The Philadelphia Eagles have set themselves up as the Miami Heat of football, a self-proclaimed Dream Team, with everyone gunning for them trying to knock them down a peg, and gaining just a little more satisfaction than usual when coming out victorious. And with Michael Vick's whining about all the hits he's taken to go along with his team's 1-2 record and overinflated sense of grandeur, they're not looking so dreamy so far to begin the season (but, to be fair, there's plenty of time for them to turn things around). The New York picked the right Sunday to play their best game of the season, though, and maybe best road game in a few years, in their impressive 29-16 win over Philadelphia, which ended Big Blue's six-game losing streak against their division rival.
All facets of the Aaron Ross' first interception was the momentum-changing turning point of the game, after the Giants went three-and-out to begin the afternoon, and Vick & Co. drove down field with ease. And his second interception put the game on ice. In between, Jason Pierre-Paul was a monster (two sacks), Michael Boley made the tackle of the game, bringing LeSean McCoy down behind the line of scrimmage on a fourth down, Kenny Phillips impressed and picked off a pass, Chris Canty knocked Vick out of the game with a clean, hard hit, Jacquian Williams made 10 tackles and the secondary turned Steve Smith invisible.' game were in full force on Sunday, so we must give the coaching staff credit for the game-plan and getting the team ready to play.
On offense, Eli Manning wasn't perfect, but he came pretty close, with his bad-decision/interceptions nowhere to be seen on Sunday. Ahmad Bradshaw gained a combined 139 yards with a touchdown. got open for a 40-yard TD reception. And Victor Cruz stepped up in a big way, with the depleted receiver position needing somebody to overachieve. Both his touchdowns came with a great individual effort to reach the end zone. And the special teams were barely noticed, which is good in the case of the Giants, and they drew the Eagles off sides on a field-goal attempt and neutralized DeSean Jackson. On the down side, Travis Beckham misplayed the one ball thrown to him, which should have been converted into a first down and Antrel Rolle needs to concentrate more on tackling and being more disciplined on the field than talking off it (and later in the week, Jacobs joined LeBron James and Plaxico Burress in telling fans to go back to their "miserable lives" -- do these guys all think anyone who doesn't play professional sports is unhappy?). But for one afternoon at least, the depleted, injury ravaged Giants were better than the Dream Team.
And now on to the other top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
Heidi Revisited: Sunday's New York Jets game against the Oakland Raiders was like a throwback to the wild old days of the AFL, with the two old-time rivals squaring off on a dusty baseball infield. Unfortunately, for the , the 34-24 upset held a few resemblances to the infamous Heidi Game, which took place in the same stadium 43 years ago with the Raiders prevailing by a 43-32 score. Instead of Darren McFadden wreaking havoc with the Jets' defense, back in that game, it was Charlie Smith, who scored a pair of touchdowns, gained 53 rushing yards, 76 receiving yards and 78 yards on kickoff returns. The goat of this year's game, Antonio Cromartie, even fumbled a kickoff just as Earl Christy did at the end of the Heidi Game, which resulted in the final Raider touchdown both times. The defense was the culprit in both games, with quarterbacks Mark Sanchez (27-for-43, 369 yards, two touchdown passes, one rushing touchdown, broken nose) and Joe Namath doing their part, with the losses being no fault of their own, all the while being thrown around by the Silver and Black like rag dolls. And LaDainian Tomlinson (116 receiving yards, touchdown, 38 rushing yards) channeled Don Maynard (228 receiving yards, touchdown). The only thing missing was the end of the game being cut off for a children's movie. As memorable as that loss was four decades ago, the Jets did go on to win the Super Bowl that season. So, a loss is just a loss. It's only one game. But don't tell that to Namath, who criticized Rex Ryan's coaching style and his team's alleged lack of preparation.
There Go the Sox, Here Come the Tigers: The only thing that was left for the New York Yankees to do this week was tune up for the playoffs and stand back and watch the Red Sox and Rays slug it out for the wild card. The Bombers did their part in stymieing their most hated foe, the Sox, by losing their series against Tampa Bay. They were even so kind as to hit into a triple play for the Rays, and the Yanks played their part in one of the greatest nights of baseball in recent memory by blowing an unfathomable seven-run, eighth-inning lead. Of course, the Rays may ultimately be a tougher draw than Boston if they meet up in the ALCS, but watching the Red Sox collapse and having a small hand in it has to be a little satisfying for the Yankees and their fans. Now the real fun begins: Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers. The rotation is set: CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia. And the first pitch for Game One is scheduled for 8:37 on Friday night.
Say It Ain't So, Jose: Yes, leave it to the New York Mets to turn a meaningless, last-day-of-the-season game into an embarrassing fiasco. They finally have their first batting champion in franchise history, but now, fair or not, it comes with the always-to-be-remembered stain of Jose Reyes asking to be removed from the game after one at-bat. Terry Collins acquiesced, as the whole Met organization must have done, because they didn't want to ruffle Reyes' feathers. And in his postgame comments, Reyes was clueless as to what his decision meant. Collins originally had planned for him to come out after two or three at-bats to give the fans a chance to applaud Reyes one last time, but even that backfired, as the fans booed when he left the field. Reyes finished the season going 9-for-15, and if he would have stayed in for one or two more at-bats, he would have still won the batting title and it would have been a feel-good day all around. Sure, precedents have been set with Bernie Williams coming out of the last game of the 1998 season early to protect his lead against Mo Vaughn, and Wade Boggs sat out the last series of the year in 1986, but with the Mets, it's just one more thing to throw on the pile of things they have done wrong (or have been perceived to have done wrong).
Two More Years: The Mets exercised Collins' 2013 option this week. Considering what he had to work with this season, which included a bad starting rotation, horrible bullpen, minor-league-level lineup and injuries piled upon injuries, he kept them respectable all year when they could have easily been a 100-loss team. If Sandy Alderson thinks he's the manager of the future then it was a good move, with stability and accountability counting for a lot. Unless Alderson pulls a rabbit out of his hat, next year's team will most likely resemble this year's team (though hopefully with Johan Santana and Ike Davis), so there really aren't a lot of expectations to contend any time soon. The organization is in a holding pattern until the Matt Harveys and Zach Wheelers come along, so there's no sense in having a lame-duck manager when there's a massive rebuilding plan in motion. Collins has a long way to go, though, in the crying department, if he wants to catch up to waterworks legends Joe Torre and Dick Vermeil. And there was good news for the Wilpons: A federal judge threw out nine of the 11 counts against them in the Bernie Madoff case. The bad news: They're not out of the woods yet, as they may still be on the hook for $386 million.
On the Ice: Speaking of the Philadelphia-New York rivalry, Glen Sather, acting like he was at a Friar's Club roast, stepped up to the podium to defend New York after listening to Flyers owner Ed Snider ramble on about the greatness of his franchise and city during the Winter Classic press conference. Sather gave a slightly tongue-and-cheek Namath/Mark Messier-like guarantee, claiming the New York will win on January 2nd, and the Blueshirts and Yankees will be champions when their respective seasons end, though he briefly forgot that he doesn't run the Edmonton Oilers anymore when he stated "we" beat the Flyers twice in the Stanley Cup. On the ice, the Rangers have to be excited by the chemistry and production shown by Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards in the Friday win over the New Jersey Devils. After losing to the Flyers on Monday, with the game including the usual Broad Street Bully antics but this time with some homophobic slurs thrown Sean Avery's way, the Rangers jetted off to Europe to begin their grueling, other-side-of-the-ocean road trip (and beat Sparta Prague, 2-0, in their first overseas game). They left without Marc Staal, though he still may play on opening day and will be practicing with the Connecticut Whale for now. If the Rangers are optimistic about their new acquisition in Richards, the Devils are just as excited about their first-round draft pick, Adam Larsson. His breakout passes may work perfectly with Ilya Kovalchuk's talents, as the pair picked up five points in the loss to the Rangers, though the rookie struggled a bit in Thursday's loss to the Flyers. And the New York Islanders have reason for giddiness themselves, with the return of newly named captain Mark Streit, who showed instant productivity last Saturday in the win over the Devils, with a goal and two assists, and who will be the quarterback of their power play.
Introducing the Brooklyn Nets: On Monday, Jay-Z announced that the New Jersey Nets will officially change their name to the Brooklyn Nets with next year's move. They could have gone back to their roots and renamed themselves the Americans or made Fred Wilpon happy and called themselves the Brooklyn Dodgers (which they briefly considered), but instead they chose to keep the Mets/Jets/Nets rhyming scheme intact, though new uniforms, colors and logo may be in their future.
This Day in Baseball History: Saturday, October 1 is the fiftieth anniversary of Roger Maris breaking Babe Ruth's single-season home run record, which, let's face it, is still the real record, after Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds made a mockery of baseball history. But forty years ago, on September 30th, a lesser event took place in which the Yankees were involved. The Washington hosted the Bombers in their final game at RFK Stadium before moving to Texas and becoming the Rangers. DC fans were incensed by the upcoming move, and showed their wrath at owner Bob Short by holding up "Short Stinks" signs during the game. An extra 10,000 fans filed into the park without paying after the game had begun and security left early. The Senators took a 7-5 lead into the top of the ninth inning when Felipe Alou, pinch-hitting for reliever Jack Aker, led off, and grounded out to shortstop Toby Harrah. Some fans ran onto the field delaying the game, but play eventually resumed and Bobby Murcer grounded out to pitcher Joe Grzenda for the second out. The third out never came, though, as all hell broke loose. Fans stormed onto the field, and someone grabbed first base and ran off with it. With security long gone and only three bases remaining, the umpires called the game and awarded the victory to the Yankees, for their 82nd win of the year. And that was the end of baseball in DC until the Expos became the Nationals in 2005.