RB Andre Brown runs wild against Carolina in Week 3.
There’s only one full week left of the calendar year, and only 12 NFL teams will have the privilege to extend their season into 2013.
The New York Giants, whose playoff hopes still hinge on their performance in the final two weeks of the season, are not guaranteed to play a game in January of 2013 yet. The Giants’ Week 17 matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles will be held on Dec. 30, 2012.
But even if New York does not participate in this season’s playoffs, the team can look back on plenty of moments with pride.
With the push for a postseason appearance already well underway, let’s pause to appreciate the top five highlights of the Giants’ 2012 season to date.
S Antrel Rolle returns an INT versus SF in Week 6.
Antrel Rolle Gives 49ers a Headache
In Week 6, the Giants (3-2) and San Francisco 49ers (4-1) met at Candlestick Park for an early season rematch of last season’s NFC Championship game. The 49ers, who lost that game on a pair of muffed punts, were out for revenge.
The Giants, led by safety Antrel Rolle, would not give San Fran that satisfaction, though. Rolle collected a team-leading six tackles (all solo, one for a loss) and added two interceptions.
Rolle’s defense kept the 49ers out of the end zone for a full 60 minutes, and the Giants went on to win by a decisive score of 26-3. The veteran safety was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
Stevie Brown Dismantles Dallas
Two weeks later, the Giants traveled to Dallas to take on the division rival Cowboys. After falling to the Cowboys in Week 1 and the Eagles three games later, New York could not afford to drop any more divisional matchups.
Safety Stevie Brown, a 2012 New York newcomer, ensured the Week 8 victory over Dallas. While filling in for veteran Kenny Phillips, Brown led the Big Blue defense with eight tackles (all solo), two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Brown’s huge performance against the Cowboys solidified his role in the Giants’ secondary, and it earned him a NFC Defensive Player of the Week award.
The Giants and Cowboys squared off on a Wednesday night to kickoff the 2012 season.
The 2012 season opener was special for two reasons: it was the first time the New York Giants took the field as defending Super Bowl champions since 2008, and it abnormally took place on a Wednesday night.
The game would have normally been played on Thursday night, but due to a potential conflict with President Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, the game was moved up one day earlier. It was the first NFL game played on a Wednesday since 1948 (via Yahoo! Sports).
Although the Giants couldn’t capitalize on the midweek matchup, New York fans still appreciated the nationally televised event, which brought the seven-month offseason to a close a bit sooner than expected.
WR Ramses Barden had his first career 100-yard performance against Carolina in Week 3.
In Week 3, the Giants (1-1) visited the Carolina Panthers (1-1). Quarterback Cam Newton was fresh off his 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year campaign, and to make matters worse, New York was missing two pivotal offensive starters, running back Ahmad Bradshaw and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks.
Two unproven 2009 draft picks, Andre Brown and Ramses Barden, took over Bradshaw and Nicks’ starting roles, respectively. Both players were suddenly assuming more responsibility than either had previously experienced in their short NFL careers.
Despite the lack of experience, Barden found an immediate connection with quarterback Eli Manning, hauling in a team-leading nine catches for 138 yards. Not to be outdone, Brown thrived in his opportunity as the featured back, carrying the ball 20 times for 113 yards and two scores.
The duo paved the way for an offensive outburst, as the Giants routed the Panthers, 36-7.
WR Hakeem Nicks was named NFC offensive POTW for his 199-yard (1 TD) performance vs. the Bucs in Week 2.
Eli Manning and the Giants were notorious for their ability to stage late-game comebacks on a seemingly weekly basis in 2011, and in Week 2 of the 2012 season, Manning gave an encore performance.
After trading field goals in the first quarter, Manning spotted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) 21 second-quarter points by hurling a trio of interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown by cornerback Eric Wright. The Giants (0-1) went into halftime down by 11 points.
Early in the second half, Tampa Bay was able to extend its lead to 14 points, but the momentum shifted as the fourth quarter approached. Manning caught fire late in the game, connecting with all of his receiving threats for tremendous gains.
Manning rallied the team back, leading the Giants offense to 25 fourth-quarter points and a 41-34 victory. He completed 31/51 attempts on the day, racking up 510 yards and three touchdowns in the process. Manning became the 13th player to reach the 500-yard milestone (h/t AOL Sporting News).
RB/KR David Wilson was untouchable against the Saints in Week 14.
After a costly Week 1 fumble, rookie running back David Wilson spent a lot of time watching the action from the sideline. But against New Orleans (5-7) in Week 14, the coaching staff unleashed Wilson, allowing him to ravage the Saints’ special teams and defensive units.
With his team down by a touchdown early, Wilson shocked life back into the Giants (7-5) with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He enjoyed a wildly successful day returning kicks, as the rookie found a way to exploit the Saints’ coverage nearly every time he touched the ball.
Wilson’s explosiveness carried over into the offensive backfield, as the youngster handled a season-high 13 touches. He made the most of his chances, recording a 52-yard touchdown romp and his first ever 100-yard performance.
With 327 total yards, Wilson set the franchise record for all-purpose yards in a single game. He also became the first player in NFL history to have at 200 kick return yards and 100 rushing yards in a single game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau (h/t ESPN Stats & Info).
QB Eli Manning jogs off the field after setting the franchise record for career TD passes (200).
Seven games into the season, Manning pulled to within two touchdown passes of former Giants quarterback Phil Simms’ franchise record of 199 career touchdown passes. However, after a three-game drought, Manning went into the Week 11 bye without gaining any ground on Simms’ record.
During the Giants’ bye, Simms’ criticized New York’s signal-caller, questioning his elite status in spite of his two Super Bowl MVP awards. In the Giants’ return to action versus the Green Bay Packers (7-3) in Week 12, Manning responded.
Against one of the conference’s toughest opponents, Manning orchestrated an impressive offensive performance, as the Giants (6-4) trounced the Packers, 38-10. Manning completed 16/30 attempts for 249 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was one of his cleanest performances of the year.
Manning’s three touchdown tosses moved the new franchise record to 200 and counting. Now that he has passed all-time greats such as Simms, “Chuckin’ Charlie” Conerly, Y.A. Tittle and Fran Tarkenton, Manning is unquestionably the greatest quarterback in Giants history.