Ranking the 10 Most Important Moments in Giants' 2011-12 Championship Season
While the New York Giants celebrate their Super Bowl Championship with a parade in the Canyon of Heroes in New York City, Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, Jason Pierre-Paul and the rest of the team can look back at the important moments of their season that played a crucial role to secure them the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Some of these moments the Giants had nothing to do with, as they were just lucky enough to have them break in their favor. Some of them they had everything to do with.
Whether it was out of luck or not, New York was able to capitalize on each one of these moments.
Just like Gisele Bundchen pointed out how her husband couldn't do it all by himself, that Tom Brady could not both pass AND catch the ball, the Giants, like every other championship team, could not do it all by themselves either.
Everyone needs to remember that before New York went on their Super Bowl run, they were a 7-7 team fighting for their playoff lives.
Here are the 10 most important moments in the Giants championship season;
Tony Romo's Incomplete Pass to Miles Austin
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Heading into Week 14 to play the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas, the New York Giants were 6-6 while riding a four-game losing streak.
With 2:25 left in the fourth quarter, the Giants were down 34-29.
Then, on a 3rd-and-5 play with Dallas on their own 25-yard line, Tony Romo was lined up in the shotgun with the Giants bringing a blitz. Miles Austin was sent on a "go" route and was wide open with no defender in front of him.
Austin had a clear path for a TD, a catch would have most likely ended the game and the Giants' hope for a postseason appearance.
Then this happened. With Romo getting the protection he needed, he led Austin maybe a half a yard too long, just out of his reach.
Jason Pierre-Paul's FG Block
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Even after Tony Romo's misfire to Miles Austin, the Dallas Cowboys still had the chance to take the New York Giants into overtime in Week 14.
After the Giants went ahead by three late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys got the ball back after the ensuing kickoff and touchback on their own 20 with 46 seconds remaining in the game.
Romo rushed his team down the field, gaining 53 yards in 40 seconds to set up Dan Bailey for a makeable 47-yard field goal.
Bailey had been dependable all season from that distance, making 12 field goals in the 40 to 49-yard range.
The stats in the situation favored Dallas, that is until Jason Pierre-Paul blocked the kick, not even giving Bailey the chance to make or miss it.
Victor Cruz's 99-Yard TD Against the New York Jets
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After Week 14's victory over the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants could have gained some ground in their division with a win over the lowly Washington Redskins.
They didn't. They lost to the Redskins 23-10 at home to set themselves up for a must-win game against their in-stadium rival New York Jets, who were just aching to beat them to claim the "better team in New York" crown.
Late in the first half and down 7-3 against the Jets after being forced to punt four out of their first five possessions, the Giants were faced with a 3rd-and-10 from their own 1-yard line.
Then this happened. With Eli Manning in the shotgun, he received the snap in his own end zone before he gunned a 10-yard pass to Victor Cruz.
Cruz caught it, Kyle Wilson missed the tackle, Cruz then sidestepped Antonio Cromartie and took off down the sideline, outrunning Eric Smith on his way to scoring a 99-yard TD.
Cruz's TD was the longest offensive play in Giants history. It also gave New York their first lead of the game, one they never relinquished.
In my opinion, this play started the Giants Super Bowl run. If the Jets forced a punt there, they could have possibly went into halftime with a 14-3 lead after dominating the first half while getting the ball to open the second half.
Hakeem Nicks' 37-Yard TD Catch Against Green Bay
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When the Green Bay Packers punted the ball to the New York Giants with less than a minute left in the first half of the NFC divisional playoff game, you would have bet they thought the halftime score was going to remain 13-10.
That was not the case.
The Giants received the punt on their own 31-yard line with 41 seconds left in the second quarter. After a nine-yard pass to Ahmad Bradshaw followed by an Eli Manning incompletion, the Packers called a timeout with 15 seconds left, hoping to stop New York on third down and get the ball back for a quick score.
Green Bay's desires were left unfulfilled. Instead, Bradshaw ran for the first down. Then, Manning went into the shotgun and launched the ball from the Giants 40-yard line into the end zone.
Hakeem Nicks and his giant hands came up with it for the touchdown as time expired, giving New York a 20-10 halftime lead.
Kyle Williams' First Kickoff Disaster
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After a three-and-out, the New York Giants, down by four in the NFC Championship game, were forced to punt to the San Francisco 49ers with about 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Waiting for the punt was 49ers rookie returner Kyle Williams, who was filling in for their injured primary returner, Ted Ginn Jr.
As Williams tried to get out of the way of the incoming, thundering Giants special teamers, the ball clearly hit him on his knee.
Williams' hesitation was more than enough for New York special teamer Devin Thomas to pounce on the ball and recover it on the 49ers 29-yard line.
Seven plays after the fumble recovery, Mario Manningham was in the end zone, courtesy of a 17-yard TD pass from Eli Manning, putting the Giants up by three.
Kyle Williams' Second Kickoff Disaster
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While Kyle Williams' fourth-quarter fumble gave the New York Giants a lead, his overtime fumble quite possibly gave away a trip to the Super Bowl.
With the Giants unable to score on their first three possessions of overtime, they were forced to punt from their own 44-yard line.
Williams secured the punt and started to run, but New York's hard-charging special teams engulfed him. Jacquian Williams of the Giants knocked the ball out, while Devin Thomas dove on it immediately, his second fumble recovery of the game.
The fumble recovery set New York up on the San Francisco 49ers 24-yard line. Five plays later, Lawrence Tynes hit the 31-yard field goal that sent the G-Men to Indianapolis.
Rob Gronkowski Injury
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After taking out Tom Brady in the first game of 2008 for the season, then neutralizing Rob Gronkowski for the Super Bowl, can we officially give Bernard Pollard the nickname "Patriot Killer"?
While having caught 90 balls for 1,327 yards and 17 TDs, Gronkowski was held to just two receptions for 26 yards against the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
Gronk showed up to Indianapolis in a walking boot after suffering a high ankle sprain in the AFC Championship game. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus claimed that if it was a regular-season game, he would not have played.
He was not the same player he was during the regular season, and he appeared hobbled against the Giants.
Regular-season Gronkowski would not have allowed the Chase Blackburn interception that Super Bowl Gronkowski did.
Regular-season Gronkowski even may have had a better shot at the game-ending Hail Mary.
Wes Welker's Drop
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What does matter is that the ball dropping to the ground may have changed the outcome of the Super Bowl.
While it was not a good pass thrown by Tom Brady, it was thrown to Welker's back shoulder and high, causing him to twist in mid-air, it looked to be a catchable ball, as it was in his hands.
Speaking to the media after the game, Welker said it was his fault.
“It hit me right in the hands,” Welker said. “I mean, it’s a play I never drop, I always make. Most critical situation, I let the team down.”
Here is the play.
For their part, the Giants stopped the Pats on the next down, forcing them to punt.
New York received the punt on their own 12-yard line with 3:46 left in the game, down by two.
Then the play of the game happened...
Eli Manning to Mario Manningham
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With 3:46 remaining in the Super Bowl, Eli Manning made a perfect over-the-shoulder, between-two defenders throw that landed right into Mario Manningham's hands as he tight-ropped the sideline.
Here it is.
After New England's challenge and the ruling on the field standing, the pass officially went for 38 yards and moved New York to the 50-yard line.
The catch left the Giants with plenty of time to get into position for a game-winning field goal.
But it did not even come down to that. Manning connected with Manningham twice more for a total of 18 yards, followed by a 14-yard pass to Hakeem Nicks, then a seven-yard run by Ahmad Bradshaw, another pass to Nicks for four yards, leaving Bradshaw to finish off the final TD drive of the game with two runs.
Bradshaw's TD put the Giants up for good with 57 seconds left in the game.
Tom Brady's Failed Hail Mary
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I actually don't think enough attention is being paid to Tom Brady's Hail Mary pass that was thrown as the seconds ticked off the clock.
It was much closer than a lot of people think. It was a perfectly designed Hail Mary, executed beautifully.
Brady threw it high in the back of the end zone for Aaron Hernandez to tip it forward to Wes Welker or Rob Gronkowski, both of who were in position to make a play on the ball. The only thing missing was the catch.
Watch it here. If Rob Gronkowski was 100 percent, maybe he gets to the ball, but who knows?
Because, the New York Giants got a ring and Justin Tuck has two.