The Perfect Ending: The 2007 New York Giants
Coming off the loss in the 2006 Wild Card Round against the Philadelphia Eagles, many questions came about before the 2007 season. Will Tom Coughlin be gone at the end of the year? Is Eli Manning the quarterback to lead this team? How will the team operate without the retired Tiki Barber? Will the defense get back to its old style of smash mouth, aggression?
Eli Manning's character was questioned by Barber, who was now part of the media. Manning would shrug it off and shot back at Barber. Manning's teammates would notice and it inspired their play.
However, like any other year, the Giants '07 season would be a roller coaster of emotions. It happened right away, losing the first two games to the Cowboys and Packers while being tagged for 80 points.
The following week was a must win and the Giants did so in dramatic fashion against the Redskins, holding off four consecutive Washington plays inside their 5 to preserve the victory.
The Giants got the moral victory they needed and ran with it. They dominated the Eagles at home, came back to beat the Jets, shredded the Falcons on Monday Night Football, scorched the 49ers at home, and held off the Dolphins in London.
This put the Giants at a familiar spot; 6-2. It was the same record they had the last three years through eight games. Much like the prior two years, the Giants hit a skid in the middle of their schedule.
They were trounced again by the Cowboys, this time at home. And while they snuck out of Detroit with a win, a dismantling at home from the Minnesota Vikings put the Giants season at a crossroad. They could roll over without a fight and miss the playoffs or they could pick up the pieces and rally towards the finish line. They would choose the latter and fight back.
Down two scores in Chicago, the Giants fought back with two late scores to give them an electrifying win while taking down the Eagles in Philly the next week. All seemed to be well in Giants land.
However, they would fall flat on their faces on Sunday Night Football to the Washington Redskins. Sitting at 9-6, and knowing the undefeated New England Patriots were waiting for them in Week 17, their next game against the Buffalo Bills became a must win.
Down 14-0 early, the Giants went ahead right before halftime thanks to their running attack. Trailing in the 4th quarter, both the defense and offense made HUGE plays to give them the playoff berth. A pair interception returns for touchdowns by Kawika Mitchell and Corey Webster, sandwiched by an 88 yard TD by Ahmad Bradshaw, sent the Giants back to the playoffs for the third straight year.
Week 17. Patriots-Giants. Perfection on the line. Would Tom Coughlin rest his starters? His answer simply....NO. They battled back and forth deep into the New Jersey night but New England's offense was too much and the perfect regular season was theirs. But the Giants were proud of the way they played and that game would be just what they needed for their confidence level going into the playoffs.
That swagger showed in the Wild Card Round vs. the Bucaneers. Trailing early, the Giants would seize control of the game in the second quarter and grinded down the Bucs with their unparalleled running game. The Giants would cruise to victory and with the win, Tom Coughlin had saved his job.
But the Cowboys were waiting for them in the next round. They traded blows back and forth, heading into the half tied 14-14. Dallas went ahead by 3 early in the second half, but it was the Giants defense who set the tone, continuing to get to Romo and forcing him to get rid of the ball early. The Giants continued to plug away and broke through early in the 4th, seizing the lead. The Giants were forced to make one last goal line stand late in the game with their season on the line and R.W. McQuarters made sure they were going to the NFC title game as he intercepted the ball with just seconds remaining, punching the Giants ticket to Green Bay.
Historic Lambeau Field; the site of the '07 Championship Game. The Giants were not intimidated. Trading touchdowns throughout the second half, the game was deadlocked at 20 in the 4th quarter. Lawrence Tynes had two chances to win the game for the Giants including one kick at the end of regulation and he missed them both.
The Packers would start off with the ball in OT but a Brett Favre interception set the Giants up with great field position. But the Giants drive would stall, setting up a potential 47 yard field goal. Coach Tom Coughlin was looking for a sign to decide whether or not they would punt or try the field goal. As soon as the 3rd down play was over, Tynes sprinted back out onto the field. It was the right call as his kick sailed through the uprights sending the Giants to the Super Bowl.
The stage was set again. Giants-Patriots. Last game of the year. Super Bowl on the line. Perfection for the Patriots on the line.
The Giants had the ball first and took nearly 10 minutes off the clock putting up a field goal to take the early lead. The Patriots would go the distance of the field, capped off with a TD run by Laurence Maroney. However, this game would turn out to be anything but the first meeting between the two. Both defenses swarmed to the ball, giving neither offense any room to breathe.
Michael Strahan had said to Osi Umenyiora before the game, "We have to get to Brady. That's the only way." And they would do just that. Brady saw a wave of defensive pressure that he and his offensive line hadn't seen all year. Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had come a long way since his defense gave up 80 points in the first two games. He was now a mastermind, baffling the Patriots with his defensive sets and scheme. No scoring would occur until the 4th quarter.
It would be the Giants to strike early in the last quarter as little used receiver David Tyree caught a touchdown on a playaction fake by Eli Manning giving the Giants the lead.
It's what every quarterback dreams of; a chance to lead his team on a last minute drive in the Super Bowl to win the championship. This was the opportunity Eli Manning had been waiting for. This was the reason former General Manager Ernie Accorsi traded for Manning; to shine with the season and the Super Bowl on the line. A chance for Manning to silence his critics.
Quickly the Giants were faced with a 4th and 1 in their own territory and converted on a short run by Jacobs.
Trouble was brewing when the Giants had a 3rd and 5 at their own 44. As Manning drop backed, the pocket collapsed. He was wrapped up. It was going to be fourth and long, when somehow....Manning got away. He spun out of the grasp of the Patriots defenders and launched a Hail Mary to Tyree who went up and grabbed the ball and pinned it on his head as he fell to the ground in the grasp of New England safety Rodney Harrison. One of the best plays you'll ever see, kept the drive alive for New York.
New England tried to hold fort as they left Manning with a 3rd and 11 with just 45 seconds to play, 25 yards away from the end zone. Manning would find Steve Smith on the sideline who tiptoed out of bounds past the sticks to convert the first down.
On the next play, New England brought the house and like Manning so often does, he lobbed one up for his big target Plaxico Burress. He was wide open and made the catch to give the Giants the lead. It was all over moments later.
The Giants were Super Bowl XLII Champions and had knocked off the unbeaten Patriots. What a story and what an end to one of the best, if not THE best Super Bowl ever!
The whole story of the 2007 New York Giants season is why they are my favorite of all time. With so many questions coming into the season and the turmoil they faced early on set the first chapter. The comeback vs. Washington and the roll they went on brought us through the positive part of the roller coaster. Then the loss to Dallas and the beating by Minnesota brought the team back down to Earth. Bouncing back with come from behind wins against Chicago and Philly made you think the team was turning it around. The loss at home to Washington with a playoff spot on the line made you want to pull your hair out. Then the Buffalo comeback and the regular season finale vs. the Patriots made you really believe that the Giants could do something.
Then seeing the Giants finally execute when it mattered vs. the Bucs, beating the odds with the win against Dallas with the goal line stand, beating Brett Favre and the Packers at Lambeau in overtime in one of the coldest games ever played, and then getting another shot at New England and knocking off the unbeaten Patriots on a last minute drive....there may have never been and may never be a better story book ending than the 2007 New York Giants.
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