Why the Giants are in the Super Bowl: Their opponents are losing fumbles, and the Giants aren’t

Remember Giants-Packers?  Not the one a couple weeks ago.  The one way back on December 4th.  You know… the one that was almost two months ago?  That was the last game the Giants lost a fumble.

Since then, the Giants have seen Felix Jones lose a key fumble inside his own 20 in that thrilling 37-34 nail-biter against the Cowboys.  They had Mark Sanchez fumble a snap exchange at the 1 yard line, which they recovered in the end zone for a touchback.  They sealed a win in the game against the Cowboys that decided the NFC East when they got a sack/fumble/recovery of Tony Romo.

And then, once the playoffs got underway, their opponents really started to give it up.

In the last two games, Giants opponents have fumbled a staggering seven times.  All of them, with the exception of an Aaron Rodgers fumble, were the result of careless ball security.  The Giants recovered five of them.  A quick recap:

  1. John Kuhn runs into his own teammate, coughs it up, and Antrel Rolle is there to scoop up the loose ball.  The Giants kick a FG on the ensuing drive.
  2. Aaron Ross bites on a double move, and Aaron Rodgers has a WIDE OPEN receiver streaking down the sideline.  Rodgers sees it and is about to unload what should have been an easy TD pass, but Osi Umenyiora gets one of his patented Osi swats, and knocks the ball out.  Deon Grant is there for the recovery.  The Giants go three-and-out on the next series, but they save 7.  Hail Mary aside, it’s probably the biggest play of the game.
  3. Ryan Grant, fighting for extra yards, has a weak hold on the football, and Kenny Phillips is able to knock the ball out without a ton of effort.  Chase Blackburn scoops and returns it to the GB 4 yard line.  Next play: TD Manningham.  Game.
  4. Kendall Hunter and Kyle Williams fumble a failed handoff exchange on a reverse.  The Niners recover it, but lose 10 on first down.  As a result, the Niners go three-and-out.
  5. Kyle Williams Disaster I.  Muffed punt.  Devin Thomas recovers and “scores,” but you can’t advance a muffed punt.  The Giants have a short field, and score the go ahead TD anyway on a pass to Mario Manningham.
  6. At the end of regulation, Delanie Walker fumbles, recovered by Kendall Hunter.  Meaningless play.
  7. Kyle Williams Disaster II.  Overtime.  Jacquian Williams gets a paw on the football, and it pops out of Williams’ hands.  Atrocious ball security in a moment like that.  Devin Thomas is there once again for the recovery.

That list doesn’t even include the horrible officiating job on the should-have-been Greg Jennings fumble that was recovered by the Giants.

It really isn’t rocket science.  This is how the Giants are winning.  They’re playing their version of “perfect football.”  Their opponents are making mistakes, the Giants are capitalizing, and they aren’t making egregious mistakes of their own.  It’s classic Tom Coughlin football.  And there’s nothing wrong with that at all.


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  12. Will says:

    I’ve noted a trend, that teams that have good records based mainly on getting turnovers and not forcing turnovers, without dominance in another spot, usually don’t do so well in the playoffs.
    Examples like the Packers this year, the Falcons and Patriots last year.

    The Falcons last year relied on few penalties and few turnovers, and being just good enough to get past teams. The Pats last year and the Pack this year had horrific defenses. If the defenses don’t get the turnovers, they get lit up like Sanchez did last year and Eli this year.
    The 49ers are different in they get turnovers in addition to having a stifling defense. They’re more likely to stay strong than other teams.

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  14. Brandon says:

    There is luck and randomness invloved with fumbles. The giants fumbled at least 3 times in the last game of the regular season and recovered them all. Ball bounced there way, game could have been completely different had the boys recovered 2 of them.

    1. brisulph says:

      Absolutely… yet the skill aspect of knocking it loose/recovering it is being dismissed the vast majority of the time. Two way street, both play a role.

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  16. bdawk4ever says:

    I wonder if that luck will run out in the Super Bowl or continue? The Patriots have been very good at protecting the ball as well.

    1. Free Plax says:

      So were the niners

      1. Anthony says:

        And the Packers.

  17. brisulph says:

    What drives me crazy about this is that regardless of the fact some fumbles are on the offensive player involved, the defense plays a role as well. However, to hear it told, a fumble is the offense gifting the ball to the defense an overwhelming majority of the time, while the defense gets little or NO credit. It is truly maddening as a fan of big defensive plays, as you were either lucky to recover the ball, or you “got a gift” from the offense.

    1. Agree, although in the case of the fumbles the Giants got the last two games, the majority of them were gifts. There’s also a certain skill of consistency in not fumbling, and the Giants have done an amazing job there.

  18. Anders says:

    The only problem is that recovering a fumble is not a skill, so New England could fumble is 4 times in the Super Bowl and the Giants could get lucky and recover all 4 or unlucky not to recover one at all.

    1. Fumble recoveries are tricky. Back in the day, the announcers would only note who recovered fumbles, ignoring the guy that did the tough part – knocking it loose. They’ve done a better job of giving the credit where it’s due in the last 10-15 years.

      In some respects, it’s a skill. Scooping a ball on the run is a skill, and it’s something that NFL teams practice. Other times, it’s hustle. Are you constantly running toward the football when the play is 30 yards away? Some players do. Some don’t. If an opposing runner is trying to break tackles coughs it up, a hustling player might find himself in a position to recover a fumble, while a lazy player will be nowhere near the play. And then of course, sometimes it’s pure luck on which way the ball bounces, as you noted.

      1. Steve D. says:

        Also, forcing fumbles is definitley a skill. I hate Osi, but that guy is amazing a forcing fumbles. Alot of the plays on that list were great plays by the Giants to force the fumbles to begin with.

      2. Anders says:

        What I meant is that forcing the fumble is a skill and the more fumbles you create the big the chance is to recover it, but I think it was FO there showed that there is no correlation between seasons on how many fumbles a team recover, only that over time a team is on 50%. The problem here is the sample size and the regression for the Giants can come in the Super Bowl or first happen next year.

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