Grey Ruegamer and Michael Matthews: The Forgotten G-Men
Is anybody else still high on the Giants unlikely Super Bowl victory?
Well, this writer is, and he's spent the last two weeks breaking down and analyzing all of the unlikely events that led the G-Men to the promised land and the Lombardi Trophy.
Sure, we've all seen replay after replay of "Catch 42" or whatever you would like to call David Tyree's pigskin-to-helmet miracle.
We've seen how Eli was somehow able to thread the needle to Tyree for the first Giant touchdown.
We've seen Justin Tuck run circles around the Pats O-line.
We saw rookie tight end Kevin Boss make an important 40-yard catch. Going back to the NFC championship, we cringed and then burst with joy when Lawrence Tynes won the game with his third game-winning field goal attempt.
However, two names one does not hear mentioned often are those of back-up center/guard Grey Ruegamer and the other rookie tight end, Michael Matthews.
Remember Week 16, when Coach Tom Coughlin played all of his starters and really wanted to stick it to New England? Remember some of the casualties of that game, including cornerback Sam Madison and center Shaun O'Hara? Corey Webster, Madison's replacement, certainly made himself noticed in the playoffs, providing white-on-rice coverage to Tampa's, Dallas's, Green Bay's, and New England's top receivers. However, O'Hara's replacement, veteran center/guard Grey Ruegamer, was hardly a blip on anybody's radar (television) screen. Anybody who knows football knows that the center is just as vital as any other position on the field. The center often assists the quarterback in identifying blocking assignments and of course has the job of delivering the ball safely to his field general. This is especially important when the center is snapping to the pre-Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning. The near thirty turnover Eli Manning. Well, needless to say, Mr. Ruegamer provided plenty of good blocking during the Tampa Bay wild card game, and also safely and securely delivered snaps to Mr. Elisha Manning without fear of a fumble, muff, or any other kind of butterfingering of the football.
Fast-forward to the NFC Championship game. O'Hara had been back in the line-up and Grey Ruegamer was on the sidelines hoping his frozen corpse would not become a permanent artifact of historic Lambeau Field. As the game progresses, the Giants are met with the task of replacing the heart and soul of their offensive line, Rich Seubert, Mr. Courageous, Mr. "I had my leg shattered sat out for over the year, was on the bench and wanted to prove that me and my metal rod could serve up more pancakes that Aunt Jemima." Well, Mr. Ruegamer was up to the task and helped keep the ball safe (except when RW McQuarters got his hands on it) just long enough for Mr. Third Tynes is a Charm to get Big Blue into the Big Game.
Michael Matthews does not provide as much fodder for stories as Mr. Ruegamer does, but nevertheless deserves his accolades for his tough, gritty, team play throughout the year and the playoffs. In reality, Matthews never moved on the depth chart after Jeremy Shockey's season-ending (and double-fisting beginning) injury. He was always the second tight end, brought in for extra blocking on the line and also to come out of the backfield on occasion. Kevin Boss leap-frogged his way to the number one spot, with his pass-catching abilities more similar to those of Shockey. However, some analysts were able to point out that Matthews helped open up a good number of holes for Mr. Jacobs and young Mr. Bradshaw. Go back through your playoff and Super Bowl highlights and you'll see Matthews #88 jersey in many of the shots of Jacobs and Bradshaw bursts through the opposing defenses.
Matthews will likely be the focus of some media attention as next season approaches. Many believe that Kevin Boss can catch the ball well enough while keeping his mouth shut, and that Jeremy Shockey may become obsolete to the Giants. However, the knock on Boss is that his blocking is no where as good as that of Shockey, so how much faith the Giants have in Matthews' ability to block may help determine if the fans of Big Blue have another season of blond locks and tattoos patrolling the turf of Giants Stadium (insert "Dog the Bounty Hunter" reference here) or if the #80 jerseys end up going the way of the #21 jerseys this writer and others have in their closets.
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