The Playoff Run on the Road
On Wild Card weekend, the Giants took care of the Bucs, beating them, 24-14.
It felt good to see the Giants finally capture a playoff win and not go “one and done” in the first round. Manning silenced his critics, posting stellar numbers in the game. He made 20 out of 27 passes, good for 185 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
With one playoff win out of the way, a new challenge lie ahead of the G-Men. They were now in the divisional round of the 2007 playoffs, and up against the team that swept them in the regular season, the Cowboys.
All season long, the Giants’ impeccable play was overshadowed by the undefeated Patriots and the performance of Romo, who was clipping together a numerically good year for Dallas.
Along with Romo’s great numbers there was Owens, who is famous for his antics after scoring touchdowns. He stated before the game, “We need to get the popcorn ready, because there will be a show.”
Earlier in the season, Owens had snatched a bucket of popcorn from a fan after scoring a touchdown, and poured it into his mouth in celebration.
The numbers of Romo and the cocky attitude of Owens posed no threat to the Giants, who stunned the world by beating the ‘Boys, 21-17.
Manning compiled yet another good game, going 12 out of 18 with 163 yards, two touchdowns (both caught by Toomer), and no interceptions.
Giants’ cornerback R.W. McQuarters ended the Cowboys’ season by intercepting Romo in the end zone to end the game and give the G-Men their second playoff victory and eighth straight road win.
Eating his words, Owens confronted the media after the game in tears, stating, “If you put the blame on Romo for the loss, it’s really unfair. That’s my teammate. That’s my quarterback, and if you do that to him, it’s really unfair.”
Strahan stood up for the Giants and made a comment after the game about Owens’ popcorn remark saying, “He and Patrick Crayton can eat popcorn and watch us at his home theater next week versus Green Bay.”
I wasn’t particularly worried about what happened back in Week Two when the Pack beat the Giants in that ugly loss, but I was skeptical as to how well they would perform due to the weather conditions in the NFC Championship game.
“We’re a different team now,” I thought to myself. “It’s going to be freezing and difficult to pull off, but I still believe in this team, no matter what.”
Nobody expected the Giants to pull off a win in Green Bay the following week, as the game time weather conditions in Green Bay looked glacial. With the temperature at an arctic minus one degree farenheit, the Giants took on the grizzled veteran Brett Favre.
Tied at 20-20 after regulation, the game was forced into overtime. The Packers won the coin toss, but it was all for naught. Two plays later, Favre was picked off by Giants’ cornerback Corey Webster, giving Big Blue an opportunity to end the game.
Failing to convert a third down and 47 yards away, kicker Lawrence Tynes booted the Giants to the Super Bowl, calcitrating a field goal and launching the G-Men to a 23-20 win over Green Bay.
The Giants were now 2007 National Football Conference Champions, and ready to enter the Super Bowl against a team that was 18-0.
Super Bowl XLII
Just as everyone expected the Giants to flop in every game they won throughout the playoffs, a large majority of the media and the fans were ready to crown the Patriots the 2007 Super Bowl Champions.
In the weeks leading to the big game, the press questioned the players on each squad about their predictions on the outcome of the game.
Burress prophesied the final score to be 23-17 in favor of the Giants.
Pats’ quarterback Tom Brady jokingly responded by saying, “17 points? That’s it? Is Plax playing defense?”
I, for one, foresaw a win for the Giants, as I had studied every game closely. I knew they would win, but I wondered how.
“It could be a tight win, like the NFC Title game, and we win on a walk-off field goal,” I thought. “Or maybe we’ll do it with a come-from-behind beating, like we did against the Jets and Bears. Either way, I have a feeling this 19-0 vision in New England is too good to be true.”
The slogan of Super Bowl XLII was “Who wants it more?” and I knew the Giants wanted it very badly, and so did I, as a fan. The last thing I wanted to see was the Patriots go undefeated after the Giants worked so hard to get to the top.
Emanating from Phoenix, AZ, the Giants and Patriots matched up in the most meaningful game in all of sports.
Wearing my official Manning jersey with the captain’s patch stitched on my chest, I tuned in for what would be the greatest football game in my lifetime. Feb. 3, 2008 was the date.
Starting off rather slow, the Giants’ defense was able to contain the Patriots’ offense in the first quarter. The difference in the game after one period was a 32-yard field goal by Tynes to put the Giants up by three.
Later in the second quarter, Laurence Maroney put New England on the board and ahead of the Giants, carrying the ball for a one-yard touchdown run to put the Patriots up, 7-3 going into halftime.
While Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed during the halftime show, I was carefully mulling over the game, and hoping the Giants came out strong in the next half.
With the D-lines on each side holding up in the third quarter and no change in the score, the game went into the exhilarating fourth quarter. A period of 15 minutes I’d never forget.
The G-Men would get the lead back in the fourth with Manning connecting with David Tyree for a five-yard touchdown pass, giving themselves a 10-7 lead.
“Yes!” I screamed as things were looking up for the Giants. “This could be it!”
But the Patriots soon squashed my hopes and feelings when Brady hooked up with Randy Moss for a touchdown, giving the lead back to New England.
I can remember feeling awful as I watched Tedy Bruschi and Richard Seymour hug after the touchdown. In their minds, the game was already over.
But Super Bowl XLII was far from over.
Now trailing 14-10, I knew the Giants needed a huge play. With only a meager two minutes and 40 seconds left to score, the Giants remained cool under pressure. They drove from their 17 yard line all the way to the Pats’ 13. But the biggest story was what happened on the way there.
Holding the ball and frantically searching for an open receiver, Manning was attacked by three New England defenders. Staring an easy sack in the face, Manning miraculously avoided going down, hurled the ball down field onto the head and eventually into the hands of Tyree, completing a dramatic catch and a New York first down.
With Strahan on the Giants’ sideline screaming,“17-14! 17-14!” Manning would later connect with Burress for a touchdown, giving the G-Men their 17-14 lead Strahan had been hollering for.
I could not contain myself as I joyfully cried out for the Giants after Burress’ catch.
“I knew they could do it! I have watched this team all year, and I knew this could happen. I doubted them at first, but I always believed.”
The greatest thrill of my life as a football fan came in that final quarter of Super Bowl XLII. The Giants did not allow another yard after the touchdown catch and they went on to win the game 17-14 and shock the world.
I smiled as I watched Brady and the rest of the Patriots team walk off in defeat. My smile widened as I watched NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell present Manning with the Most Valuable Player trophy.
I could not help but think of all the times the media in New York crucified Manning went something went wrong. I remembered driving to school every Monday morning and hearing the barrage of insults on the radio directed at our quarterback when things didn’t go the Giants’ way.
“They can no longer call him out,” I said. “He is the Super Bowl MVP, he beat an undefeated team in front of the entire world, and now nobody can bash him ever again, even if they lose.”
In my euphoria, the 2007 Giants were Super Bowl Champions. A team that I still look at as being “my team.” A team who wanted it more.
Two days later, the Giants were out of the desert and marching down the Canyon of Heroes in New York.
The ticker-tape parade was a necessary victory celebration, and the whole city of New York recognized the season-long efforts of the team.
Although I was not able to attend the city-wide celebration of champions, I did catch the cavalcade on television. It was satisfying to see Manning, Toomer, Strahan, Jacobs and all the men who crushed the dreams of the fans in New England, and made mine come true.
“They are wearing black in New England today,” Strahan exclaimed to the citizens of New York when the parade reached City Hall. “Today we’re celebrating, and it is like a funeral for them!”
The Giants brought their Vince Lombardi trophy with them to the parade, and were praised for their warrior-like attitude. Strahan later revealed the mind-set of the team that they carried with them the whole season: “Our idea all year was to stomp them out. And guess what? We stomped them out!”
The parade was a thrilling and glorious celebration, but perhaps the best part of the big win came some two months later.
I heard that Toomer would be signing autographs at a nearby bank, and I was able to bring myself to meet him.
I thought to myself, “It’s a chance to meet a Giants legend. He had the most catches in that incredible Super Bowl game, grabbing six catches for 84 yards. He is also the Giants’ all-time receiving leader. It would be an honor to meet him!”
I walked into the lobby of the bank to find Toomer sitting at a table.
“How you doing?” he asked me.
“I’m great,” I replied. “How are you?”
“Not doing too bad,” he responded.
I had so many questions for him, but I didn’t want to appear star struck. So I asked him a rather basic question first.
“Did you guys get your rings yet?”
“Not yet,” he responded. “I think we either get them next month or the month after.”
I looked at him and had to just say it.
“That was the greatest Super Bowl I’ve ever seen.”
“It was unbelievable,” he answered. “That whole season and that Super Bowl were absolutely crazy.”
Toomer signed my autograph for me, I shook his hand, and we parted company. But he didn’t just sign my autograph. He left me with a memory from my all-time favorite football team. A team I won’t ever forget. The 2007 New York Giants.