Super Stunner: The New York Giants' Improbable Season
Who would have thought? Really, please stand up if you thought at any point of the season that the Giants were going to be crowned champions.
Nobody thought this was possible. Certainly not me.
Remember, in the pre-season, controversy started when former Giant Tiki Barber—who had been critical of head coach Tom Coughlin in the past—trashed QB Eli Manning, criticizing his ex-teammate's lack of leadership during the previous season. Certainly, Barber had been in the Giants' locker room through thick and thin. Surely the criticisms by Barber, the Giants' all-time leading rusher, had to be valid.
Did the Giants have a prayer with a quarterback who couldn't lead or win?
Things didn't get any better at the start of the season; the Giants went 0-2, getting outscored 80-48 by the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers. Most thought Coughlin would get the boot sooner rather than later, especially if the G-men didn't turn things around quickly.
Then they had a date with the 2-0 Washington Redskins at FedEx Field, and no one gave the Giants a shot. And worse, after facing the Redskins, New York would face another divisional opponent in the Eagles—who demolished the Lions' defense for 56 points in Week Three—followed by the Jets.
An 0-5 start wasn't out of the realm of possibility.
But following the 0-2 start, the Giants didn't quit.
Despite falling behind by two TDs in hostile FedEx Field, the Giants chose to rally.
Against Washington, the Giants came back from a 17-3 first-half deficit, outscoring the Redskins 21-zip thanks to two one-yard TD runs by Reuben Droughns and Manning's 33-yard TD pass to Plaxico Burress.
And the G-men's defense came up big with a dramatic goal-line stand on fourth-and-goal to snuff out a late Washington rally at the Giants' one-yard line.
And with that first win under their belt, the Giants reeled off five straight wins and had a 6-2 record, but most thought it was a mirage. After all, several of those victories came against the worst teams in the NFL (Jets, Falcons, 49ers, and Dolphins).
Coming off the sextet of wins, the Giants squared off against the 7-1 Cowboys at Giants Stadium on November 11th. Romo, however, threw four TDs—two in the second half to Owens—for the visitors, and the Giants fell 31-20, practically handing the Cowboys the division title.
And Giants Stadium turned out to be home-field disadvantage, as New York then fell embarrassingly to the Vikings (a 41-17 meltdown to a 4-6 squad) and Redskins (a 22-10 defeat at the hands of a 6-7 team) and dropped to 9-5.
Both were huge blows to the team's morale: in the Minnesota debacle, Manning threw four interceptions, three of which were returned for TDs, while in the defeat against the 'Skins, the Giants also lost tight-end Jeremy Shockey for the season with a broken left fibula.
Still, the Giants were playoff-bound after a big come-from-behind victory at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Week 16, beating the Bills 38-21 under terrible weather conditions. The Giants survived a 14-0 first-quarter deficit and put the game away with three TDs in the wind and snow-filled contest.
Then came that epic Saturday night game against the mighty Patriots in Week 17. With a playoff spot clinched, the Giants elected to play their starters in an attempt to thwart New England's dreams of a perfect 16-0 season and to prevent the Pats' duo of Tom Brady and Randy Moss from setting individual records.
With seemingly the entire world watching (trying to witness history by the Patriots), the Giants showed everyone that they had game. New York took a 28-16 lead but eventually lost 38-35—allowing the Patriots, Brady, and Moss to set records during the contest.
Still, despite that effort against the Patriots in the season finale, not many expected big things from the G-men in the playoffs.
While some thought New York could beat an unimpressive Tampa Bay Buccaneers team at Raymond James Stadium in the Wild Card round, naysayers pointed to Bucs' QB Jeff Garcia's 2-0 playoff record against the Giants. After all, Garcia had led the Eagles to a playoff victory against the Giants a year ago and had engineered a remarkable 24-point comeback—the second-largest come-from-behind win in NFL playoff history—while with the 49ers in the 2003.
And Manning had never won a playoff game, and Coughlin had never won one with the Giants.
Nonetheless, the Giants handled the Bucs and moved on to Irving, Texas to face the NFC's top seed, the Cowboys. No one gave the Giants a chance against the Cowboys team that had already shredded New York's defense twice during the season.
However, Manning again proved his critics wrong with two touchdown passes—both to Amani Toomer—and no interceptions, and the Giants clinched the game when R.W. McQuarters intercepted the Cowboys' Romo with seconds remaining. The Giants had a 21-17 win and were moving on to the NFC title game in Green Bay.
And next in Wisconsin, the 13-3 Packers were supposed to be the better team, and had two other intangibles going their way: a legend in Brett Favre playing in legendary Lambeau Field.
The entire country seemingly wanted to see a New England-Green Bay Super Bowl because of the media and fans thought that seeing Favre going up against the Patriots would be a compelling story.
But the Giants didn't pay attention to all that.
The Giants intercepted Favre when it mattered, and despite Lawrence Tynes' two missed field goals, managed to pull off an overtime upset victory to vault themselves to the Super Bowl.
Starting out 0-2? No problem. The Giants made it to the playoffs.
Facing the number one seed in the NFC Divisional round against a team that had already beaten them twice? Well, the third time was the charm.
Going up against a three-time MVP in the NFC Championship Game in Green Bay? No biggie; they picked him off twice and won the game.
And then knocking off arguably the greatest team in NFL history, the previously 18-0 New England Patriots with aspirations to become just the second team ever to finish a season undefeated.
People laughed when Burress predicted the 14-point underdog Giants would win the Super Bowl during media week.
This extra week between the Conference title games and Super Bowl was supposed to hurt the Giants more than the Patriots. After all, the Giants' momentum was supposedly going to be hampered by this unnecessary bye week.
Brady and his record-setting offense were supposed to walk all over the Giants.
For three quarters in Super Bowl XLII though, the Giants' defense came up huge against the Patriots. The Giants then took a 10-7 lead in the fourth quarter, seemingly ready to deny the Pats their dream of perfection.
But once again, most thought it was déjà vu when Brady hooked up with Moss with three minutes left. It was the same duo that provided the fourth-quarter go-ahead score for the Pats in Week 17. This was exactly what New England had been doing all season long.
But the Giants again rallied, as they had all season, and when Manning found Burress in the end zone with under a minute left for the winning score—they were world champions.
Who would have scripted this?
That's why games are decided on the field.
The Giants proved that in 2007-08.
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