Nevertheless, the Giants’ 31-24 upset of Minnesota Sunday channeled a Big Blue experience 15 years earlier when New York shocked Tom Brady and the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. As most people know, when the Giants lost to New England in the season finale they were convinced they would win should the two meet again.
They did, and you know what happened.
Fast forward to Dec. 24, 2022 when the G-Men lost 27-24 to Minnesota on a 61-yard, last-second field goal. Afterward, these Giants felt much like those Giants way back when, with more than one starter saying this team was as confident as its predecessors in January, 2008
“We expect to play well and to win,” said quarterback Daniel Jones.
Granted, the circumstances are radically different. The 2007 Giants made history by keeping New England from completing an unbeaten run through the season. Furthermore, they did it in the most important game of the season.
This was merely a wild-card victory over a Minnesota club that, while winning 13 games, surrendered more points this season (427) than it scored (424). Plus, the Vikings limped into the playoffs – losing two of their last five and three of their last eight – and a slim 2-1/2-point favorite, with odds makers unconvinced they could survive.
But that has nothing to do with the Giants’ mindset. Their Dec. 24 defeat did.
“I think playing this team late in the season … and being familiar with them and having lost on a last-second field goal …gave the Giants a lot of confidence,” said FOX analyst Michael Strahan, a member of the 2007 Giants.
I do, too. And I think this victory has the Giants convinced that, like, 2007, anything’s possible. Those Giants were 10-6. This year’s Giants were 9-7-1. Do you believe?
“The sky’s the limit,” safety Julian Love said.
Maybe. But there are more formidable obstacles ahead, notably Philadelphia and San Francisco. For the moment, it’s kinda, sorta déjà vu all over again … and that’s worth celebrating.
SUNDAY SCHOOL: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED THIS WEEKEND
1. The Bills’ biggest concern may be the Bills. Buffalo got lucky. If it weren’t playing a third-string quarterback it would have … should have … lost. Three Josh Allen turnovers, including a fumble return for a touchdown; seven sacks and 31 points vs. an opponent that failed to score a TD last week? Consider this an escape.
2. Merriam-Webster already has its word of the year. It’s called “Chargering,” and if you ever sat through fourth-quarter collapses, stupid decisions, botched special teams or a blown 27-point lead, you know what I’m talking about. It’s always something with these guys, and it’s seldom good.
3. Kirk Cousins cemented his legacy. With that loss, he’s now 1-4 in the NFL playoffs … and let’s get something straight: He wasn’t responsible for the latest defeat. A matador defense that couldn’t figure out Daniel Jones or stop Saquon Barkley was. But Cousins has a reputation for putting up big numbers, not big wins … and this only moves that conversation forward. That said, he’s the guy who threw the pass that ended the Vikings’ season. Fourth and 8. Ball at the Minnesota 48. Just under two minutes left. And … a 3-yard completion to T.J. Hockenson that’s five yards short? What’s up with that?
4. Daniel Jones is better than anybody thought. Remember what happened before this season? The Giants declined to pick up his fifth-year option. That left it up to Jones, and all he did was respond by leading Big Blue to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. That was good. Sunday was better. He threw for over 300 yards. He ran for another 78 on a career-high 17 carries. He had two TD passes and no interceptions. No fumbles, either. Surprising? Not really. He’s had only two turnovers in his last seven starts. “He’s a special player,” said teammate Saquon Barkley. He was Sunday.
5. Baltimore deserved better. Without Lamar Jackson, the Ravens weren’t given much of a chance to upset Cincinnati. Yet they pushed the defending-AFC champions to the mat, losing only when a last-second Hail Mary barely failed. The Ravens played hard and could’ve … and maybe should have … won this game despite some curious clock management. Backup quarterback Tyler Huntley frazzled the Bengals throughout the evening and had Baltimore inches from a go-ahead TD when he fumbled at the goal line, with Sam Hubbard returning the recovery 98 yards for the game clincher. Yes, it was that close. Like Buffalo, whom they meet next weekend, the Bengals were lucky to survive.
THIRD AND 20
1. It’s called Super Wild Card Weekend, but I’m not exactly sure why. I guess it’s because the NFL has three wild cards in each conference involved now … and it has since adding a seventh entry in 2020. Except there’s nothing super about what’s happened to those seventh entries. In the three years of Super Wild Card Weekends, they’re 0-6, with Seattle and Miami the latest victims. They’ve also been outscored 196-123.
2. That’s not a condemnation of wild cards in general. The past two years, wild cards won the Super Bowl (L.A. Rams and Tampa Bay). It’s a criticism of a playoff expansion that didn’t have to happen. Sometimes, bigger isn’t better. This is just the latest example.
3. Let’s be honest: As impressive as the Giants were, we could cut to the NFC championship game tomorrow … and it would involve the same teams will be there in two weeks: San Francisco vs. Philadelphia. Both are at a different level than the rest of the conference.
4. Can’t say enough about the job that Wink Martindale’s defense did on All-World wide receiver Justin Jefferson. He had 12 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown when these two teams met in Week 16. He had seven catches for 47 yards and no TDs Sunday. Worse, after producing 25 yards on Minnesota’s opening drive, he had only 22 yards the rest of the way, including 4 in the fourth quarter The Giants were determined not to let him beat them … and he didn’t.
5. Josh Allen, we need to talk. With three more turnovers Sunday, he now has an NFL-high 22 this season, including 16 interceptions for the season and six in his last three starts. That won’t cut it vs. Cincinnati or Kansas City.
6. First, Brock Purdy. Then, Skylar Thompson. Maybe we should start paying attention to rookie seventh-round quarterbacks.
7. Joe Burrow gets much of the credit for the Bengals’ success, but not this time. In fact, it wasn’t the Cincinnati offense that saved the Bengals’ season Sunday. It was Lou Anarumo’s defense. Sound familiar? It should. That unit came to the rescue in last year’s playoff opener vs. Las Vegas. With 17 seconds left, and the Raiders on the Cincinnati 9, linebacker Germaine Pratt intercepted a Derek Carr pass for Zay Jones. One year later, it was defensive lineman Sam Hubbard returning a goal-line fumble 98 yards for the game-winning score; then the entire defense holding on to thwart a last-second Hail Mary. Anarumo doesn’t get a lot of attention, but he should. His defenders make key plays at key moments, and look no farther than what happened to Patrick Mahomes in last season’s conference championship game.
8. Nice job by Miami and rookie Skylar Thompson, but is it too much to ask to get a play off on time?
9. Nope, I didn’t know much about the Giants’ Isaiah Hodgins before Sunday … but the Vikings should have. He shredded them for a career-best eight catches, 89 yards and one touchdown when the two teams met Dec. 24. Three weeks later, he responded with eight more catches, 105 yards and a 14-yard TD. Someone tell Vikings’ defensive coordinator Ed Donatell to report to the principal’s office.
10. I like listening to Tony Romo, too, but c’mon: Josh Allen is neither “Mr. January” nor “Michael Jordan.”
11. Memo to Doug Pederson: Reserve a playoff share next week for Joey Bosa. He earned it.
12. Sean Payton is a perfect fit for the Chargers, but it won’t happen. Too expensive. Too many draft picks. Too much money.
13. The more I see the Bills, the more I see how much they miss Von Miller.
14. Report: Raiders doing “research” into pursuit of Tom Brady. Wait. What? Their head coach spent 16 years with Brady. How much more “research” do you need?
15. Gotta love Trevor Lawrence. He celebrated the Jaguars’ historic victory at Waffle House.
16. Best line of the weekend goes to Ari Meirov on Twitter: “Well, Brandon Staley can finally rest his starters.” Ouch.
17. Just a hunch, but my guess is those “expedited reviews” aren’t coming from the field at all. They’re coming from 345 Park Avenue.
18. Consider the knee injury that forced Bengals’ left tackle Jonah Williams to exit Sunday’s game a significant setback. He missed only six snaps all season.
19. Time to channel the late Denny Green again: THE VIKINGS ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!!!
20. From what I’ve seen the past two weekends, the team to beat in the NFC North in 2023 is neither Minnesota nor Green Bay. It’s Detroit.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET STATS
n The Giants won six of their last seven road playoff games.
n Cincinnati’s Evan McPherson is 21 of 21 in playoff field-goal attempts.
n Philadelphia won its last nine home games vs. the Giants, next week’s opponent.
n Sam Hubbard’s 98-yard TD was the longest fumble return in playoff history.
n Buffalo is 4-0 at home in the playoffs during the Josh Allen era.
n According to ESPN Stats & Info, Daniel Jones is the third quarterback in playoff history to throw for 300 yards in the same game that he ran for 75 or more. Lamar Jackson and Steve Young are the others, but Jones is the first to win.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET QUOTES
n “It’s the playoffs. We found a way. That’s all that matters.” – Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen.
n “It shouldn’t have happened as much as it did.”—Miami coach Mike McDaniel on play-call delays.
n “The guys expected to have a chance at winning a world championship. Have to give the Giants credit.” -- Minnesota coach Kevin O’Connell.
n “We got a lot of work to do, but it’s enjoyable work.” – N.Y. Giants coach Brian Daboll.
n “We’re going to have our hands full with them, but we’ve been in these moments.” – Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow on playing Buffalo next week.