Trying to avoid a repeat of last year’s 3-8 collapse following a dominating 5-0 start, the New York Giants could use some good fortune to avoid repeating something similar after an equally dominating 4-0 October to lift their record to 5-2 this season.
The news they received on Thursday about defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka however, was far from the type of good-luck charm the Giants had in mind.
The old stage saying for good luck is of course, “break a leg.”
That exactly what Kiwanuka did — his left leg, to be specific –- in a Week 11 win over Detroit, on November, 18, 2007.
Bad luck for Kiwanuka, but the Giants did go on to win Super Bowl 78 days later, without their 2006 first-round pick.
There’s no saying for “herniate a cervical disk,” but that’s what forced Kiwanuka onto the Giants’ injured reserve list on Thursday and out for the remainder of the 2010 season.
Consequently, the Giants, who are tied for the conference lead with Atlanta, will again try to win a Super Bowl after a season-ending injury to Kiwanuka.
If it works out as well for the Giants as the first time, Kiwanuka getting hurt again could be considered that strange sort of good-luck charm that a team never wants to receive.
But, despite the Giants’ good depth on their defensive line, Kiwanuka will be sorely missed, and trying to win another Super Bowl without him, will be a lot more difficult for Big Blue than if Kiwanuka could have returned this year.
After rebounding from the broken leg with career highs of 8.5 sacks two seasons ago, 61 total tackles and 46 solo tackles (both last year), Kiwanuka led the Giants in sacks with four through the first three games before getting hurt with the disk injury in his neck.
Fortunately for the Giants though, they haven’t lost a game since Kiwanuka has been out.
Veteran defensive ends Osi Umenyiora (team-leading 8 sacks, just one fewer than the NFL lead) and Justin Tuck (4 sacks, fourth on the Giants with 37 tackles), who were major players in the Giants’ Super Bowl win the last time Kiwanuka was injured, have led a defense which has stepped up its play in several areas since Kiwanuka was lost this season.
Lesser used defensive ends Dave Tollefson and another first-round pick, Jason Pierre-Paul (drafted in April), could see some more action than before to help others fill in for the loss of Kiwanuka, for a defense that ranks second in the league in total yards and pass yards allowed, and third in rush yards allowed.
Ironically, on the day that Kiwanuka’s season officially ended, the Giants signed Kiwanuka’s former roommate at Boston College, Will Blackmon, who was with Green Bay, and who comes to New York to try to help the Giants’ struggling punt return and kick coverage units. Blackmon could replace Darius Reynaud, who has been largely unproductive as the Giants’ punt returner since coming over from Minnesota as a preseason trade throw-in which landed backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels.
While there was a chance that the injury could heal itself in the weeks to come, without requiring surgery, the Giants were compelled to act now rather than continuing to wait for Kiwanuka to return to playing health this season.
The Giants, for now, remain committed to Kiwanuka and are hopeful that he can return at full strength next season.
However, Kiwanuka’s contract is also up after the season and if Kiwanuka can’t fully recover, it’s very possible that the Giants or another team might not take a chance on signing him next year. And, if the injury proves to be a chronic one over time, it’s possible that Kiwanuka might have played the last game of his career.
After a broken leg and now a herniated disk, that would be the toughest break yet.