EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Hurricane Irene huffed and puffed but couldn't bring MetLife Stadium down.
The first football game following MetLife's 25-year deal for naming rights for the facility formerly known as The New Meadowlands Stadium was finally played on Monday night between the Giants and the Jets -- two days after the original schedule date. The Category 1 Irene forced the originally scheduled 7 p.m. start this past Saturday night to be pushed up to 2 p.m. that same afternoon. Then on Friday evening, both the Giants and Jets along with the NFL decided to play it safe and reschedule the game for Monday night.
The entire tri-state area was a mess with record rainfall and winds wreaking havoc. As of Monday morning, an estimated 900,000 in New Jersey were still without power and some regions were not expecting to be back on the grid until the end of the week. In fact, the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J., is currently without power and all business operations have been moved to MetLife Stadium, which both the Giants and Jets share, until power is restored.
Because the game was originally scheduled for Saturday night then was subsequently moved up to early afternoon to avoid Irene, the Jets ended up staying in their team hotel on Saturday and Sunday nights. The moved date to Monday meant that the team reported to their facility on Saturday morning to watch film before going back to their hotel. Sunday was a day off with no organized meetings or team activities.
"I think the wacky schedule, it got us off to a slow start," Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez said.
Perhaps the time off had some impact as the two teams were scoreless after the first quarter and the Jets held just a 7-3 lead at halftime. After all, the Jets didn't hit in practice since Wednesday and the long layoff may have produced some rust.
"It didn't take us out of any rhythm. In fact, I think after camp, it's been good for us to rest our bodies," Jets cornerback Donald Strickland told Yahoo! Sports. "I spent all day Sunday in bed, just resting and sleeping. No pool or nothing. Just stayed in bed."
Perhaps the fan bases of the Giants and Jets stayed in their beds to watch their teams' third preseason game, or given the substandard level of play, better if they were under their beds. The crowd on Monday night was sparse, even by preseason standards. An hour before kickoff, the two teams warming up on the field combined for more people than there were in the stands.
Fans reported normal drive times to the stadium, perhaps even faster than usual, the result of most roads around the stadium experiencing less rush-hour traffic due to Irene impacting the number of commuters. There were hurdles as the Metro Transit Authority (MTA) was not running from New York Penn Station to the Meadowlands and there was no NJ Transit running other than the local, light rail. About 20 minutes west of MetLife Stadium, Routes 46 and 23 were completely shut down in the town of Fairfield, N.J., due to flooding, closing two major routes to the Meadowlands.
But despite the washout that ground to a halt much of the area for the better parts of the past two days, the small crowd, announced as 76,208 paid attendance but in actuality was half that, was happy to talk about anything but Irene.
"I think it is all behind us now, Irene and everything," said Giants fan Brian Bremner of Nutley, N.J. "I think tonight, I don't have to think about this storm anymore. It's about football for the next few hours, nothing else."
Steve Acker, a Giants season ticket holder, went to some great lengths to make the 25-minute trip from Waldwick, N.J., for the game following what he called "probably the worst storm I've ever seen." This is Acker's second year as a season ticket holder and he took daughter Skyler to the game, despite a downed power line in front of his house.
"My sister-in-law Diane picked us up at our house because we couldn't get out of our driveway," Acker said. "We then picked up a rental car and if there is work tomorrow, I will use it to get there. But I'm not thinking about anything right now other than just some football and watching my Giants."
Kristian R. Dyer is a contributor to Shutdown Corner and can be followed at http://twitter.com/#!/KristianRDyer