The madness has begun. Selections were made yesterday and we now know the entire field of 68 for SeeYouInOctober’s Tournament of Greatness. What? Is there another bracket that matters? Didn’t think so. Today’s play-in game looks at two young football players who made a serious statement with their play on the field this season. We can’t predict where their careers will go from here, but we do know they have set an intense pace for themselves to try and keep up with. If they can pull it off they will absolutely earn a spot in this field. For now they will have to play their way in.
The Giants and Patriots were wildly successful with both teams reaching the Super Bowl. Obviously there can be only one winner, but getting to that point is a significant accomplishment. In the regular season the Pats piled up a better record with much greater offensive numbers than the Giants and their tight ends had a lot to do with it. New York had a lot of questions to answer in their receiving core after some key losses in the off-season and nobody expected a rookie from UMass to propel them to the next level.
Rob Gronkowski had a monster year. His play was record setting as he caught the most touchdowns ever for a tight end. He became one of Brady’s favorite targets throughout the year. He ran through defenders like cheap practice pylons piling up more YAC than the Himalayas. The character of Gronk became fodder for fans and media to create the image of a caveman-like beast of a man child. His touchdown celebration spread throughout the nation with many imitators of his Gronk Smash. Never has any player made a post touchdown spike so menacing, so terrifying, so intimidating that the league threatened to fine him for taunting. In this day and age of excessive celebrations the spike seemed to be a safe alternative to popcorn, cell phones in the goal post and mocking Plax, but not in the hands of Gronk. His impact was felt in a big way in the Super Bowl as he was clearly hobbled by the high ankle sprain and the production suffered.
On the other side of the field Victor Cruz seemingly came out of nowhere. His first play this season was a dropped ball against Washington. This is the player who the G-Men were relying on to replace Steve Smith and it looked like he wouldn’t be up to snuff. Fortunately he wasn’t immediately benched and ended up having a huge season. His 1,536 yards set a single season record for a Big Blue receiver. As teams started to double up the rookie from UMass, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham got more opportunities and helped give Manning open targets. When it came to the post season Cruz played some of his most impressive games with tough catches and the ability to move the chains in clutch spots. In addition to big plays and yards, Victor cruised into the end zone nine times in the regular season and once in the Super Bowl. Fans were treated with his signature Salsa celebration paying tribute to his Hispanic heritage and after all, the tournament is nicknamed the Big Dance so Cruz might be more qualified.
Check back in tomorrow for another play-in game!