In his Daily News column this morning, graybeard Gary Myers says, straight up, “He won’t admit it, his teammates won’t admit it, but how could a police investigation hanging over his head not distract [Antonio] Pierce?” After the Eagles’ 20–14 upset win over the New York Giants yesterday, this is a new motif. The Giants have been a dominant football team all season, but they have also been boring. When they were boring and winning, the city and its scribes were focusing on the Jets. Now that Saturday Night Live is doing unfunny skits about Plaxico Burress, the Giants finally have an easy story line. When a story like this appears, everything else is gleefully chucked out the window.
One of yesterday’s key plays was an Eagles touchdown in which Pierce was unable to defend against
Bryant Brian Westbrook, mainly because Westbrook is smaller and faster. Gary Myers asks Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb “if the Eagles were picking on Pierce because he might be vulnerable after the strain of the last 10 days.” Let’s think about this for a moment. Imagine McNabb — who has to get rid of the football within four seconds lest huge men knock him violently to the ground — going through his possible receivers, seeing they’re all covered, and then saying to himself, “Wait! Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce has been distracted by a court testimony he had to give 48 hours ago! He’s weighed down with legal issues! I think I’ll pass to the guy he’s defending!” McNabb tells Myers no, but adds, “Westbrook on Pierce, we will take that.” This is because Westbrook is faster than Pierce. This is not because Pierce was off wandering aimlessly in the end zone, distracted by torts.
But the story line must not be blocked: The Giants Lost Because They Were “Distracted,” not because they were playing a red-hot team and were due, after a season of dominance, for an off day, a game in which the offense never quite got in synch. No one seems to have noticed this, but the Giants clinched the NFC East yesterday (thanks to the Cowboys’ loss). They have had an amazing year, and still have to be considered the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl. But now, because they’ve lost one game and stand 11–2, all is doomed. Because a wide receiver who had missed half the season shot himself in the thigh last week. Because everyone is “distracted.” The Giants didn’t lose much of anything yesterday, and they’re still likely to win home-field advantage in the playoffs. Some Giants complained that their success this year had been ignored because of Brett Favre, and because they lacked a certain Gotham pizzazz. But this week, when the questions keep coming, they’ll wish everyone still found them so dull.