Giants Continue Their Search for Answers as the Ravens Now Rule the Roost
As the Baltimore Ravens begin in their year-long reign as the newly crowned Super Bowl Champions, the New York Giants, who, after failing to build on a 6-2 start to their 2012 season only to find themselves without a chance to defend their world title won one year ago today, are still left wondering what could have been.
With the entire team still searching for answers on why, in the second half of what ended up a 9-7 season that saw uninspired losses to the Falcons and those same world champion Ravens, punter Steve Weatherford thinks there just weren’t enough plays made when the opportunities were there.
“I thought, for the most part, the energy at our practices and in our games was good,” Weatherford said by phone as he was en route to a recent speaking engagement. “But I felt like the thing that was missing most from the special season that we had in 2011 that we didn’t always have in 2012 was the execution.”
He noted that the personnel that the Giants fielded in 2011 down the stretch when they rolled all the way through to the Super Bowl XLVI championship was, for the most part, the same as what they had in 2012. And he opined that the coaching and game plans were just as solid in terms of putting guys into the best position to win games.
So why was it that the game day execution was, at times, absent?
“That’s the million-dollar question,” Weatherford said. “Again, we kept pretty much the same team, so when times got tough last year and we needed a comeback, (quarterback) Eli Manning was always there, and he always delivered.”
And there lies part of the problem. According to Weatherford, Manning was still very much the same clutch player, who often times put the offense in a position to succeed. But because of Manning’s past fourth-quarter heroics, Weatherford believes that maybe some of his teammates took it for granted that the quarterback had an endless amount of miracles that would bail them out of trouble.
“I think since the team was like, ‘Oh well, we’re down six points and we have a minute or two left, it’s Eli Manning time,’” said Weatherford. “Well it was Eli Manning time–but he can’t run the ball, catch the ball, and make all the blocks.
“This is just my humble opinion, but a lot of the big plays that we needed to make obviously are going to require more than just Eli Manning,” he added. “I think maybe we relied on him too much. Instead of thinking, ‘Oh it’s Eli Manning time,’ I think a lot of the guys on the team – myself included—should have been like, ‘Ok, you know what? I need to make a play right now to help the New York Giants,’ instead of ‘Oh man, I hope that Eli Manning does something spectacular.’”
Weatherford cited two instances where he had just as much of a hand in not making plays when the opportunity was there. Those two plays were significant punt returns in consecutive contests against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh–both Giants losses—that, had he punted the ball better, might have swayed the field position more in the Giants’ favor.
“You’re not going to be perfect on every punt, and obviously there are 10 other guys out there that are supposed to make the play,” he said. “This goes back to what I said about every guy doing his part and not relying on others. Those are two plays that I can take from my season, and wonder if, had it not been for the outcome of those two plays, would we have won those games?”
It’s those little short comings from his season that are driving Weatherford, a known workout warrior, to fix any deficiencies in his game so that come 2013, he’s part of the solution.
“I definitely wasn’t happy with how the season went because we didn’t make the playoffs, so I’m going to take it upon myself to do better next year,” he said. “Everyone has a nasty taste in their mouth because we saw how good we can be when we beat some of the greatest teams in the NFL this year. But then we had some other games when we came out flat, and executed poorly, and were outplayed.”
That’s why after taking a short break after the season ended, he wasted little time getting back into his “lab” to cook up ways to reinvent a better version of himself for 2013.
“Every year, to borrow a golf term, I try to add a new club to my bag,” he said. “There’s always someone who does something better than you, so I’m always going to be in the weight room trying to get bigger, stronger, and more powerful, and I’m always going to spend time on the football field trying to perfect my skills.
“Just like anything else, it’s all about repetition and watching film. It’s not always about working harder, it’s about working smarter.”