What I saw in the Saints defense throughout that game was a tenacity and a fearlessness I had seen before. Once upon a time, the Big Blue Wrecking Crew was the scourge of the NFL. As long ago as the early 1980s, and as recently as 2008.
The recession must have put the wrecking crew out of business, because in 2009 they were nowhere to be found.
Well, maybe in Miami this past Sunday.
At the games conclusion, by convictions were cemented when I heard Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams discuss his game plan for the game. Williams said that he used the same game plan that the 1990 New York Giants used against the Buffalo Bills and Jim Kelly.
The Saints came out in a 3-4 defense, like the Giants of old, and baited Peyton and company into running the football rather than launching their usual aerial assault. In Superbowl XXV, Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick employed the same strategy. In fact, he even told his defense to let Thurman Thomas reach 100 yards rushing.
Carl Banks, Harry Caron, Lawrence Taylor, and company cringed at the thought of this initially, but they believed in their coordinator and they believed in the system they employed.
Besides, Belichick had a special job for the linebacking core, just like Gregg Williams did: pound any receiver that crosses your path.
The crux of the gameplan was to make even the short completions very tough for opposing quarterbacks, and to make catching those short passes risky for any receiver who wished not to have his bell rung.
Sure enough, some of the most high powered offenses ever were grounded, their deep options were drained, and their short passing game was tough.
As Superbowl XLIV progressed, Peyton Manning grew accustomed to seeing eight man coverages and having nothing open deep, which was fine with him for the time being.
Until the Saints began to blitz Manning.
Cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer began to sit on the short routes of their respective receivers, and when the blitz was on they were set up perfectly for a game changing interception.
And sure enough, late in the 4th quarter, up seven points, the Saints' Tracy Porter grabbed the first interception of the game and took it back 74 yards for a touchdown.
As an unbiased observer of the game, and a fan of the New York Giants, I felt an once of pride that a style of defense used to win championships was manufactured in the backyard of my very own team.
But before I could take that pride to the bank, the disgust took over.
Disgust, knowing that my very own team, once engineers of this incredible and innovative strategy, could no longer employ it themselves.
Disgust, knowing how far the Giants defensive unit has fallen.
Disgust, knowing that the New York Giants no longer even bear a semblance to the legendary units that made them "The Big Blue Wrecking Crew".
Perry Fewell, you have your work cut out for you.
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