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- Year in Review: The 2007 New York Giants

Matt Bathrick February 9, 2008
Matt Bathrick

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The 2007 NFL season was filled with storylines: Patriots perfect season, Brett Favre's resurgence, Roger Goodell's first year as commissioner, the list could go on and on. But the one that ultimately must overshadow the rest is the story of the winners of Super Bowl XLII, the New York Giants.

In training camp and pre-season, there were a lot of questions surrounding the Giants. Will this be Eli's break-out year? How will the defense fit the system of new coordinator Steve Spagnola. And, as the New York papers were concerned, why hasn't Tom Coughlin been fired yet? But the biggest question among them was: Will Michael Strahan return? While deciding whether to play a 15th season in the NFL, seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end Strahan held out of training camp.

Despite the Strahan distraction, Coughlin claimed the team was able to keep focused. The defense had the challenge of learning the new defense. New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnola was hired to install his aggressive scheme. He had previously been an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles, who were known for their aggressive defense.

While the defense faced challenges, the offense had their share to. Former running back Tiki Barber caused a couple of them himself. After the previous season, Barber retired in large part to his regard for Coach Tom Coulghlin. He did not get along with Coughlin, and publicly criticized him. His retirement left the starting halfback position open for Brandon Jacobs, a 6-4 264 pound player in his third year who rushed for over 400 yards the previous year as Barber's backup. He would now get his chance to see what he can do full-time.

In addition to that challenge, Tiki publicly attacked QB Eli Manning. He criticized Eli's leadership, even calling his locker room speeches "comical". Eli had something to say about that. "It's just one of those deals. I'm not going to lose any sleep about what Tiki has to say," Manning said. "I guess I could have questioned his leadership skills last year with calling out the coach and having articles about him retiring in the middle of the season, and he's lost the heart [to play].

"As a quarterback you're reading that your running back has lost the heart to play the game and it's about the 10th week," Manning said. "I can see that a little bit at times. But I'm not going to get concerned. I'm going to go out there and play ball." Manning's teammates didn't hesitate to get behind their quarterback.

Amidst all the challenges and distractions the New York Giants faced, they went 1-3 in the preseason. And with only a few days before the start of the regular season, Michael Strahan joined the team.

The Giants lost the first two games of the regular season, to Dallas and Green Bay. In those games they gave up a Giants record combined 80 points. Spagnola needed to get his defense to learn the new system quick. However, Eli Manning did prove his leadership ability when he capped off a 9 play, 80 yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Ward to come within ten points with 7:20 left in the game. Unfortunately, he bruised his throwing shoulder and could not return. He finished with 312 yards and 4 TD passes.

Starting the season 0-2, the Giants could not afford a third straight loss. Steve Spagnola was under fire, and the media was relentless, calling for Coughlin's job if they didn't win in Week 3. Their third game was in Washington against the 2-0 Redskins. By halftime, the Giants were down 17-3. However, the G-men scored 21 unanswered points in the second half, putting them up by seven. With 58 seconds left in the game, the Redskins were first and goal at the 1, down by a touchdown. This New York defense who gave up eighty points in the first two games, put up an amazing goal-line stand to stop the Redskins on four straight plays to win the game.

The New York Giants went on to win six straight games; including a game agianst the Eagles in which the defense had 12 sacks, a game against the 49ers in which the defense helped account for 24 points, and the ugly game in London, England against the Dolphins.

The Giants winning streak had brought their record to 6-2 for the first half. The question now was: How will Manning be in the second half. In his short career, Manning has typically collapsed in the second half of the season. In his first three years, he has thrown a combined 13 interceptions in the first half, and 31 in the second half. Would Eli be the typical Eli, or would he finally prove to be the quarterback the Giants were hoping for.

Their first game of the second half, unfortunately was against the high powered 7-1 Cowboys. Eli Manning threw two interceptions and was sacked five times as the Giants lost 31-20.

The Giants were able to beat the Detroit Lions in Week 11, but the next week against the Minnesota Vikings, Manning started to really show the typical second-half Eli. He threw four interceptions in that game. Three of them were returned for touchdowns, and one set up a touchdown. The Vikings won 41-17.

The next week in Chicago Manning threw two interceptions, playing terrible through most of the game. But this time, he elevated his play when it mattered most. With 6:54 left in the game, Manning threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer, which cut the Giants deficit to 16-14. On their next possession, Manning threw key completions to David Tyree and Plaxico Burress to set 2-yard run by Reuben Droughns. That won the game 21-16.

The Giants went on to beat the Eagles on David Akers' missed field goal, then were defeated by the playoff hopeful Redskins. They not only lost the game to Washington, but they lost their Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey for the season with a broken leg. And at 9-5, the Giants were left with two games, needing to win to clinch a playoff spot.

Their next game was against the Buffalo Bills. The Bills had already been eliminated from playoff contention, but that didn't mean they had nothing to play for. Bills tight end Kevin Everett, who sustained a severe spinal cord injury in Buffalo's season opener against Denver on Sept. 9, returned to Buffalo. After fears that he would never walk again, he was now walking on his own. And he had come to inspire his team by addressing them before the game. Despite the Bills' inspired team, a couple of fourth quarter interception returns and an 88-yard run by Ahmad Bradshaw sealed a win for New York. They had locked up a wild card berth.

With one game left of the regular season, and the Giants playoff seed all set, New York could have just tanked their last game and rested the starters for the playoffs. But that wasn't Coach Coughlin's plan. They were about to take on the 15-0 New England Patriots, who were trying to become the first team in NFL history to go undefeated in a 16-game season. Their dominant offense was filled with play-makers like Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker. And they had very smart veteran defense under master planner Head Coach Bill Belichick.

So what did that have to do with the Giants?

"There is nothing but positives," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "I told the players in playing this game everything would be positives, there would be no negatives and that is how I feel.

"I don't know any better way to be prepared for the playoffs than to go against a team that was 15-0."

The Giants went into that game and played extremely well against the heavily favored Patriots. At the beginning of the second half, New York held a 12-point lead. New England then went on to score 22 points on three touchdowns to take a ten point lead. With 1:04 left in the game, Eli threw a TD pass to come within three points, but that would be it.

The Giants finished only three points shy of the undefeated Patriots. What did that do for the team?

"We didn't win the game, but if you saw everybody in the locker room, everybody was excited," Manning said. "I never saw a locker room so upbeat after a loss because we played so well, did some good things and hung in there in a game where we didn't have to play. We wanted to. We wanted to come out and play well, and we did that."

New York ended the season 10-6, with seven straight road wins. Fortunately for them, their wild-card round playoff game was on the road - in Tampa Bay. There a couple of main storylines for this game against the Buccaneers. One was quarterback Jeff Garcia. Garcia had knocked the Giants out of the playoffs twice before - once with the 49ers, and once with the Eagles.
Another storyline for this game involved Tiki Baber. Tiki is the brother of Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber. There were concerns that the former Giants RB would give his brother hints about New York's offense. When asked about this on ESPN's PTI, Ronde sidestepped the question and just said that his brother will be rooting for him.
As it turned out, if Tiki gave Ronde any info, it wasn't very helpful. Eli Manning had two touchdowns and no turnovers while Bucs QB threw two interceptions. The Giants 8-1 on the road as they beat Tamp Bay 24-14.

The New York Giants were set to go to Dallas to face the NFC's leading scoring team, who had a first-round bye. The Cowboys had beaten the Giants twice in the regular season, scoring 45 and 31 points. This would be the first time in the two teams' history that they played each other in the postseason.
The two division rivals were tied 14-14 at halfitme, but Dallas kicked a field goal in the third quarter to take the lead. With 13:29 left in the fourth quarter, though, Brandon Jacobs pounded in a 1-yard touchdown run to go up 21-17. That would be the final score of the game. The Giants secured the win when R.W. McQuarters intercepted Tony Romo in the endzone on Dallas' final drive. The New York Giants beat the NFC's number one seed and were going to the NFC Championship Game.

Having won the Divisional playoff game in Dallas, the Giants were now 9-1 on the road. They might have welcomed any road game for the NFC Championship, except for the road game that they were set to play in Green Bay. The game was the third-coldest championsip game in NFL history. With wind chill, the temperature dropped into the -20s. At this point the Giants, who had not turned the ball over yet in the postseason, were on fire. But were they about to be cooled down at the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field?
New York was playing against a quarterback who made a career of playing in cold weather football, Brett Favre. But in this historic game, it was Eli who looked like the veteran cold weather quarterback. He threw for 254 yards and didn't turn the ball over. Favre on the other hand, threw two interceptions, one in overtime that cost the Packers the game. Fourty-seven seconds into overtime, Corey Webster intercepted Favre's pass intended for Donald Driver. A few plays later, kicker Lawrence Tynes kicked the game-winning field goal from 47 yards out. The Giants won again on the road, their 10th straight.

So the stage was set. At Glendale, Arizona the New York Giants would take on the still undefeated New England Patriots. Tom Brady and his Pats needed one more win for immortality. One more win for the Giants would pull off one of the greatest upsets in sports history.
The Giants received the ball first, and Coughlin's gameplan was evident: Keep the drive long, keep the Patriots offense off the field. The Giants initial drive took almost ten minutes off the clock, but ended in only a field goal. In the second quarter, New England took the lead a Laurence Maroney touchdown run. The score would remain 7-3 until the fourth quarter, as it was a battle of defense.
Then with 11:05 left in the fourth quarter, Eli threw a five yard touchdown pass to David Tyree to take a three point lead. But late in the fourth quarter, the Patriots regained the lead on a Randy Moss touchdown reception.
So it seemed the Patriots were about to complete their perfect season. Eli Manning, who had been known in New York to throw game-killing interceptions, was getting the ball with 2:39 to go, down by four.
First pass completed to Amani Toomer for 11 yards and first down. After a couple of incompletions and a nine-yard gain, the Giants found themselves on fourth down. Tiki Barber's replacement Brandon Jacobs pounded up the middle for a two-yard gain, just enough for the first down.
A couple plays later, New York were third-and-five, at their own 44-yard line. After the snap, Manning's pocket collapsed, and he was all but sacked. Patriots linebacker even had a handful of his jersey. But somehow, he escaped.
"Just trying to avoid the sack," Manning explained. "I felt people grabbing me. You try to get small sometimes and keep the play alive."
Manning then threw the ball up to David Tyree, who had to abandon his original route to help his quarterback. Tyree jumped up and made the 'supernatural' catch, pinning the ball to his helmet with his right hand, as safety Rodney Harrison was bringing him to the ground. The 32-yard catch gave the Giants a first down and put them on the Patriots 24-yard line.
That play is becoming known as 'The Miracle in the Desert'.
"That play," said defensive end Michael Strahan, "took a few years off my life."
A few plays later, New York made it to the 13-yard line on a rookie Steve Smith reception. The often-criticized Eli Manning then threw a pass to the left for Plaxico Burress in the endzone to take the lead with :35 left in Super Bowl XLII. Steve Spagnola's defense was then able to hold off the league's record offense on four straight plays to secure the Giants Super Bowl championship.

Eli Manning and coach Tom Coughlin, who were in the same boat against the media at the beginning of the year, had now secured their positions on the team. Eli, who had 255 yards and two touchdowns, even won Super Bowl MVP.
Tiki Barber? Well, he's laying low right now. The two people he criticized before the season are now basking in the greatest glory there is for pro football. And his replacement Brandon Jacobs rushed for over 1,000 yards while only playing in ten regular season games.
Defensive end Michael Strahan, who skipped training camp and almost retired, can't be happier about his decision to return.
And what about Steve Spagnola, the new defensive coordinator who was under fire after the first two games? He was offered the head coaching job for the Washington Redskins, but turned it down. The Giants rewarded him signing him for $2 million a year.

The patriots were dominant all season, but it turned out that teamwork and heart wins the championship. This Giants team pulled together like never before in Coughlin's years of coaching. They made it historic year to remember.

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