The odds were stacked against the New York Giants as they made their playoff push during the 2007 season. The Giants shocked the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 42 after winning three straight playoff games on the road. Although Justin Tuck said the loss to the then-undefeated Patriots in Week 16 was the catalyst for their playoff run, it was Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who really sparked their Super Bowl charge.
The Giants nearly ended the Patriots’ perfect season earlier
It was the final week of the regular season in 2007 and the New York Giants had a chance to spoil the New England Patriots’ bid for a perfect 16-0 season. The only problem was the Giants, too, were headed to the playoffs and were more focused on staying healthy for the following week’s road matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Patriots outlasted the Giants 38-35 to finish the regular season at 16-0. The Giants were 10-6.
“We ended up losing by three,” Giants defensive end Justin Tuck wrote in The Players’ Tribune earlier this month. “And at the end of the game, I was standing on the sideline with (teammate) Osi (Umenyiora), watching the Patriots celebrate, and I remember just nodding my head and saying, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll see them again.’
“Despite the fact that we had lost, that game gave us a lot of confidence. We went toe-to-toe with what arguably the greatest team in NFL history and we hadn’t even put a game plan together.”
The Giants got revenge in the Super Bowl
While the New England Patriots may have run the table in the regular season and then added two more postseason wins, they had a rematch with the New York Giants in Super Bowl 42. The Patriots’ offense had rolled all year, scoring at least 34 points in each of their first eight games. They scored an NFL-high 589 points during the regular season.
“When Osi said we’d beat the Patriots the next time we saw them, I don’t think there was one person inside our locker room who didn’t believe him,” Tuck said. “Outside our locker room, nobody really gave us a chance.”
In the Super Bowl, however, the Giants defense pressured quarterback Tom Brady all game. Brady hit Randy Moss with a touchdown pass with 2:42 left to put the Patriots ahead 14-10. Enter David Tyree. Tyree made a spectacular catch against his helmet to keep a drive alive that set up an Eli Manning-to-Plaxico Burress game-winning touchdown pass with 35 seconds left that gave the Giants the victory.
It was Jerry Jones who fueled the Giants’ playoff run
The Dallas Cowboys were the top seed in the NFC during the postseason and they hosted the New York Giants after New York won down in Tampa in the opening round. Justin Tuck said he and the Giants were motivated enough to go down and face the top-seeded Cowboys. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones just happened to give Tuck & Co. a little extra incentive.
“Now, I’ve never been a bulletin-board-material guy,” Tuck wrote in The Players’ Tribune. “The opportunity to play the game that I love alongside my brothers is enough to get me ready to go. So whenever I heard some good trash talk or somebody taking a shot at me or my guys, I just filed it away. I put it in a toolbox in the back of my mind, just in case I could use it later on. Well, before that game against the Cowboys in the divisional round, we found out that Jerry Jones had already given his players tickets for their friends and family for the NFC Championship Game, which, if they had beaten us, they would have hosted in Dallas.”
Tuck said he didn’t need that motivation, but he definitely used it. “I was ready to play,” he wrote. “One hundred percent. No extra motivation necessary. But during the game, there were times when I was getting tired, and the Cowboys would get rolling, or their offense would put together a long drive and I’d look over at the sideline and see Jerry roaming around. And every time I saw Jerry’s face, I remembered those tickets, and I was like, O.K., I’m good. Then I’d go back out and try to rip Tony Romo’s head off.”