There have been several games to remember during the 2000’s, as well as a fair share of games to forget. This week will mark the final game the Giants will play at Giants Stadium, barring a miracle where the Giants would make the playoffs as the #5 seed and advance to the Championship Game while hoping that the #6 seed advances just as far.
I decided to take a look back at what I think were the best Giants Stadium moments in the 2000’s.
5… Week 7, 2005: Young QB Manning leads Giants in fourth quarter comeback days before Mara’s death
Just two days before one of the founding fathers of the organization, Wellington Mara, passed away, the Giants prepared to host the 5-1 Denver Broncos at Giants Stadium. Young quarterback Eli Manning took advantage of the challenges in what was his first full year as a starter in the NFL, leading the Giants to a division title at season’s end. As his team fell to a 23-10 fourth quarter deficit, Manning was forced to improvise. In the Giants’ biggest fourth quarter comeback in six years, Manning marched the offense down the field and fired the game winning touchdown in the final seconds to veteran receiver Amani Toomer. Manning noted that the play was just added for the week and he wasn’t sure how well it would work. Toomer also caught the game-winning touchdown to knock off the undefeated Broncos at home in 1997.
4… Week 16, 2008: Giants clinch Home Field Advantage in overtime thriller
The Giants took the momentum from Super Bowl XLII and brought it into 2008, winning 11 of their first twelve games. New York was holding onto the number 1 seed in the NFC when the #2 Carolina Panthers rolled into town for a primetime showdown at a freezing and snowy Giants Stadium. With the temperatures dipping into the teens, Big Blue turned to their ball carriers to set the pace. The Giants threw everything their league-leading running game had to offer at the Panthers (215 rush yards from free agent-to-be Derrick Ward), and rallied to force overtime. In overtime, it took the Giants two possessions but the offense was able to move the ball down the field when Ward’s 51 yard run put the Giants on the verge of clinching home field advantage. Brandon Jacobs finished off the Panthers by running it in for his third touchdown of the night, the game winner.
3… 2000 Divisional Playoffs – Sehorn, Dixon lead Giants in playoff victory over Philadelphia
It was the first playoff game at Giants Stadium since 1997, and the Giants were facing division rival Philadelphia. Nobody was sure what kind of damage New York would do considering they hadn’t proved anything in recent years, but speedy kick returner Ron Dixon set the tone early on as he returned David Akers’ opening kickoff for a touchdown. Among other highlights, the defense blitzed, pressured, and sacked young quarterback Donovan McNabb as the Eagles offense fell apart. Defensive back Jason Sehorn made an incredible interception where he tipped a pass while on the ground, and managed to continue to tip the ball until he was up and brought the ball back for a pick six.
2… Week 17, 2002: Win and in: Giants clinch playoff berth by knocking off top-seeded Eagles in overtime
By 2002, the Eagles were the favorites of the NFC while the Giants were just hoping to reach the playoffs. In Week 17 of the 2002 season, the Eagles traveled to Giants Stadium as heavy favorites over the second place Giants. New York, on the other hand, was on a playoff run that required four straight wins at the end of the season to make the playoffs. They won their first three games, but knew they were running into one huge and difficult checkpoint in Week 17.
The red-hot Eagles started the game by jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead early in the first quarter. Coach Andy Reid was laughing at how easy the Eagles scored and how easy the win would be. The Giants’ powerful offense shook off Reid’s smirk as they moved the ball effectively throughout the remainder of the game. Running back Tiki Barber rushed for over 200 yards in the game, but fumbled the football three times to keep the Eagles in the game. One of his fumbles setup the Eagles with outstanding field position in the final minutes of the game, but a missed field goal by usually-perfect kicker David Akers gave the Giants new life. New York was down 7-0 when they finally executed a flawless drive as the clock ticked down to the final moment of the game. With the Giants in the red zone, quarterback Kerry Collins lobbed a pass in the corner of the end zone for rookie tight end Jeremy Shockey, who leaped and wrestled the ball away at the apex from Eagles’ defender Brian Dawkins. The reception tied the game and forced overtime.
In overtime, the Eagles had the ball but an interception put the Giants in position to kick themselves to the playoffs. They advanced across the 50 yard line into Eagle territory, setting up kicker Matt Bryant for a 36-yarder to give the Giants new life. The snap was good, the hold was great, and the kick was end over end THROUGH THE UPRIGHTS! The Giants sideline exploded and the fans emerged from their seats in joy.
This game will be in the back of my memory for a very long time. I remember running through my house in celebration, making sure that I ran past every room upstairs and down. I’m not so sure I’ve been as excited after a Giants win, even Super Bowl XLII.
1. 2000 NFC Championship Game: Giant Blowout, 41-0
Arguably the best win in Giants history came in the 2000 NFC Championship Game. The game was “over before it even started,” according to Chris Collinsworth, and he was correct. The Vikings fumbled the opening kickoff and the Giants never looked back. A play-fake by Collins ended with a touchdown to fullback Greg Comella to set the tone. The offense tore through the Vikings’ defense, and the Minnesota’s promising passing game fell apart. The Giants steamrolled the Vikings en route to a 41-0 blowout, clinching a spot in Super Bowl XXXV.
These are my favorite moments at Giants Stadium in the 2000’s. I clearly enjoyed number two more than number one, but I chose the NFC Championship victory because it meant a little bit more.