David Tyree thinks about the commercials. Then he feels the pressure.
“We don’t want to be sitting at home watching the commercials, we want to be in the game” Tyree, the Giants special teams performer headed to the Pro Bowl, said of the silly Super Bowl ads. “I love the commercials, but hopefully I can TIVO them.”
Commercials. That’s Tyree’s link between the postseason and pressure.
Win in this intense environment, and you don’t have to watch from the couch.
Hey, some guys just think differently.
In reality, though, Tyree is doing what everyone else in the Giants locker room is also trying to do: Lessen the burden and the pressure now that the postseason journey is about to begin. The intensity level is heightened, but nobody wants to say the pressure is on.
“I don’t think there’s more pressure; there’s more concentration,” rookie defensive end Justin Tuck said. “A lot of the jokes you would see in the locker room earlier in the season have ceased. People have become more focused, more serious. Not that they weren’t before, but you can tell it’s this time of the year and people are taking it really serious.”
To cornerback Will Allen, saying the pressure and intensity is higher now than in the regular season is also saying you weren’t playing at your highest level earlier in the season, and that’s just wrong.
“It’s almost like saying Week Six isn’t important, and in football we only have 16 games, so every game is important,” Allen said.
However, Allen does admit it’s hard to ignore the intensity at this time of the year. Just the atmosphere surrounding the game, the crowd and the media blitz, makes for a heightened intensity, which always lends itself to pressure situations.
“At this time of the year depending on what position you have put yourself in, the importance of the game just skyrockets,” Allen said.
Jay Feely, who kicked in the NFC Championship game last season with Atlanta, won’t argue the importance of the game, but he doesn’t believe there’s any reason to tighten up under the pressure. Feely thinks the pressure on a team goes down in the playoffs because nobody is thinking about their personal stats anymore.
“As much as you want to idealistically just be about team [during the regular season], there is an element of individual and stats where each player just wants to do his best for his career,” Feely said. “But, as soon as the season ends, the stats are done and now all that matters is winning games. It could be pretty, it could be ugly. Whether you play well or your teammates pick you up, all that matters is winning games.
“It’s a collective effort and you’re just trying to win a game.”
OK, so Feely has a point. Maybe the pressure is off the individuals, but nobody argues that there will be pressure situations. Or, in Feely’s case, pressure kicks.
Each player handles these instances in a different way. As a team, though, the Giants have enough experience in tight situations this season to work from.
They’re 3-3 in games decided by seven points or less, and 1-2 in overtime games. They’ve had the dramatic comeback wins like a 24-23 victory over Denver now known as ‘The Great Eli Comeback,’ and the heartbreaking 16-13 loss in Dallas after a different fourth-quarter comeback drive by Manning forced overtime.
“It helps your team build character, especially when you win those games,” Allen said. “You’re building that character because you want to get to this point. This is when you want to get rolling. You want to be hitting on all cylinders.”
Feely himself has been through the gamut of emotions. He missed three different game-winning field goals in Seattle, a game the Giants eventually lost, 24-21, in overtime. He says that can be turned into a positive at this time of the year.
“Throughout your whole career you learn what works and what doesn’t work in pressure situations,” Feely said. “I can think back to my second year in the NFL (2002) and this kick that I tried in a pressure situation where I was too loose. I was trying to talk and be real loose, not let that pressure of the moment get to me, and I didn’t have the right fundamentals because I was so loose. You learn from those, and the more close games you have and the more pressure kicks you get, the better chance you’re going to have in the playoffs because you know how to handle it.”
Players like Tuck, who is one of 14 Giants who have been in the league for two years or less, haven’t been through the postseason yet. They like to think they understand the time of year, though.
The 60 minutes on the field will be different from a college bowl game, but preparing is just the same. Follow the lead of veterans such as Michael Strahan, Amani Toomer and Tiki Barber, and things should fall into place.
“Guys are not going to be saving anything,” Tuck said. “People give what they have in the regular season, but during playoff time people just know how to reach down and find a little more. The atmosphere is going to embrace you.”
Dan Rosen has been a sports reporter for The Record (Hackensack) since September of 2001.