Mystery’s Team: the New York Giants

With two weeks between the AFC/NFC Championship games and Super Bowl XLII, is taking an individual look at both the Patriots and the Giants before presenting its Super Bowl prediction column. Click here to read about the Patriots.

The New York Giants will play in Super Bowl XLII. Really? Yes, really, they will.

While the New England Patriots, at 18-0, are a team on the brink of making history, the Giants, at 13-6, are a team swathed in mystery.

Even Detective Mac Taylor would struggle to unravel the layers of this New York mystery.

  • How did Tom Coughlin, amid speculation that he could be fired, get this team to rebound from an 0-2 start to go 6-2?
  • How did they rebound from a 14-0 hole against Buffalo in week 16 to win 38-21 and clinch a playoff berth?
  • How did they manage to give New England one of the Patriots’ best scares of the season in a week 17 game that had no barring on the Giants’ playoff seeding?
  • How did they win three road playoff games in a row?
  • How did they beat the Cowboys after having lost to them twice in the regular season?
  • How did they knock off Brett Favre and company…in sub-zero temperatures…at Lambeau Field…in overtime…on a 47-yard field goal after their kicker had already missed two shorter kicks in the fourth quarter?
  • How did Eli Manning, who threw a career high 20 interceptions during the regular season, play turnover-free football in three postseason wins?

How a trip to Buffalo saved the Giants’ season

In the next several days leading up to the Super Bowl, many people will talk about the Giants’ decision to play their starters against New England. They’ll talk about how their defense intercepted the last pass of the season for both Tony Romo and Brett Favre, to secure and set up upset victories, respectively. But the turning point for this Giants team came in week 16.

The 9-5 Giants traveled to Buffalo with an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth. Knowing that the undefeated Patriots were their opponent the following week, the Giants knew this game was essentially a must-win.

Buffalo was not only playing at home; they were playing inspired. Kevin Everett, the Buffalo tight end who was nearly paralyzed earlier in the season, was in attendance for Bills’ final home game. And he was walking – something that seemed impossible to expect only a few months earlier.

At the end of the first quarter, the Bills had a 14-0 lead, and it looked as if the Giants were suffering yet another late season collapse. In 2004, they lost eight of their last nine, to finish the year 6-10. In 2005, they went 11-5, but they were one-and-done in the postseason, losing 23-0 against Carolina. Then last year the Giants lost six of their last eight, finishing the season 8-8 before bowing out in the first round of the playoffs.

With a 6-2 start in danger of falling to 9-6, the Giants rallied in the second quarter versus Buffalo. Brandon Jacobs had two rushing touchdowns in the first seven minutes of the second quarter to even the game at 14 apiece. A Lawrence Tynes field goal later made it 17-14 Giants at the half.

Buffalo scored first in the second half and regained the lead at 21-17, but the Giants dominated the fourth quarter. Ahmad Bradshaw’s 88-yard touchdown run was sandwiched by two interception returns for touchdowns by the Giants’ Kawika Mitchell and Corey Webster. Webster’s score with 5:50 remaining sealed New York’s 38-21 win.

In a game that featured rain, winds gusting from 30-50 miles per hour, and snow flurries, the Giants found a way to win. Despite four turnovers from Eli Manning, the Giants found a way to win.

Ahmad Bradshaw was one of the key discoveries of that day in Buffalo. He had carried the ball just six times all season prior to that game. But 17 carries, 151 yards and a touchdown later, Bradshaw was suddenly an important part of the Giants’ offensive game plan.

Finishing the season strong

Following that win, the Giants played the Patriots tough, even leading 28-16 more than halfway through the third quarter. Then they beat Tampa Bay 24-14. Then they outlasted Dallas 21-17. Then they edged Green Bay 23-20 in overtime. And now, it’s back to the Patriots, the last team to beat the Giants, for the Super Bowl.

Only five teams beat New York this season, and the Giants have already avenged losses to Dallas and Green Bay with postseason redemption. If they pull off the hat trick and avenge the loss to New England in the Super Bowl, the Giants’ mystery run will be remembered as one of the most confounding championship cases in NFL history.

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