The 2007 Giants: Comfortable in Chaos

David FinkelsteinContributor IMay 15, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 03:  David Tyree #85 of the New York Giants catches a 32-yard pass from Eli Manning #10 as Rodney Harrison #37 of the New England Patriots attempts to knock it out in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

3. What is your favorite team of all-time? (i.e., 2000 Patriots, 1994 49ers, etc.)

Forget for a second the headline you just read and the picture of David Tyree's helmet catch and pretend the statistic you're about to read is about an anonymous NFL team.

Team X trailed in the second half of 14 games. Now try and hypothesize what kind of season this anonymous team had.

A conservative estimate would be that this team played close game after close game and fought it's way to something resembling an 8-8 record.

One could also assume that a team that trailed 14 times in the second half was completely inept and won a number of games that could be counted by the fingers attached to one hand.

Either way, it would be an easy assumption that a team that trailed in the second half 14 times was quite average, ordinary, and easily forgettable.

Moving forward, it's time to reveal that Team X is the 2007 World Champion New York Giants, hardly any ordinary old team. 

The numbers most closely associated with the '07 champion Giants season were 11, for the team's remarkable road winning streak, and 18-1, for the record their Super Bowl upset bequeathed on the Patriots from last February to eternity.

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But a closer look at this championship season reveals that the aforementioned number of 14 might reflect the story of this incredible season better than any other number, fact, or statistic.

The "14 thesis," and the resilience and perseverance it reflects is just one reason that the 2007 Giants will until further notice be cited by myself and many other Giant fans as our favorite team of all-time.

Bottom line, the Giants were comfortable playing from behind, and excelled doing so. While some teams (see 2007 Dallas Cowboys) implode (see penalties, dropped passes, infighting, Andre Gurode forgetting how to shotgun a snap, Wade Phillips being Wade Phillips) the first time the game gets tough and they find they can't bully teams around, others thrive.

While the Giants reached their potential and truly became a great team in the playoffs, they possessed come-from-behind ability months earlier when they were a slightly above average but maddeningly inconsistent team.

Or, in angry fan terms, the ability to play like (insert expletive) for three quarters and gut the game out in the final minutes.

Down 17-3 at half in week 3 at Washington, win 24-17. Down 17-7 at half against the lowly Jets at home in week 5, win going away 35-24. Down 16-7 after 3 quarters week 13 in Chicago, win 21-16. Down 7-6 at half week 14 in Philadelphia, win 16-13.

Yes, I know that was a lousy example but any win over the hated Eagles must be cherished.

Down 14-0 early and 21-17 after three quarters in Buffalo in week 16, in a driving storm of snow, sleet, rain, flying cups of miller lite, and god knows what else, win 38-21.

So while fans across the country were ready to hand the NFC title to either the Packers or Cowboys, the Giants were quietly building the guts and comeback skills that would soon be present on the big stages of the playoffs.

When broken down, the fact that the Giants trailed in the second half of 14 games shows how the entire Giant season resembled a tightrope walk that could have collapsed at any time, making the team's maturation from an immature, bickering bunch in 2006 to World Champions in 2007 all the more remarkable.

Simply put, when you play with fire, you usually get burnt. Football teams that are losing in the second half of games rarely reach high levels, especially in the single elimination playoffs.

Compare the Giants playoff run to the three previous wild-card teams that matched the Giants feat of winning a championship having to play four playoff games.

The Giants trailed in the second half of their final three playoff games, 17-14 in Dallas, 10-6 and 17-13 in Green Bay, and 7-3 and 14-10 in the Super Bowl against the Pats.

A year earlier, the Colts trailed in the second half just once in their four playoff win streak, coming from 21-3 down to top the Patriots 38-34 in the AFC Championship game. Otherwise, the Colts ride was smooth sailing, winning their three other playoff games by at least two scores.

While the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers did match the Giants feat of winning three straight road playoff games to reach the Super Bowl, the quality of opponent the Steelers faced in this streak was dramatically weaker than the foes the Giants faced in 2007. Just compare the quarterbacks taken down by the '05 Steelers and the '07 Giants.

Pittsburgh: Jon Kitna, Peyton Manning, Jake Plummer, Matt Hasselbeck.

Giants: Jeff Garcia, Tony Romo, Brett Favre, Tom Brady.

No contest!

The Steelers only came from behind once in the '05 playoffs, and that was a pseudo-comeback at best. The lone second-half deficit faced by this Steeler crew was from 17-14 down in the wild card round against a shell-shocked Cincinnati team that lost star quarterback Carson Palmer to injury on the game's first play.

With Jon Kitna at the helm, the Bengals offense went ice cold and Pittsburgh won easily, 31-17. While this still counts as a second-half comeback, it's easy to suffice that there were quite a few "Pittsburgh second half" bets cashed in across the country that day with Palmer out of the game.

The only real threat faced by the Steelers was the Colts last-ditch comeback from 21-3 down in the divisional round.

The Colts closed to within 21-18, and their final two drives were stopped short, with Mike Vanderjagt's game-ending badly missed field goal closing things out. The Steelers then dispatched Denver and Seattle, winning 34-17 and 21-10, respectively.

While the Steelers had it somewhat easy, that was nothing compared to the four game tour de force displayed by the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, as all Giant fans can attest to.

The Ravens trailed once, not only in the second half of a playoff game, but throughout the entire four game run. Other than briefly falling behind Tennessee by a 10-7 margin in the divisional round, the Ravens were completely dominant.

Baltimore outscored its foes 95-23, for an 18-point margin of victory, and yielded just one offensive touchdown in the win over Tennessee.

As the years to come pass by, and other wild-card teams advance to or win Super Bowls, we will hear commentators list the Giants with other wild-card teams that have won Super Bowls.

From the standpoint of pure statistics, each wild-card team to win a championship is the same, with the 2007 Giants no different than the 1997 Broncos.

For the casual fan, this is true. But, both die-hard Giant supporters and football historians will be able to separate the ordinary wild-card champions from the extraordinary ones like the 2007 New York Giants.

Then again, it really won't be that hard. Start with the Giants 0-2 start to the season, throw in a coach fighting for survival, add a maligned quarterback reaching his potential, an impossible-to-believe 11-game road winning streak, and top it off with an upset of an 18-0 Patriot team led by future Hall-of-Famers at head coach and quarterback, thought by many experts to be the greatest team of all-time, punctuated by the greatest catch in football history and a last minute touchdown catch, and there you have it: the most incredible season in Giants history.

World Champions for the year of 2007, unforgettable for eternity! Your 2007 New York Giants!

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