An Ode to the Big Blue Wrecking Crew
One Ticket to Paradise
In September of 2007, I was given the rare opportunity to attend the New York Giants home opener at Giants Stadium. Just as soon as I was offered the ticket to go and see my favorite team in the known universe, I accepted. It was a chance of a lifetime. Ticket prices even then were ridiculously high before the PSL (Personal Seat Licensing), not to mention that the tickets were nothing less than awesome. The tickets were for the first tier, forty-yard line and right behind my beloved team. While there, I could actually see the faces of the coaches and players on the sidelines! I checked the value of the lone ticket I had and found it to be valued at $750 on Stub Hub.com. At the time, I would not have sold the ticket for $5,000 if you offered. The ticket meant that much to me...But that was before I went and watched the game.
What a game. Not much was going in the game early on. The game was pretty much deadlocked by the end of the third-quarter as both teams were playing good defense up until the end of the third quarter. Neither team could score against the other team's defense. But by the fourth quarter, Old Brett Favre became, well, Young Brett Favre. The guy was simply On Fire. He just lit up the scoreboard like it was a Christmas tree, throwing bombs to his receiving corps effortlessly with a simple flick of his wrist. Safe to say, I left that game a bit early as my disgruntled co-worker suggested that we should leave before the traffic got really bad. Half of the stadium crowd was filing out alongside of us when we got up to leave. My Giants were not off to a very good start. The loss meant that they would be starting their 2007 season at 0-2. If they continued this trend and go 0-3, it would have ultimately been the kiss of death. They ended up getting trounced, by the way, 35-13 by Brett Favre and the Packers. So for their first two games, the Giants defense gave up a combined 80 points against the Dallas Cowboy and the Green Bay Packers. As a long time Giants fan, I could not recall the last time the Giants got off to a worse start. But one has to consider all the factors the 2007 Giants were faced with...
Giant Obstacles to Overcome
- For the first time in 10 seasons the Giants were without running back Tiki Barber who in 2006, rushed for 1,662 yards on 327 attempts and caught 58 passes for 465 yards. During the course of his illustrious 10 seasons as a New York Giant, he amassed 10,449 yards in rushing, 5,183 yards receiving, a combined 17,357 yards on punt and kickoff returns, and scored a total of 68 touchdowns. When he retired, he was the Giants all-time leader in receptions. He was a 3 time Pro Bowler and a 1-time first-team All-Pro.
- Fullback Jim Finn was an important component to the Giants rushing attack as he created holes and was Tiki Barber's lead blocker on running plays. His injury created a huge gaping hole for the Giants offense to fill (pun obviously intended).
- Due to Barber’s absence, questions loomed about whether or not they would have an effective running attack, which is traditionally the blue print to all of Big Blue’s prior successes. Having a running game was paramount, so the biggest question was whether or not Brandon Jacobs could remain healthy and so fill the void created by Barber as an every-down back.
- In a move to improve the Giants personnel, the Giants promoted quarterbacks coach Kevin Gilbride to the position of Offensive Coordinator. In addition, they acquired Steve Spagnuolo, a young defensive assistant who was a protégé of the late Jim Johnson who was a long-time defensive coordinator from their rivals the Philadelphia Eagles.
- Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin was on the hot seat, as he was believed by players and media to have lost control of his team during the previous season.. There was much dissension in the locker room during the 2006 season (in spite of which the Giants still made the playoffs) to say the least and to make matters worst, Tiki Barber berated his own head coach and questioned his decision making. Much speculation lies in the fact that Barber retired because he didn’t want to play for Coach Coughlin any longer. Word spread that he would be fired by season’s end if the Giants were not successful.
- Future Hall of Fame Defensive End Michael Strahan, a 7-time Pro Bowler and a 4-time first-team All-Pro, was the Giants’ best player on defense for the previous 13 seasons and the unquestioned vocal leader was contemplating retirement. He was uncertain on whether or not he would return and didn’t make up his mind until about four weeks before the Giants first scheduled regular season game. Until then, Strahan was penalized for each day he missed team meetings and practices. Personnel questioned whether or not number 92 would be in optimum physical shape by the start of the 2007 season.
- Eli Manning is the younger brother of Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning who was the number one draft pick of the 2004 NFL Draft. The way in which Eli was drafted raised much controversy, as he was accused of refusing to play for the original team that drafted him--the San Diego Chargers--and so demanded to be traded to the Giants with perhaps unfair expectations. Safe to say, the Giants very much wanted him and paid the price: The Giants then had gave up their first-round draft pick of Phillip Rivers and their third round draft pick. In addition, the Giants had to give up their 2005 first and fifth round draft pick. In conclusion, the Giants gave up much to acquire Eli Manning and so in retrospect, fans and media alike were growing impatient with his development. Eli showed sparks of brilliance in his play from scrimmage but would then throw off his back foot and so turn over the ball. At one point in time, the newspapers in New York hailed him as being "Eli the Terrible" and criticized that he would never be anything as good as his brother Peyton who had just come off winning a Super Bowl title and an MVP award for his efforts. As with his coach Tom Coughlin, the invariable clock was ticking for fourth year quarterback Eli.
Giant Let Down?
A Pivotal Game: Giants at Redskins Week 3
So something had to give. Something had to happen to turn the Giants' fortunes around if they planned to salvage their 0-2 start. That certain "something" occurred in the following game against the Washington Redskins. Towards the end of the fourth quarter, the Giants took the lead by a touchdown. The score was then 24-17 Giants. With the ball back in his hands, Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell then proceeded to march right down the field throwing a strike after strike, in which a key play was a 15-yard pass from Campbell to wide receiver Santana Moss on 4th and 8. On 3rd and 13, Campbell connects again, this time with receiver Antwaan Randle El for 20 yards at the Giants 1 yard line. Campbell then goes into a hurry up offense and so spikes the ball to stop the clock. Now it's 2nd and goal with only 51 seconds left in regulation and only a yard (three feet) separates the Redskins from tying the game! Campbell drops back and lets go...Pass incomplete. Now it's 3rd and goal. Campbell hands the ball off to running back Ladell Betts who tries running up the middle and is stuffed by linebacker Kawika Mitchell for no gain! 4th and goal! At this point, my heart is racing. So, what do the Redskins do? They run the ball AGAIN to Ladell Betts who runs almost the SAME PLAY. The difference is that instead of running up the middle-left, he runs all the way left and gets gang tackled by Giants safety James Butler and others in which he loses 3 yards on the play! It was one of the best goal line stands I've ever seen by the Giants Defense.
Final Score: Giants 24, Redskins 17
A Reason To Cheer
In addition to winning a tough, pivotal game against the Washington Redskins, the Giants would go on to win another five games and in some cases, in the unlikeliest of fashion. Here are just some of the highlights from these games before the Giants' Week 9 Bye Week:
- Week 4: Against the arch rivals the Philadelphia Eagles, Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora recorded an amazing 6 sacks on Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb, tying a franchise record.
- Week 5: In a game that gives the winner bragging rights to the Big Apple, the Giants Defense limited the Jets ground attack a paltry 55 yards rushing the entire game; 7 of those yards came in the second half! Running backs Brandon Jacobs and Derrick combined for 156 yards of rushing.
- Week 6: The Giants had a total of 28 first downs against the Atlanta Falcons and held the ball to a nearly 2 to 1 advantage (39:39 against 20:21). The game saw long-time Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer surpass Tiki Barber as the franchise leader with 587 career receptions and also ties Kyle Rote with his 48th career touchdown catch.
- Week 7: In a lopsided victory, the Giants defense recorded 5 sacks against the San Francisco 49ers (Osi Umenyiora(1), Michael Strahan (2.5), Justin Tuck (1.5)). With his touchdown catch, Amani Toomer passed Kyle Rote on the all-time club list with 49 touchdown catches. Ater allowing 80 points in their first two games, the Giants allowed only 69 points in its last five games since.
- Week 8; For the first time in NFL history, a regular season game was played outside of the United States. The New York Giants and Miami Dolphins went head to head at England's historic Wembley Stadium in a low-scoring, muddy game in which the Giants came out on top, 13-10. Running back Brandon Jacobs had 131 yards rushing and the only touchdown the Giants managed was a 10-yard quarterback scamper by Eli Manning.
Ups and Downs: A Quick Recap of Their Next Eight Games
Upon returning from their Week 9 Bye, the Giants' record was decent 6-3. Historically, the Giants are unsuccessful when returning from a Bye and in the next games against the hated Dallas Cowboys at Giants stadium, history repeated itself, as they would lose, 31-20. But the Giants would then rebound, outscoring the Detroit Lions 16-10, but would then get pummeled for their worst loss of the season to the Vikings at home, 41-17. Week 12 saw the Giants come from behind to beat the Chicago Bears 21-16, in one of Eli Manning's best games of the 2007 season as he led two touchdown down drives in the fourth quarter.
Having been humiliated by Osi Umenyiora and the Giants defense in Week 4, the Philadelphia Eagles sought to redeem themselves in Week 14: With 5 seconds left in regulation, Eagles kicker David Akers attempted a 57-yard kick in what would be the game tying field goal. He kicks is clean, soaring high into the air only to bang off the right upright. NO GOOD! The Giants would go on to win the nail-biter, 16-13.
They then lost a humbling 22-10 to the rival Washington Redskins (revenge for the Week 3 goal line stance?) but come back to win again on the road against the Buffalo Bills, 38-21. The Giants rushing attack completely dominated the Bills defense. By the end of the snowy afternoon the Giants would leave the field with a whopping 301 yards on the ground highlighted by rookie Ahmad Bradshaw's 88-yard touchdown run. Total, Bradshaw ran for 151 yards on just 17 carries. The Giants by now were an impressive 11-4, had clinched a Wild Card berth, and so would advance to the playoffs.
2007 NFL Week 17: New England Patriots (15-0) at New York Giants (11-4)
But there was one more game left on the Giants' schedule. By now, the Patriots were on the cusp of becoming the only team in the new era of the 16-game NFL season to go 16-0 (the 1972 Miami Dolphins were perfect in the previous era of the NFL, going 14-0 into the playoffs and winning the Super Bowl that same year). The New England Patriots were coming to town.
Important to note is that the game was not originally slated to be a prime time game but a day game with a 4 PM start time. Due to the historic implications and mass appeal that the game garnered however, the game was rescheduled for an 8:30 PM kickoff. The media was in a frenzy and the NFL treated this game as if it were a playoff game.
In the week leading up to the game there was much speculation on whether or not Giants head coach Tom Coughlin would rest his players or play competitively against a perfect New England Patriots team. Conventional wisdom dictated that the smart move would be to rest the banged-up Giants team, being that they lacked the luxury of a first-round that the Colts, Patriots, Packers and Cowboys would enjoy the following week. The Giants consequently had nothing to play for, as a victory would not improve their status in any way. Their game against the Patriots was meaningless. So, the question loomed: To rest or not to rest?
Safe to say, Tom Coughlin and the Giants made the right decision to play all of their starters. To paraphrase Michael Strahan: "The Patriots aren't resting their starters, so why should we?" The Giants saw what was a meaningless game for them as an great opportunity to change the course of history and stop the Patriots from surpassing the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only NFL team in history to enjoy a perfect season.
Their decision to play competitively cemented my devotion to my team as the Giants played the played the Patriots and played them hard that day, on December 29, 2007. At one point, the Giants led the Patriots by as much as 12 points in the third-quarter when the score was 28-16. However, in the end, the Patriots came out on top, beating the Giants by the score of 38-35. The Giants almost beat the perfect Patriots and everyone knew it. But what came out of the game for the Giants was the confidence that they could compete with the arguably the best team in NFL history. The Giants had no reason to hang their heads because they competed against the best team the NFL had to offer. I was proud of my team, more proud than I had ever been in the last seven years.
The Road to Victory
The 2007 New York Giants had to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds if they wanted a rematch with the Perfect Pats in Super Bowl 42. None of their games in the played on their home turf in East Rutherford, New Jersey (please don't ask me why they play there!). In order for them to do so would require a Herculean effort all around and they would have to win every game on the road and in the most extreme weather conditions, as they would have to travel to Tampa Bay, Florida, Green Bay, Wisconsin, Dallas, Texas and Tempe, Arizona.
Wildcard Playoffs Round: New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The entire week leading up to this Giants were reminded of the fact that historically, they have been unsuccessful against quarterback Jeff Garcia who previously played for both the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles. But in the end, the Giants relented and came away with the victory. At one point in the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Giants led 24-7. It should be noted that defensive end Michael Strahan who finished the day with nine tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. Another veteran, Amani Toomer had one of his finest playoff performances hauling in seven catches for 74 yards and the game-sealing touchdown. Cornerback Corey Webster also came up big with an interception and a fumble recovery. Final score: Giants over Buccaneers 24-14
NFC Divisional Playoffs: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
The fact that the Dallas Cowboys beat us twice in the same season was irksome to me as I sat down at my favorite sports bar in the galaxy to watch this game. I can barely describe how much I anticipated this game in the days, hours and minutes leading up to its eventual kickoff...With only 53 seconds on the clock before halftime, the Cowboys led 14-7. The first thing that ran through my mind was, What are they going to do? Try and score or run out the clock? That was when my friend Robbie leaned forward and said this to me: "If the Giants can score right now, they are going to win the game!" Now, the last I checked, Robbie was no soothsayey, but I'll be damned if he was because Eli Manning then goes into a no-huddle offense and just straight-up marches down the Texas Stadium field in which he completes 4 of 7 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown! In other words, in 46 seconds, the Giants drove 71 yards for a touchdown! The Giants had tied the game! It was so loud in Michael's Grill in Fishkill, New York that I could barely hear myself cheering. But no other cheer was louder when Giants corner back R.W. McQuarters intercepted Dallas quarterback Tony Romo's pass in the end zone. In what would have been the Dallas' go-ahead touchdown drive in the waning seconds. I remember hearing that it was tough for any NFL team to be another team three times in the same season. Thank goodness for that! Final score: Giants over Cowboys 21-17
NFC Conference Championship Game: New York Giants at Green Bay Packers
History argued that the Green Bay Packers were nothing short of perfect at Lambeau Field when hosting a Conference Championship Game. In what would be recorded as the second coldest game in the history of Lambeau Field, behind the infamous "Ice Bowl." In this game, the Giants faced their most difficult task thus far in the playoffs, as they had to contend against Brett Favre and the Pack for the second this season.
With the exception of Packers wide receiver Donald Driver's 90 yard touchdown catch by Brett Favre, the Giants defense allowed only 174 total yards and star running back Ryan Grant (a former Giant) was not a factor as he only contributed 29 yards rushing. Receiver Plaxico Burress had probably the best game as a member of the Giants, catching 11 passes for a total of 154 while having his way with Pro Bowl corner back Al Harris. Towards the end of the game, Brett Favre and the Packers offense became very predictable as they abandoned their running game after many unsuccessful attempts to run the football.
After missing his two previous field goals, Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes redeemed himself and "kicked" the 2007 New York Giants to Super Bowl 42! His 47 yard kick came in overtime in which the Packers had the first possession after winning the coin toss. Tynes reported later on that kicking the ball that night was (to paraphrase) like "kicking a solid rock." My heart was soaring at this pivotal moment. I held back my emotions as there were lots of people that knew me around Michael's Grill. My Giants were going back to the Super Bowl! I don't remember how I got home that evening, but I do remember waking up the next morning with a smile. Life was certainly good that way. Life was certainly being good to me.
"You Cant' Win!"
There was a long two-week wait between the Giants' NFC Conference Championship Game against the Packers and Super Bowl 42 against the New England Patriots. It was a long, long wait for me as I wanted so much to watch the game and know the outcome. During those two weeks, I received plenty of criticism from from Patriots fans and other anti-Giants fans, telling me my Giants can't and won't win. I felt much like Rocky Balboa namely from the movie, Rocky IV whose wife Adrian tells him (or tells him that the media says that) "YOU CAN'T WIN!" It was a sobering thought, a fearful thought exhibited by me as fear told me that sometime soon, this fun and exciting roller coaster ride known as the Giants' 2007 Super Bowl Run would come to a screeching halt and that I would have to get the heck off. I tell you, I wasn't ready to, dammit. Not by a long shot...Here's what was happening with me:
Head: "What if they lose?"
Heart: "What if they win?"
I received a phone call from my childhood friend who was a big-time Patriots fan: "Bro, (laughs) you think your team's gonna win? (Laughs again) MY TEAM is gonna win, bro. They're PERFECT." I rolled my eyes. "Nobody's perfect." I told him After the phone call, I subconsciously prayed for the Giants to overtake the Patriots in the Super Bowl, just to spite everyone who believes against them! I was tired of feeling as if we weren't good enough or didn't deserve to win. The way I looked at it, we fought our way through hell just to get one shot of getting to heaven and we were at its very gates...
It is my belief that the following photos and videos can tell and showcase to you how the New York Giants fared in Super Bowl 42 against the New England Patriots better than I ever can. Please enjoy the following footage and thank you kindly for allowing me to show my appreciation for my favorite team who I love more than oxygen. A BIG THANK YOU TO THE BIG BLUE WRECKING CREW! This one is for you! You guys have inspired me and made me proud to call myself a devoted fan!
© Copyright 2009, O. Dohn Paditsone. All Rights Reserved.
The 2007 New York Giants
David Tyree's Amazing Catch
The Battle Begins...
Super Strahan Power
Some Guys Just Refuse To Go Down
Strahan and Umenyiora Super Bowl XLII
Ahmad Bradshaw; Super Bowl Rookie
Giants Hounding Brady in Super Bowl XLII
Strahan and the Giant Defense Suffocate Brady
Giants "D" Brings More Heat
The Big Catch
Victory is Sweet
Bathed in Tradition
Victory at Last
The New York Giants' Third Super Bowl Win
True Blue Fan
Ultimate New York Giants Fan Reby Sky
Lookin' For Some Hubbin' Lovin' (6/30)
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