These Giants Have Come a Long Way

The Giants in Week Three were trailing the Redskins and were looking 0-3 squarely in the face. John Mara leaned over to his rookie GM Jerry Reese and said "I don't know how much more of this I can stand," he admitted after New York's playoff win in Dallas. "I knew we couldn't be that bad."

He was right. Mara's patience, with his coach, quarterback and new defense was tested, all right, but in the end, everything came together about as well as expected and now the Giants are prepping for the NFC Championship Game in Green Bay.

"I remember that well," Reese said afterward. "I said, ‘John, there's no way we're this bad.' "

Turns out the two couldn't have been more correct.

"I'm happiest, as always, for the players and coaches," Reese said. "We have a great opportunity and it's all a testament to hard work."

If nothing else is obvious about this Giants team it's that there is absolutely no quit in them. Time and again this season, fans and media were ready to write them off. Yet, like their offensive leader, Eli Manning, they stood tough in the pocket and have now earned themselves a spot in the NFL's prestigious final four.

Mara was pleased with the play of Manning, who was flawless under the brightest lights in which he's played during his four-year career. He was especially impressed with the lightning quick drive Manning led his troops on that tied the game right before the half. He said those type of flashes were what helped him stay strong in his belief that Manning could, indeed, eventually lead the Giants to this elite level.

"You always keep hoping that you see the talent," Mara said. "The thing that always gave me hope was that you saw him make plays."

And make plays he did. The Cowboys had just torn up New York's defense for its second 90-yard drive of the opening half. With Dallas up 14-7, the Giants got the ball back with only 53 seconds to play before the half. Manning went right to work. A perfect throw to the sideline to rookie Steve Smith gave New York 22 yards and kick-started the drive.

Another 11-yarder to Smith, coupled with a 15-yard facemask penalty on overmatched Cowboys CB Jacques Reeves gave the Giants the ball at the Cowboys 23 with 28 seconds to play. After a couple incompletions, on third-and-10 Manning connected with another rookie, Kevin Boss, for 19 yards to move the ball to the 4 with 11 seconds left.

On the next play, Manning found Amani Toomer for his second TD grab of the day and it was a whole new ballgame.

"We knew we weren't going to take a knee," Manning explained. "We had pretty good field position and two timeouts left. We are going to try and give it a shot.

"It was big. They had all the momentum with that long drive. Our defense was gassed. They were just out on the field for so long. We were on the sideline for 10 minutes of game time. We didn't have a whole lot going our way and to get a touchdown on that drive was a big momentum-builder for our team."

The Giants rode that momentum all the way to their biggest victory in seven years. But they're not about to get comfortable now.

"Obviously I feel good," Reese said. "But we're not satisfied. We want to get to the big dance."

The last laugh

The Cowboys sure did a lot of talking leading up to this game, what with them coming off three straight awful games. Yes, Terrell Owens really cried at the podium after the game, while trying to defend his quarterback, Tony Romo, who didn't exactly put on a preparation clinic in the weeks leading up to this game. Amani Toomer said afterward that he noticed that TO wasn't exactly himself late in the game. Guess we all didn't need that popcorn after all.

After the game, one of the Giants equipment managers, who had taken a sign off the wall of Texas Stadium, proudly hung a huge sheet in the Giants locker room with TO's famous words ‘getcha popcorn ready.'

Well, there would be none of that. Not in this game. The Giants go on and the Cowboys go home.

"We have enough butter and salt for all of that popcorn," Antonio Pierce beamed afterward.

"Words have never won a football game," Justin Tuck added. "They can continue to talk all they want. They can continue to tell people to bring popcorn or whatever."

Another Dallas loudmouth, Patrick Crayton also failed to back up his foolish bravado. Crayton only caught three passes for 27 yards and his huge third-quarter drop totally turned the game in Big Blue's favor.

"The Cowboys are a great football team," Brandon Jacobs said. "They might have had a chance to win if Patrick Crayton didn't drop the two key passes. There was a lot of talk, but it's over with. We won the game. They're chillin' and we're going to Green Bay.

"It was so sweet to see him drop those passes, which would have given them some momentum. But he dropped them and they lost the game and we're moving on."

Yes, indeed, Big Blue is moving on – and that's not just talk.

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