The Giants’ opener against the Redskins last night played out like a highlight film of their 2007 season, but in reverse. The night began (at least on NBC’s abbreviated coverage of the pregame ceremonies — kickoff was moved up 90 minutes because of John McCain’s speech in St. Paul) with Michael Strahan showing off the Lombardi Trophy to a delirious crowd. Then, once the game started, Eli Manning confidently led the Giants downfield for an easy-looking score on a dominant 84-yard opening drive. For good measure, Justin Tuck registered a sack on the first defensive play from scrimmage. Yes, these were the Super Bowl champs.
Then just before the end of the first half, the Giants reverted to the team they were in the regular season last year: a good, fine, solid one — but not often great. The defense, to be sure, is still the strength of this team, even without Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, but it’s worth mentioning that the Redskins, quite frankly, are terrible. (It’d have been embarrassing had Jason Campbell thrown for more than 133 yards.) And the offense looked like it was sliding down the back of a bell curve that peaked at the end of the Super Bowl: The only TD came early, followed by three first-half field goals, then came a second half that consisted of four punts and a Manning interception.
The Giants’ title defense comes with very little pressure as these things go: Yes, there’s the personnel losses (built-in excuses!), but more significantly, nobody really considered them the best team last year — just the one that won the Super Bowl. So they’re not supposed to win it all, just like they weren’t supposed to win it all last year. (Hell, they’re not even supposed to win their division.) So after week one, as Dennis Green might say, the Giants are who we thought they were: Good. Sometimes very good, occasionally great, but usually just good. And let’s hope good enough.