Reflecting on the 10 Defining Moments of the New York Giants' 2012 Season
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The 2012 New York Giants allowed the moment to define them more often than they defined the moment, and I'm reminded of what Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Calhoun said in a recent interview he gave to Michael Kay on CenterStage.
"Hard work is really the key," he said. "Just make sure that you don't ever mistake activity for achievement."
In essence, the line between working hard and working with a purpose got blurry at times for the Giants.
Calhoun's words don't magically wipe away the Giants' second-half season collapse, but it does help rationalize where things may have gone awry for Big Blue.
It wouldn't be bad bulletin board material for next year either.
Before Giants fans close the chapter on 2012, here's a final look at the good, the bad and the ugly that make up the 10 defining moments of the season.
More of a Theme Than a Moment
Victor Cruz often found himself double-teamed in 2012.
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The first "moment" on this countdown was really more of a constant trend throughout the season, but nonetheless, it defined the G-Men's offensive identity.
This of course was the Giants' inability to develop a consistent alternative to Victor Cruz given the injury-laden season of Hakeem Nicks.
Nicks put forth a valiant effort to compete this year, but he was never 100 percent healthy in 2012.
His 53 catches for 692 yards and three touchdowns were a big drop-off from his 76 receptions for 1,192 yards and seven TDs last season.
To compensate, Cruz was targeted an overwhelming 143 times this season, but his 86 catches, 10 touchdowns and 1,092 yards weren't enough to save an unbalanced aerial attack.
Being ranked 12th in the league in passing this season was no slouch, but ultimately, defenses were able to neutralize Cruz and subsequently force Eli Manning to throw into bad matchups.
General manager Jerry Reese and head coach Tom Coughlin were very candid in how Nicks' impact affected the Giants production on offense.
"(Manning) has played at a very high level and I don't think he played up to the level that he can play," Reese said. "Again I think it starts (with)... Hakeem Nicks has been one of the linchpins in our offense. He was banged up and I really think it took its toll on our offense and what we are trying to do.
Coughlin also spoke openly with WFAN's Mike Francesa about Nicks' down year.
"I think it’s important that Hakeem comes back and is the player that he was a year ago," Coughlin said in an interview on WFAN radio on Thursday. "And we need that desperately to happen, not only because of what an impact he makes on the game but also because of the versatility that is created by having Randle and (Victor) Cruz.”
"Quite frankly this year, (Nicks was) really having a lot of trouble just getting to that other gear, and (was) very frustrated by that," Coughlin later added. "But the great competitor that he is, trying to be in there every week and trying to help his team... but (it) just kind of strapped (the offense) a little bit along those lines. That was just one part of it. We had been so much a big-play team, and then we had a stretch of games where the big plays in the pass game just weren’t there."
Breakout Down South
Ahmad Bradshaw injured, Nicks injured—no problem.
In their Week 3 matchup against the Carolina Panthers in Carolina, the G-Men featured Andre Brown and Ramses Barden early and often, and both delivered in a big way.
Brown rushed for 113 yards on 20 carries scoring two touchdowns, while Barden had nine grabs for 138 yards.
Nobody saw this kind of emergence coming from either man, but Brown ran like a guy possessed, and Barden finally showed flashes of why the Giants drafted him No. 85 overall in the 2009 draft.
This was a great road win for the G-Men, especially considering the injured players they had at the time and a huge moment specifically for two men playing for their next contract.
Nobody Could Have Predicted This, Not Even the G-Men
It was Week 6 and the quarterback controversy in San Francisco hadn't started yet.
The G-Men dominated Alex Smith and the 49ers in every facet of the game in maybe the best all-around performance of their season—culminating in a 26-3 victory.
The 49ers had revenge on their mind after losing to New York in the NFC Championship Game a year ago, but the Giants marched back into Candlestick Park and reminded them that their playoff triumph over them wasn't a fluke.
The defense for the G-Men had three sacks that day, and Coughlin was like a proud papa after that win.
"The nice thing was the pounding away of the pencil on the defensive line," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "I think the defensive line finally decided they were going to come out and play today and they did."
That victory was a validation and statement game.
The Salsa Man Cometh
Victor Cruz running like he stole something, which he did—an NFC East win over the Redskins in Week 7.
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In Week 7, the Giants beat the rival Washington Redskins in dramatic fashion, giving Big Blue its third win in three weeks.
In spite of Robert Griffin III's impressive debut in MetLife Stadium where he completed 20 of 28 passes for 258 yards, Eli, Cruz and the G-Men had the last laugh.
Down 23-20 with just 1:20 remaining in the game, Cruz bolted past the Washington secondary and Eli hit him in stride for the game-winning touchdown.
The 77-yard connection was one of the more special moments looking back on the 2012 season.
Won by an Inch
The "finger game".
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One of the greatest sports movie speeches ever delivered was Al Pacino's "game of inches" soliloquy in Any Given Sunday, and boy did that translate in Week 8 when the G-Men squeaked out a win over the Dallas Cowboys.
All you have to say is "Remember that Dez Bryant finger game?", and everybody knows what you're talking about.
The G-Men squandered a 23-0 lead in this contest, but New York's fight never wavered according to Cruz.
"It speaks about our resiliency. We know how to win these games," receiver Victor Cruz said. "We've been in a bunch of them."
Ultimately, Bryant's inability to get his fingertip down with seconds remaining gave the Giants their fourth straight victory—proudly displaying a 6-2 record.
Even though the game was a roller coaster ride for New York, this win solidified Big Blue as one of the best teams in the NFL.
Losing Is the Pitts
Giants vs. Steelers Highlights
For the die-hard Giants fans in section 346, row 21 and thousands of others, the November 4 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was supposed to be an uplifting break from all the turmoil that Superstorm Sandy brought to the tri-state area.
For three quarters, it was.
There's a reason why you always hear coaches and players say that you have to play four quarters, and that was illustrated perfectly on this night.
The G-Men were outscored 14-0 in the fourth quarter thanks to Isaac Redmond and Mike Wallace.
Losing to the Steelers on that emotional night at home after having a fourth-quarter lead was bad, but it paled in comparison to the fans who drove home to dark, cold and destroyed homes that evening.
Did A.J. Just Do That?
A.J. Green breaking tackles and Giants' hearts.
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It was the worst possible way to start the game, especially after blowing the lead over the Steelers the week before.
That play ultimately set the tone for that afternoon's loss and marked the first time that the Giants lost back-to-back games in 2012.
Heading into the bye week after this 31-13 loss only encouraged the doubters and naysayers to speak out, making Green's play and the Bengals victory an unforgettable moment in 2012.
No. 10 Gets 200
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Week 12 on the Giants' schedule was a highly anticipated regular-season matchup, but the Giants would go on to rout a battered Green Bay Packers team 38-10.
The story of this game was Eli eclipsing Phil Simms for most career touchdown passes in franchise history with 200 and counting.
Manning threw three TDs on the night and carved up the Packers. It was a much-needed victory that propelled the Giants back into the win column with a 7-4 record.
At this point in the season, it was very encouraging to see Big Blue dig their heels in and beat a perennial playoff team after having just come off a bye week and two consecutive losses.
Hello, My Name Is…David Wilson
Welcome No. 22
Rookie David Wilson officially introduced himself to the NFL with a splash in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints.
Wilson's barrage made New Orleans look like Archie Manning's Saints from the 1970s.
All the rookie did was rush for 100 yards on 13 carries, gain 227 yards off kick returns and rack up three touchdowns on the night—two rushing and one on a kickoff return.
Wilson officially became a Giant on this night.
The No. 1 Moment of 2012
Victor Cruz tribute.
Unequivocally, the No. 1 most defining moment was how the Giants exuded complete class in their tribute to the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School in the Week 15 game against the Atlanta Falcons—specifically Cruz.
This was one of those moments that transcended sports and put things in perspective.
Years from now, memories of the big moments and the wins and losses from the 2012 season will fade, but the 34-0 loss to the Falcons will remain a clear memory because of the honor and class that the Giants displayed that afternoon in Atlanta.