King Kong vs Godzilla
What will happen when the Irresistible Force meets the Immovable Object this Sunday at the Meadowlands?
I have this vision in my head I can't shake: Brandon Jacobs being flown in by helicopter a-la "Operation Dumbo Drop" to the summit of Mt. Fuji, where awaiting his arrival - clenched teeth, fists securely on hips and head held high - is Ray Lewis. Jacobs is released from the harnesses and plummets to the ground, rolling as he lands to break his fall and taking cover behind a large boulder. Lewis begins to stomp towards the boulder when Jacobs grabs his legs from behind and the battle begins. Fire, lightning, and a whole lot of destruction ensues as the two rumble their way down the mountain and drag each other through the Atami Castle and crash into the Pacific Ocean.
Anyone who's been around long enough to remember the epic battle that occurred in the climactic scene of Ishiro Honda's 1962 movie "King Kong vs. Godzilla" can relate to the story above. It's a ridiculous vision, but it's the one I have - my reoccurring theme whenever a much anticipated game is on the horizon that has a story line such as this one.
The Baltimore Ravens have had the most dominating rushing defense in the league this season, allowing opponents a measly 67 yards per game. When Baltimore ceremoniously dismantled the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, the Ravens defense was considered to be one of the best NFL fans had ever seen; at least since the days of Buddy Ryan's '46' of the Chicago Bears in the mid '80's. In the four seasons following that Super Bowl, Baltimore's run stopping ability struggled at times, but was still formidable (their worst ranking was 13th in 2002). But over the last three years, Coordinator Rex Ryan (Buddy's son) has roused the dormant beast - and the resurrection of the Ravens defense is complete. His 3-4 scheme is thriving with such talents as Terrell Suggs, Bart Scott and of course Mr. Lewis. Ryan's squad finished 2nd in the league in run defense in 2006 & 2007; they're currently 1st in the NFL as they travel to New Jersey this weekend. Their travel companions are a 2.8 yards per carry average and a shot at sole possession of first place in the AFC North (they're tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who host a desperate San Diego Chargers team).
The Giants - as an organization - have always placed more emphasis on the running game than the passing game. From the dissapointing Doug Kotar, Larry Csonka & Bobby Hammond era of the mid 1970's to today, New york has fixated on the ground attack. It served them well in later years with the likes of Joe Morris, O.J. Anderson, Rodney Hampton and Tiki Barber. But what we've seen from the Giants backfield since the latter part of last season is an entirely different beast. It has three heads, and every head has it's own unique talent. Combined with a Pro-Bowl caliber offensive line that's opening holes to the tune of 169 rushing yards a game, the Giants are 1st in the NFL in rushing offense this year with 1,520 yards and a 5.2 average per carry. Brandon Jacobs is 4th in the league with 806 yards, which is impressive when you consider he's 12th in the league in rushing attempts.
Ray Lewis and the Ravens will not be the only obstacle the Giants have to overcome on Sunday. A successful Giants' ground game will be reliant on the energy level of an offensive line that's been through the ringer the past three weeks. Three weks ago they faced James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and the Steelers. That contest seemed to take a lot out of them, because the Dallas Cowboys registered four sacks on Eli Manning a week later, which is the most they've allowed in a single game so far this season. They rebounded last week against the always physical and sometimes nasty play of the Philadelphia Eagles (not that there's anything wrong with that... it's a divisional game, both teams were ticky-tack), allowing just one shot on Manning while Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw ran for a combined total of 219 yards.
You have to wonder how much gas is in the fuel tank, at least for this week's game. I have no doubt that the o-line is primed for the long haul. They're a stable, solid unit that is firing on all cylinders. Had the schedule makers constructed things differently - if the Giants last three games were against the Rams, Seahawks and 49ers for example - confidence in their energy and readiness would make this an even matchup. The reality may be - and Giants fans need to be prepared for this possibility - that the o-line has no more than a punchers chance in this one. It will take a herculean effort for them to get the job done on Sunday. Fortunately, these are the five guys who can do it if anyone could.
King Kong & Godzilla's battle raged into the Pacific Ocean, as I previously mentioned. At the end of the film, Kong comes out of the water and pounds his chest before swinning off into the sunset toward his home on Faro Island. You're left to wonder what happened to Godzilla. Did Kong defeat him? Is Godzilla dead? Did he slip away, retreating to safety so he could live to fight another day? We already know the answer to that one - 40 years of lesser quality sequels (everything's relative) proved that Godzilla was not done, not by a longshot. Gojira - as the japanese call him - would be back as a force to be reckoned with for a very long time, wreaking havoc on evil monsters all over the eastern hemisphere.
Whatever the outcome of the Ravens/Giants game on Sunday, I have a suspicion that the loser will be heard from later in the year and live to fight another day, a force to be reckoned with.
movie info source - Barry's Temple of Godzilla: www.godzillatemple.com ; statistical source: sportsline.com