Four years ago the New York Giants knocked off the unbeatable — or so it seemed — New England Patriots in a culmination of a season that began with fans and media wondering if head coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning might be on their last legs as members of Big Blue.
Fast forward to the summer of 2011 and the duo, along with the Giants’ front office, was dealing with criticism yet again.
The Giants were coming off back-to-back seasons without making the playoffs, and the debate began once again on whether or not this season would be Coughlin’s last year leading the New York Football Giants, but Coughlin held his ground and began preparing for 2011.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the Giants faithful sat back and watched as tight end and fan favorite Kevin Boss slipped away to the Oakland Raiders. Then, they took another blow as reliable wide receiver Steve Smith skipped town, to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles no less.
Fans were at a loss for words as the Giants essentially did nothing while the Eagles made Smith the cherry on the top of their “Dream Team.”
The Giants’ front office didn’t shutter one bit though, feeling comfortable that the team’s biggest offseason move would be bringing in punter Steve Weatherford to replace Matt “I can’t believe he kicked it to DeSean Jackson” Dodge. They saw something to believe in with the pieces they already had.
That belief was taken to the next level about a week after losing out on Smith, when Manning came out and put himself in the upper echelon of quarterbacks along with his brother, Peyton, and Patriots superstar Tom Brady. It wasn’t a statement out of cockiness or swagger. Rather, it was a declaration of confidence in himself.
It was met with laughter by those who thought Eli wasn’t even one of the top two quarterbacks in his division, but just like his front office and his head coach, Eli did not waver.
And that has really been the identity of this Giants team all year.
They’ve let the media, the fans and, of course, Rex Ryan do the talking, while they’ve been busy showcasing that no matter what happens, they’ve always believed.
It started during all the preseason chatter and continued when the Giants defensive players were being put on injured reserve so often that it seemed that news of a torn ACL was as consistent as death and taxes.
But while his defense struggled with injuries and the absence of a reliable middle linebacker, Manning started hooking up with the likes of Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard, making household names out of them. He made believers out of everyone as he led fourth quarter comeback after fourth quarter comeback — his most impressive win coming against Brady in a regular season 24-20 W.
Even after the great run that the Giants had though, the belief outside of the locker room. that seemed so easy to come across, vanished after the Giants came out flat in the middle of a four-game losing streak, suffering a 49-24 beat down courtesy of the New Orleans Saints.
Yet, just when it seemed like they had nothing left, the Giants had faith inside their locker room that the season was far from over. They pushed forward and when the games mattered most, they got the job done.
The defense, riddled by aches and pains all year, has come on strong late, channeling their inner 2007 while holding their opponents to an average 13.4 points over the last five games.
And even though some will say it took a fumble in overtime to finally get the Giants past the San Francisco 49ers and even though there has been plenty of talk about how rookie wide receiver Kyle Williams was the MVP of that game … for the Giants, the G-Men’s confidence has not taken a hit.
They may not have the “Dream Team,” you can say they don’t have the better quarterback or that they got lucky — they’ve heard it all season long — but they’ve got one more game to go and no matter what anyone says, just like in 2007, they believe that they can once again be Super Bowl Champions.
Can you blame them?