Photo © Dave Turner 2008
During every championship season, there is always a defining moment where the team rises up and shows its true character. This game may very well be that moment for the New York Giants.
At times it wasn’t pretty, in fact it was rather bleak for a while, but when it mattered most, this team stepped up and showed its mettle during a tremendous come from behind win.
Down 21-10 at one point, the Giants battled back to win 34-28 in overtime to secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. There was something about the lull of the second half, where the Giants found themselves down but it was as if you knew that this team would respond. The outcome was strikingly similar to the turning point of last season.
Last year in Buffalo, the Giants we’re reeling and in danger of not making the playoffs, yet they found themselves down 14-0 early against the Bills. They hung tough and finally, Ahmad Bradshaw ripped off a big run and the Giants came away with a win and never looked back.
This time, the Giants found themselves down and battled back to win, fueled by the sensational effort of Derrick Ward. These two games had much similarity because in both games the Giants had their backs against the wall.
Certainly, last year was more of a dire situation, but this win meant so much more than just the playoff bye. This win restored the confidence and the swagger that this team seemed to have lost the last two weeks.
There were a few moments where the Giants certainly looked lost early, especially on the deep pass to Muhsin Muhammad, where Aaron Ross went for the interception but came up empty.
DeAngelo Williams gave the Giants fits at times, and a few of his big runs were a result of poor tackling by the defense. The offense struggled at first, as Eli Manning had a few poor throws on third downs, but otherwise it was a solid game all around for Big Blue.
No one was bigger on the night than Derrick Ward. Ward rushed for 215 yards on just 15 carries, and had numerous runs that were instrumental in the Giants game tying drive and in overtime. Ward was hitting the hole like lightning, and on a few plays was into the Panthers' secondary before he was even touched.
Brandon Jacobs added 87 tough yards and scored three times. While he was noticeably hampered by his knee injury, Jacobs gutted it out to produce some big runs when needed. Eli Manning was methodical during the second half and overtime scoring drives, making several big throws. Manning finished 17 of 27 for 181 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions.
Although the defense almost gave up enough at the end to allow Carolina to kick a game-winning field goal, the D made the big stop in overtime when Carolina gained possession following the Giants punt. Although they did not sack Jake Delhomme, or create a turnover, they played well enough when it mattered to get the win.
This game was a battle between two excellent football teams, and it showed. There were very few penalties in the game, and no major turnovers by either team. In the end, the Giants kept plugging away with that same tenacious running attack that they seemed to have forgotten during their two game slide.
To say this win is huge is an understatement. A loss would have left the Giants reeling into the playoffs without much confidence. The win has restored that confidence and showed themselves, as well as the rest of the league just how good they can be when they play at the top of their game.
Will this game propel the Giants to bigger things like the game in Buffalo last year did? It very well may. This team will be tough to beat at home as the weather will only get colder as January comes.
If something great does come out of this season, this game will be the moment when everything fell into place. There was something special in the frigid late December air in Giants Stadium, and perhaps for Giants fans it means that Christmas may not come until Feb. 1 this year.