So now we know. Now everyone knows. If you're an NFL team playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you know to play hard until the final second -- Bucs coach Greg Schiano will insist. Taking a knee? Fine, take it. But Schiano will bring the house, just in case.
NFL fans? Now you know. That final play, that kneel-down from the so-called victory formation, has become must-see TV. Don't leave the living room yet. Don't head for the stadium exits. Wherever you are, whoever you root for, if your team is beating the Bucs in the final seconds, the game isn't over until it's over.
That's the only lesson I'm taking away from the incident at the end of the Giants' 41-34 victory Sunday, when the Tampa Bay defensive front crashed into -- and through -- the line, knocking New York's 300-pound monsters into quarterback Eli Manning, who stumbled onto his backside.
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The Giants weren't ready. It's as simple as that. Conditioned by years of doing the same thing at the end of victories and getting the same docile reaction from the opponent, the Giants assumed they'd get that reaction from the Bucs. They weren't ready for what happened next, for actual effort from Tampa Bay. Should the Giants have been ready? In hindsight, yes. They should have been. The Tampa Bay defensive front made its intentions clear before the snap: We're coming. Stop us if you can.
The Giants didn't stop them. Didn't even try. That's on the Giants.
But now they know. Like I said, now everyone knows. Opponents playing a Schiano-coached team won't make the same mistake again, I promise you that. Knowledge is power, and teams are now empowered to prevent what happened to Eli Manning -- and what could have happened to him, had a 300-pound teammate rolled onto his knee -- from happening to their quarterback when they play the Bucs.
So now we know, but what have we gained from this knowledge? Not much, really. Don't tell me we've learned that the Bucs won't give up under Greg Schiano, because that's an empty conclusion to draw after the Bucs gave up 25 points in the fourth quarter to lose a game they were winning 27-13 late in the third.
The Bucs don't give up under Schiano? Um, they sort of did. Maybe if they'd played with as much fire in the previous 14 minutes and 55 seconds as they did when Manning took that knee with five seconds left, they wouldn't have allowed 243 passing yards in the fourth quarter.
Greg Schiano has no class -- did we learn that? Nah. There was nothing inherently dirty about lining up to play hard, and then playing hard, with time left on the clock. Schiano says his team practices that play, and that he did it over the years at Rutgers as well. That triggered research by various people online, and what do you know? Schiano was telling the truth: His teams at Rutgers forced fumbles at least three times -- once in 2011 against North Carolina, and twice in 2009 against West Virginia and Pittsburgh. Rutgers recovered only one of those fumbles, against West Virginia, but was called for an offside penalty on the play.
So this has been done, and it has even worked -- up to a point. But it's a point without much merit, because it has worked against teams that didn't see it coming. Schiano managed to crash into an opponent's victory formation at least three times at Rutgers without the word spreading that this is what Schiano does, and it didn't spread for two reasons: One, it didn't work. Two, it was Rutgers.
The word has spread now. Schiano will never again catch a team unprepared in the final seconds of a seemingly decided game. Not after Giants coach Tom Coughlin used their postgame meeting Sunday to chew out Schiano. That got everyone talking about it, and we're still talking about it, and although the talking will fade, the memory won't.
What Schiano has done, essentially, is change the way we think about the final seconds of a game. Until Sunday, most folks thought the winning team had earned the right to finish a victory with class -- and taking a knee is classy, by the way. The alternative is running a play or two, gaining yardage and maybe even points in a game already won. An NFL game is a series of car crashes. Everyone knows that. Why engineer one more bit of wreckage in a game that's already been decided? Taking a knee isn't just compassionate; it's safe.
But Schiano doesn't care about any of that. His team will play hard through the final second, so it's up to everyone else to adjust. And they will. So at the end of the day, what has Schiano gained from all of this?
Not much. He's the same coach he ever was. He has the same team. And the world knows exactly what they'll do when they get their ass kicked.