“That was the most incredible Super Bowl I’ve ever seen,” I said looking at him.
“It was unbelievable,” replied Giants’ wide out Amani Toomer. “That whole season and that Super Bowl were absolutely crazy.”
Every football fan has their “one team” that stands out as being their all-time favorite.
Fans of the Miami Dolphins will never forget the magical 1972 campaign where the team went undefeated and untied, winning every game over the course of the season, including the Super Bowl.
Devout followers of the Chicago Bears might always remember the 1985 season, led by quarterback Jim McMahon and head coach Mike Ditka. The team shot their “Super Bowl Shuffle” music video before the playoffs even began, and lived by the motto, “It ain’t cocky if you can back it up.”
Being a loyal fan of the New York Football Giants, the 2007 squad is my “one team.” The one team that made history and shocked the world. The team that wanted it more.
“My One Team” and their Rough Start
The 2007 season started off somewhat inauspiciously for the G-Men. Although not looking terrible, they lost their first two games of the year. Week one looked like it would be a complete disaster, as they were beaten 45-35 by their worst enemies, the Dallas Cowboys.
Despite the loss, I can remember thinking to myself after game one, “Eli Manning didn’t look bad. We may have lost the game, but in all honesty, he gave a good performance!”
Manning went 28 for 41 that night, hooking up for four touchdowns and 312 yards through the air while only getting picked off once.
The next week was not pretty, as the Big Blue wrecking crew was beaten down by the Green Bay Packers at home, 35-13.
Leading 10-7 at the half, I had a good feeling that the G-Men would be 1-1 at the end of the day. But the Pack had other plans, scoring seven points coming out of the half, and pouring on 21 more in the fourth quarter.
“This may not be our year,” I doubtfully proclaimed after that game.
“We had a lead and we imploded. If this is what it is going to be like all year, forget the Super Bowl. There won’t even be the playoffs in this team’s future!”
But everything changed the following week.
Week Three saw the G-Men square off against the Washington Redskins on the road. Down 17-10 going into the fourth quarter, I found myself doubting whether or not they would ever win a game.
But the offense came out strong in the final quarter, scoring 14 points on a touchdown run from Reuben Droughns and a 33-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Plaxico Burress.
With the Giants now leading 24-17, the team’s defense exhibited an incredible goal line stance. The Giants’ D-line stopped the Redskins from scoring in the final seconds of the last quarter and won their first game of the ’07 season.
With their record at 1-2 after three games, the Giants went on a tear, winning another five straight games. It seemed every week the team came out of the tunnel and onto the field ready to win, and played some of the best football I have ever seen.
The Giants defense held the Philadelphia Eagles to only three points in week four, beating them 16-3.
Michael Strahan made history in the game, knocking quarterback Donovan McNabb down for a sack to give him 133.5 for his career and passing Giants legend Lawrence Taylor on the all-time sacks list.
Osi Umenyiora added six sacks on McNabb, completing half of the dozen sacks the Giants pounded out in their win. The defense also tied the NFL record for sacks in a game.
After the game McNabb told the media, “That was the hardest I’ve ever been hit.”
The following week was a good feeling as a New York sports fan, as the G-Men claimed a 35-24 come-from-behind victory over their fellow New Yorkers, the Jets.
I watched this particular game at a family party, surrounded by Jets fans who mocked me at halftime when the Giants were down, 17-7.
The last laugh would go to me however, as the Giants stormed back and outscored the Jets 28-7 in the final two quarters.
The win over the Jets gave me and the rest of the Giants’ fan base confidence in the secondary. Rookie cornerback Aaron Ross picked off Chad Pennington twice in the game, returning the second pick for a 43-yard touchdown.
Continuing the tear, the Giants took the next two games on the schedule, beating the Atlanta Falcons in a Monday night game by a score of 31-10 and the following week edging the San Francisco 49ers by a count of 33-15.
With Manning looking as good as ever, the defense the best I’ve ever seen, and a record of 5-2 after seven games I began to look at the Giants team with faith.
“If we keep on winning, something very, very good might happen to us,” I contemplated.
“I’m not saying Super Bowl yet, but this is really the best football team I have ever seen.”
The next week was a history making game, as the G-Men met the Miami Dolphins in a regular season game overseas in London’s Wembley Stadium. This match was the NFL’s first in the International Series.
According to Thom Brennaman, the play-by-play man calling the action from the booth, there was a “Super Bowl-like feel” in the Stadium that day.
The Giants and Dolphins were plagued by rain throughout the majority of the day, and the game suffered because if it. The Giants pulled out a weak, 13-10 win, nonetheless.
Now entering the bye week and halfway through the season, the G-Men were at a solid 6-2 record.
Good Things Come to an End
After the bye-week, the Cowboys put an end to the tear, beating the Giants at home, 31-20.
I’ll never forget the third and fourth quarters of that game when Tony Romo hooked up with Terrell Owens for two touchdowns to propel the Cowboys past the Giants. Romo had a total of 75 yards in those two passes alone.
It was sour losing to the ‘Boys for the second time, but I still remained confident in the Giants’ ability. 6-3 was an acceptable record for me as fan after nine games, and they came back the next week and took their game against the Detroit Lions.
After beating the Lions 16-10 and moving up to 7-3, the unthinkable happened.
Most of the season up until that point, the Giants had played the best ball I had ever seen. In week 12 they collapsed, losing huge to the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 41-17.
Manning was picked off four times in the game, three of which the Vikings returned for touchdowns.
My only thought after that game was, “I hope we don’t face them in the playoffs, if we make it. After that game, it would scare me if the Giants were up against the Vikings come January.”
Coming off the shellacking the Vikings gave them in Week 13, Big Blue rebounded nicely, winning their next two games. The Giants beat the Chicago Bears in Week 14, 21-16, in a similar fashion to beating the Jets back in week five.
Down 16-7 going into the fourth quarter, Manning hooked up with Toomer for a 6-yard touchdown pass while Droughns carried the ball for a two-yard touchdown run. The 14 points in the final period gave the Giants a 21-16 victory.
The following week, Big Blue slipped by the Eagles, winning 16-13 and sweeping the season series against Philly.
Now standing at a 9-4 season record, I began to take notice in just how special this Giants team really was, as they now had six wins away from Giants Stadium. Not since their Super Bowl XXXV appearance in 2000 had the G-Men won six consecutive road games.
A team’s ability to win games away from home is a good recipe for success, and the 2007 Giants were proving that they were indeed road warriors.
Making the Playoffs
The winning on the road formula continued in week 16 at Buffalo. The Giants wrapped a solid 38-21 victory over the Bills, ensuring a playoff spot and a chance at the Super Bowl.
Though Manning was not a force in the game, throwing for only 111 yards and completing 7 out of 16 passes, we were given a look at rookie phenom running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown.
Bradshaw added to starting running back Brandon Jacobs’ 143 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the day, proving the worth of the Giants’ running game.
Now at 10-5, the Giants met their greatest regular season challenge in week 17. Facing off against the undefeated New England Patriots, the Giants fell by only three points, losing 38-35.
Although it was a loss, the game was action-packed and exciting, as the Giants nearly ended the Pat’s pursuit of regular season perfection.
Manning put on a tremendous offensive showing in the game, completing 22 out of 32 passes for 251 yards and four touchdowns with only one interception.
“We may have lost that game, but it was good,” I thought to myself after the loss to the Patriots.
“If it’s a Giants vs. Patriots Super Bowl, it might be a very good game, and we might even be able to win it. We almost won this game!”
With a decent 10-6 record and a memorable regular season behind them, the Giants would enter the playoffs with their first opponents being the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
They would also have to play and win every game on the road if they wanted to be the last team standing.