The 2013-2014 Seattle Seahawks are awesome. They shot right out of the gate as one of the best teams in the country and stayed there all year right up to now. They did not seek respect. They commanded it. They were aggressive, dirty, and weren't afraid of anything. They hit you right in the mouth, and before you had a chance to respond, they hit you again.
The 2013-2014 Denver Broncos are awesome. They had an aura of invicibility about them that knocked teams off-balance right from the beginning. They were powerful, they were precise, they were merciless. While the Seahawks hit you over and over again, all Peyton Manning had to do was line up opposite you, and you knew it was over.
The 2013-2014 New York Giants were not awesome. They were a mess. They were the last-gasp vestiges of a once-proud and resilient team that won two Super Bowls. They laid dormant for half a season before waking up, and when they did they sprung leak after leak after leak. What was left was a team full of holes and empty on confidence.
What will it take for the 2014-2015 New York Giants to make it to Super Bowl XLIX? The Seahawks and Broncos can teach us. No, I'm not going to talk about scheme and personnel, though of course those are all imperative and the top two reasons. However, you just can't help but feel that the Seahawks and Broncos are a different breed because of their mentality and I want to explore that aspect of those teams.
Play with arrogance. Richard Sherman represents the Seahawks quite well. He talks the talk and walks the walk. You have to do that. If you don't believe in yourself, how can you expect anyone else to? The Seahawks are the brashest team in the NFL and it's no secret that that is linked to their success.
Their "us against the world" mentality is one that Giants' fans should be familiar with. During the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl runs, our team had the same approach. They kept harping to each other that everybody else gave them no shot (which is true), and took that anger and frustration and sublimated it into an increased drive.
What separated the Seahawks is that this confidence came from within. There was no external motivation there. Everybody picked the Seahawks to be a strong team at the beginning of the season. The Giants have traditionally needed outside negativity to get them to wake up.
Walk with pride from the very beginning and you'll be the last one walking at the very end.
Hit people. Play angry. Play hard. Play physical. The Seahawks were the most penalized team in the NFL. Their secondary led the league in pass interference penalties. They routinely mug receivers and hit them away from the ball. Marshawn Lynch goes out of his way to hit you.
Do you remember when the Giants knocked out the most quarterbacks in the NFL? Do you remember when they had 48 sacks in 2011? Do you remember when we saw those huge hits by Will Hill and Kenny Phillips? Or when Jason Pierre-Paul physically threw Tyron Smith, a 300-pound tackle, to the ground as if he was a slightly oversized Teddy Bear?
Seems like a long time ago, right? The Giants certainly took steps in the right direction with the addition of Jon Beason, but it seems like even their sacks seemed ordinary. They lacked any real venom. They didn't play like someone insulted them. That's how the Seahawks play every snap, like somebody slapped each one of them in the face. If they are to win the NFC East, they need to win their one on one battles. They need to bully and intimidate. Giants are big people, and as Eagle coach Chip Kelly says:
Big people beat up little people.
I watch highlights of that 1986 team and I see players that put their full force into every hit. I watch highlights of the 2011 team and I see Hakeem Nicks shrugging off bone-jarring hits to stay on his feet and get extra yardage. I see Ahmad Bradshaw running through people on two broken feet. Toughness is a precious commodity and one the Seahawks have in spades.
Attack a weakness ... and don't stop. The Denver Broncos do one thing and do it exceptionally well. They hand the ball to Peyton Manning and support his magic. What does Peyton do? He identifies a weakness, whether it be the safeties sneaking up for that delay blitz, or if its mismatch on the outside, or whatever it may be. Then, he attacks it. It's so simple, yet so difficult to execute.
The Giants have stuck, rather stubbornly, to forcing a balance between pass and run. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Whatever they do, it's not organic. With their quick-strike offense and with Peyton making the calls at the line, the Broncos are well-equipped to find the breaks in a defense's armor and attack it mercilessly. They don't stop because they are ahead, they'll keep throwing and put the foot to the throat and squeeze.
The Giants were soft for a large part of the year. They didn't have the killer instinct. To succeed and survive, you've got to have the fortitude to keep the pressure on. They did not.
Adversity makes you stronger. Be resilient. This is one area where I think the Giants are okay, and even have excelled. Let's face it, they've faced a lot of adversity. Lots of it has been self-inflicted, but some hasn't. They couldn't control the hemorrhage of injuries they had faced. Despite that, they scratched, clawed, and pushed their way to a 7-9 record after an 0-6 start. That bears mentioning. It's impressive, regardless of who their opponents were and nobody can convince me otherwise.
The Broncos lost their best defensive player in Von Miller. They lost both of their starting safeties and their starting cornerback Champ Bailey has been injured. They lost their best offensive lineman in Ryan Clady. Their coach went for open heart surgery during the season. The Broncos never wavered behind the arm of Manning. He stabilized them.
Think back to the Giants from 2011. Worst running game in the league. The defense served up yards on a silver platter. Yet, if they were within seven points and Eli Manning had the ball in his hands late in the fourth quarter, everybody in the world knew how it would turn out. The Giants knew. The opponents knew. The resiliency of that team was the stuff of legend. The fact that they were overmatched in most of their games and yet hung in there and won is amazing. That San Francisco championship game where the Giants were against a superior opponent that kept smacking them around was the epitome of that year as a whole.
Every time they were hit. Every time something went wrong, the Giants stood back up.
Those 2011 playoffs, man. They took that little bit of luck and turned it into opportunity. They played angry. They played like the world was against them, like they were being laughed at as the 9-7 junior varsity team against the big boys. They took every hit on the chin and were patient enough to find that one weakness and took it and drove that proverbial stake through the enemy's heart.
Matt Ryan ain't nothin'. Aaron Rodgers' ain't nothin'. Those 49ers ain't nothin'. Tom Brady ain't nothin'.
The Seahawks and Broncos both have that killer instinct and that's why they are here. The Giants had it before, and if they can find it again ...
... this league ain't nothin'.
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