Patriots-Giants: An Instant Classic at the Meadowlands

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Patriots-Giants: An Instant Classic at the Meadowlands

When it was all over, nothing was left out on the field.

The New England Patriots had set all the records they'd come to set, including becoming the first NFL team to run a 16-game table.

And the New York Giants had finally shown the football world that they're worthy of being called a playoff team.

The fans at the Meadowlands, a mixed bunch but still mostly Giants supporters, were treated to a football game for the ages. No one went home unhappy.

New England fans saw their dreams of 19-0 stay very much alive, and Giant fans can now begin to focus on their playoff game next week against Jeff Garcia and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The surreal night had unusual elements and memorable moments.

For starters, it wasn't typical late-season Meadowlands weather—the wind was minimal and the temperature was in the 40s, so the teams had no problems in the passing and kicking aspects of their games.

Secondly, it felt more like a Super Bowl in which every team in the league was allotted a fixed number of tickets. There were a lot of new faces in familiar seats.

There were different faces on both sidelines, too. The Giants had a number of alumni in town, including Harry Carson and Jesse Armstead.  Across the field, Charlie Weis roamed freely up and down the bench as if he never left for Notre Dame.

On the field, the two best pitch-and-catch duos in the NFL had banner nights.  Tom Brady leaned heavily on Randy Moss, hitting him for two TDs.  Eli Manning, who surprised everyone by turning in a stellar performance, threw four touchdowns—two to favorite target Plaxico Burress.

Although the Giants defenders was often out of place, they played a spirited game, getting good pressure on Brady and sacking him once.

Of course, that's not good enough to stop him—but it was enough to make things interesting.

The Pats erased a 12-point Giants lead in the third quarter with 22 unanswered points, before the Giants tacked on a late fourth-quarter TD. The ensuing onside kick was recovered by New England to ice the game 38-35.

All told, the performances were enough to quiet critics of both teams.

The Patriots stood up to a dogged effort by the Giants' defense. They likely won't face a pass rush like that again, unless these two teams meet in February.

The Giants, meanwhile, sent a message to the rest of the NFC playoff qualifiers that they aren't to be taken lightly. 

Saturday's game was supposed to have little bearing in the greater scheme of things—but you'd never know it by the way it was played.

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