instead, Burress got a relatively meaningless block on Hood, freeing Lito to shoulder Tiki out at the 4 yard line...

The Eagles D held, forcing a Jay Feely FG to knot the game at 10-10 with about 4 minutes or so left in the first half...The Eagles promptly responded and marched down to score a TD before the half. However, IF the Giants had 4 more points, the game very well could have played out a whole lot differently than it did.

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