Editor’s note: I know this blog is basically reserved for baseball highlights, personal Yankee-related stories, and analysis of the Yankees, but given the circumstances surrounding yesterday night’s game, I made an exception to write about my favorite football team, the New York Giants.
I spent Yesterday night in the same place I spent Game One of the 2011-12 NFL season on Sept. 11 – at my best friend’s house watching the New York Giants.
The Giants played the Washington Redskins in Week 1, and didn’t look very good coming out of the gate. Sometime during the first half of the game, Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning was under heavy pressure, he scrambled, and ran the ball into the end zone for a touchdown.
I jumped out of my seat and yelled out in sarcasm,
“Rushing touchdown for Eli Manning! Hey, this might be a good year after all.”
After getting laughed at by my friends and hearing from certain people how “The Buffalo Bill” (yes, the Buffalo Bill, not the Buffalo Bills) were the “only New York team” (inside joke, being that the Giants and Jets play their home games in New Jersey) the Giants went on to lose 28-14 to the typically bad Redskins.
Yet, my skepticism didn’t start during their first game. I was incredibly skeptical before the season even started. The so-called “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” allowed a number of their players to walk away, losing them to free agency. I thought for sure it would be another season in which the Jets – the other New York team – would overshadow them on the back pages of the newspapers.
The Jets had been to the last two AFC title games and came dangerously close to winning them both times, nearly punching their ticket to the Super Bowl. Not to mention the Jets added former Giant hero Plaxico Burress, who caught the game-winning TD in Super Bowl XLII to beat the 18-0 New England Patriots.
We all remember that happy story, right? I thought so.
Knowing the Giants were playing the Jets on Christmas Eve when the NFL schedule broke, I called and text messaged some of my friends who are Jets fans saying, “Congrats on the win on Christmas Eve. The Giants are going to have a horrible year.”
My faith in the team was just nonexistent.
However, it picked up a little bit as the season progressed, and the G-Men got on a little bit of a roll. They sort of came together, going 6-2 after eight weeks. The Giants began playing smash-mouth football, and most importantly they got healthy.
A number of their key players on the defensive end and their secondary were hurt, rendering them vulnerable to teams that weren’t necessarily stronger, but dictated games a lot better.
Case in point: their game vs. the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 9.
The Giants were certainly playing like the better team, but a few miscues on defense and a big mistake on offense – a fourth quarter interception by Manning – cost Big Blue the game.
Still, they were able to hang with teams, stay in the playoff race, and they obviously got healthy and red-hot at the right time. And it all started with, believe it or not, their game against the Jets.
Manning began a 29-14 rout of the Green Team with a 99-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Victor Cruz, who seemingly came out of nowhere to become one of the Giants’ top offensive weapons – and one of the league’s top receivers. The 99-yarder tied an NFL record, and his 89 yards after the catch is the most by a receiver on a 99-yard TD.
Not bad for a player who went undrafted.
Needless to say I was extremely happy the Giants beat the Jets and I learned a valuable lesson from that game: never lose faith in your team. Always have faith and always believe in them, even when it’s hard to and it looks as though defeat is imminent.
For a fan who congratulated fans of the other team months before the game even took place, and to have my team win – and win by a lot – was certainly humbling, to say the very least.
From there the G-Men just got on a win streak: a 31-14 victory over the Dallas Cowboys to get into the playoff dance, a 24-2 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Wild Card weekend, a 37-20 spanking of the heavily favored, 15-1 Green Bay Packers, and finally a 20-17 overtime win over the San Francisco 49ers.
And now we’re back to where we were in 2008: Giants vs. Patriots in the Super Bowl.
As Yogi Berra would say, “It’s déjà vu, all over again!”
There are so many eerie similarities between this season and the 2007-08 campaign in which the Giants defeated the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Let me count the ways…
2007: The Giants lost their first two games, but eventually caught fire and held a 6-2 record after eight games.
2011: The Giants lost their first game and became a bit streaky, yet held a 6-2 record after eight games.
2007: Up against tough odds, the G-Men played an undefeated 15-0 Patriots team on the last day of the regular season. Big Blue hung step-for-step with the Pats, but wound up losing 38-35.
2011: Again, up against unfavorable odds, the Giants played the defending champion Packers, who were 12-0 heading into their game vs. New York in Week 13. The G-Men kept themselves in it, and looked to be clicking on all cylinders. However, some sloppy defense at the tail end of the game led to a loss, 38-35.
2007: On the road, the Giants won 10 straight games – and if you include the Super Bowl, 11 wins in a row away from the Meadowlands.
2011: The Giants are currently on a four-game win streak on the road – and they will be the away team in the upcoming Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 5.
2007: In the NFC Championship Game on the “Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field,” the Giants and Packers played to a 20-20 tie in subzero temperatures. In overtime, a key turnover by Brett Favre (an interception, which was picked off by cornerback Corey Webster) set up a field goal for the Giants. Kicker Lawrence Tynes, from 47 yards out, booted Big Blue into the Super Bowl.
2011: In the NFC Championship Game at a wet and soggy Candlestick Park in San Francisco, the Giants and 49ers played to a 17-17 tie after regulation, forcing the title game into overtime. Niners’ punt return specialist Kyle Williams was stripped of the ball by New York linebacker Jacquian Williams. The fumble was recovered by Giants’ wide receiver/specialist Devin Thomas, a costly turnover. The play set up a 31-yard field goal – which was made by Tynes to send New York to the Super Bowl.
2007: The Patriots beat the San Diego Chargers in the AFC title game, only to lose to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
2011: The Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC title game, and will once again play the Giants in the Super Bowl.
It’s pretty incredible how many parallels can be drawn between this year and the magical championship run the Giants put together a few years ago. I never thought when I was sarcastically saying “this could be a good year after all” and when I was giving the Jets the win over the Giants months before the game that the G-Men would be where they are now.
After the big win over the 49ers, Giants’ safety Antrel Rolle said, “No one gave us a shot.”
Yes sir. I will admit I was guilty of that, even as a loyal fan.
Yet Rolle even admitted that at times throughout the season, the team didn’t even give themselves a shot – so maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself as far as my wavering faith in the G-Men.
I went into this NFL season as a fan with the lowest of expectations. The Giants just by making the postseason proved me wrong. And now as NFC Champs, going to their fifth Super Bowl in franchise history, have gone above and beyond anything I ever expected out of them this year.
There might not be as much pressure on the Giants, being that New England isn’t playing for an undefeated season this time around. The Giants had to win Super Bowl XLII, otherwise they would always be remembered as “that fluke Super Bowl team who the Patriots beat to go 19-0.”
Instead they became “that pesky, resilient team who stopped the Patriots from going 19-0, and embarrassed them in front of the world.”
As far as the rematch goes, I don’t know what to anticipate; I have no idea what to expect. But if history has shown us anything, things look good for the New York Football Giants. It’s bound to be another good game; one the world will undoubtedly be watching.
Think of Yankees vs. Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS – that’s the type of feel this game is bound to possess.
No matter what happens in Super Bowl XLVI, I am proud of the Giants. They turned a season in which I expected nothing into a season that could very well be something special.