It has no doubt been tough for Giants fans since the team’s fourth Super Bowl victory in 2011 with Tom Coughlin struggling to get the team back into the postseason. The bright side? Without postseason play, there is no chance the team delivers any debilitating postseason heartbreak that can take so long to get over. Reminding you that things can always be worse, below is the top five worst moments in Giants playoff history.
5) 2008 Divisional Round - The Eagles upset Tom Coughlin’s best regular season Giants team
The Giants under Tom Coughlin have been one of the league’s most successful teams since he took over in 2004, with just the Steelers matching the amount of Super Bowl hardware Coughlin has won in New York. For all the success Coughlin has had in the postseason, the Giants have rarely had the sexy regular season team under his coaching. The 2008 season was the exception to that, and at the time looked like it could be the start of something special. The Giants picked up where they left off in the 2007 postseason, finishing with the best record under Coughlin at 12-4 and winning the NFC’s #1 seed. Having scrapped their way to a deserved wildcard berth the year before, the Giants were now the NFC’s best, boasting a strong and balanced offense to go with a quality defense.
As the Giants have shown themselves in their two recent Super Bowl runs however, it is how you finish that counts. The Eagles came into the playoffs hot as the 6th seed and had just beaten the Cowboys and Vikings consecutively the weeks before, whereas the Giants had finished the season 1-3 and one of those losses was to the Eagles at Giants Stadium. Both teams played a sloppy game but the Giants were especially flat, with Eli Manning in particular playing nothing like he had the previous postseason. The game was a frustrating back-and-forth of battling field goals until McNabb made it a two-score game at the start of the 4th quarter, a lead the Eagles would not relinquish and a playoff loss that for New York is a bitter taste of what could have been.
4) 1997 NFC Wildcard - The Giants blow a 9 point lead in under two minutes versus Vikings
While watching this year’s NFC Championship game, some older Giants fans could certainly relate to how Packer fans felt after how Green Bay’s lead slipped away. In 1997, the Giants too were once the victims of a quick comeback centered around an onside kick. Jim Fassel's first season started off strongly enough, bringing home the NFC East division crown and leading the Giants back to postseason play, but his first season also foreshadowed a major playoff embarrassment to come. Hosting the 9-7 Vikings at Giants Stadium in the Wildcard round of the playoffs, the Giants seemingly had punched their ticket to the next round with a 22-13 lead when they punted the ball back to Minnesota with just over 2 minutes left to play. The kick was short though giving Minnesota good field position, and Randall Cunningham 30 seconds later fired a touchdown pass to bring the Vikings within a field goal of winning. On the ensuing onside kick, the ball bounced off New York’s leading receiver Chris Calloway and Minnesota won it back. Cunningham was once again on point and had Minnesota within a chip shot away of pulling off an incredible and unlikely comeback. As unlikely as it was shocking, it would provide a fitting start to how Jim Fassel’s playoff career in New York ultimately ended…
3) 2002 NFC Wildcard - The Giants blow a 24-point lead versus 49ers; Referees miss defensive pass-interference call on botched game-winning field goal
For the Giants in 2002, the season ended very much how it started: losing to the 49ers in a game they felt they should have won. In Week 1, the Giants out-gained San Francisco significantly in yardage yet were sloppy and lost the turnover battle, losing the game on a last-minute field goal. 17 weeks later, the Giants would let a game slip away in even more spectacular fashion. With 20 minutes left on the clock, this had the makings of a classic revenge game. The Giants were dominant for the first 40 minutes and had just capped off 24 unanswered points to bring the score to 38-14. What happened next was unthinkable: the Giants would not score again, and San Francisco would roll off 25 points in 20 minutes to incredibly take the lead. Shell-shocked as the Giants were, there was still a prime opportunity to win and one last chance for the game to be once again turned on its head.
The snap on a makeable game-winning field goal was botched and holder Matt Allen scrambled into the team’s planned desperation contingency pass play. Such plays rarely work, but a mistake by the officials cost the Giants what should have been a defensive pass interference call, which would have resulted in another shot at a game-winning field goal. The call was never made and to make matters worse a formal apology from the officials was made to the Giants admitting that they blew the call.
2) Super Bowl XXXV - The Ravens blow out the Giants 34-7
Since the Super Bowl era began in 1967, the Giants have been one of the league’s most successful teams and have taken part in some of the NFL’s most memorable occasions. Moments like David Tyree’s helmet catch in one of professional sport’s greatest ever upsets and the infamous “wide right” field goal in 1991 are plays every football fan knows about. The obvious forgettable memory for the Giants though was the one Super Bowl they left losers: the 34-7 loss to Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV. The Giants were the cream of the NFC crop that year, finishing with the #1 seed and making the Super Bowl with minimal resistance as they dispatched the Eagles comfortably and beat the Vikings in a major blowout along the way. It looked like the Giants were in a prime position to begin the 2000’s the way they began the 1990’s - with a Super Bowl victory.
They were ill prepared however for the defensive juggernaut they would face in the Ravens. Baltimore battled their way through a tough AFC, giving up just 16 points in 3 games en route to the big game. The Giants would muster just over 150 yards of offense in this game, Kerry Collins would throw 4 interceptions and the sole touchdown the Giants scored came from a kickoff return that was immediately answered back by Baltimore with a kickoff return touchdown of their own. As spectacular as the Giants’ Super Bowl wins have been, this was one game Giants fans do everything they can to forget.
1) 1963 NFL Championship - Giants lose to Bears 14-10 to begin one of NFL’s worst playoff droughts
Tom Coughlin may be feeling the pressure after three straight seasons of missing out on the playoffs, but this is nothing compared to what the Giants had once gone through. Going back half a century, the old NFL Championship was won by the Giants last in 1956. Over the next seven seasons the Giants would make the title game five more times, suffering losses in each. The 1963 Championship game would be the toughest of all for a few reasons. The Giants had led in this game twice, and this was the closest game of the five the Giants had played. Worst of all though, it would be the Giants’ last postseason appearance in quite some time. The loss would begin one of the longest playoff droughts in NFL history, spanning 17 years. The Giants wouldn’t make the playoffs again until 1981 under Ray Perkins.