The struggling Giants had absolutely no business winning that game, either, but there they were, celebrating Plaxico Burress’ tough touchdown catch in the end zone, walking away 30-24 overtime winners in Week 2.
Other relatively recent history doesn’t favor them, though, as they head toward a game many Giants didn’t think they’d earn after losing six of seven games in November and December.
The Wild Card conundrum
After winning the first four Wild-Card round games in their history, the Giants have dropped three straight, each in catastrophic fashion.
They were embarrassed during their most recent Wild Card game, a 23-0 loss at home to Carolina. The John Fox-led Panthers pummeled them on both sides of the ball, leading Tiki Barber to say that the Giants were “out-coached,” not just out-played. Barber managed merely 41 rushing yards on 13 attempts, Manning threw three interceptions, the Giants lost two fumbles and DeShaun Foster and Nick Goings rushed for 214 yards combined in a game the Giants couldn’t even keep competitive.
Three years earlier, they completely imploded in San Francisco, blowing a 38-14 advantage they owned with just four minutes remaining in the third quarter en route to a devastating 39-38 loss.
Worse yet, Eagles quarterback Jeff Garcia was the man who guided the 49ers to that unfathomable comeback on Jan. 5, 2003. Garcia threw two touchdown passes, a two-point conversion and ran for another touchdown, as San Francisco scored 25 unanswered points to advance. Garcia’s 13-yard touchdown toss to Tai Streets with one minute remaining in the game moved the 49ers in front by one point, and usually trustworthy long-snapper Trey Junkin botched the snap on a 41-yard field-goal attempt that could’ve given the Giants the win as time expired.
The colossal collapse was the worst in NFC Playoffs history, and although they nearly duplicated this dubious feat on Nov. 26 in Nashville, the San Francisco loss represented the largest lead (24 points) that the Giants have blown in their franchise history. It was also the second worst meltdown in the league’s postseason history, short only of the 32-point advantage the Houston Oilers blew against the Buffalo Bills during a Wild Card game in 1992.
Five years before “The Debacle By The Bay,” Jim Fassel’s first playoff team went down in infamy, too.
Ahead 22-13 with less than two minutes to play in a Wild Card game at home against Minnesota, the Vikings victimized the Giants by scoring twice late to stun fans at Giants Stadium. Jake Reed caught a 30-yard pass from Randall Cunningham to move Minnesota within two points (22-20) with 1:38 to play. Then Chris Calloway muffed Minnesota’s onside kick, enabling Eddie Murray to win the game on a 24-yard field goal with 10 seconds to go.
The Minnesota calamity was just about as bad as the San Francisco fiasco because the Giants were ahead 19-3 at halftime and remained in front by two scores with less than two minutes to go.
There were previous positives
Before this terrible three-game Wild Card slide, the Giants had won each of their first four games in the Wild Card round, three of which were played on the road.
They overcame Minnesota 17-10 on Jan. 9, 1993, in Minneapolis, but were blown out by San Francisco, 44-3, at Candlestick Park six days later.
They topped San Francisco 17-3 on Dec. 29, 1985, at Giants Stadium, but Chicago shut them out the following week, 21-0, at Soldier Field.
They edged the Rams 16-13 on Dec. 23, 1984, in Los Angeles, only to be eliminated six days later at San Francisco, 21-10.
They defeated the Eagles 27-21 on Dec. 27, 1981, at Veterans Stadium, yet lost 38-24 at San Francisco a week later.
They won Wild Card games on the road in each of the two seasons in which they qualified for the postseason with less than 10 wins. They went 9-7 in 1981 and finished 9-7 again in 1984. They lost their last two regular-season games in ’84, but won their last three to conclude the ’81 season.
It is always better to be first
The Giants own a 4-4 postseason record when they’ve qualified as a true Wild Card team, but have never advanced beyond the NFC Divisional round when they haven’t won their division.
They finished first in the NFC East in each of the three seasons that they reached the Super Bowl. They went 14-2 in 1986, before defeating Denver 39-20 in Super Bowl XXI in Pasadena, Calif. They finished 13-3 in 1990 and beat Buffalo 20-19 in Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, Fla. And they ended the 2000 season 12-4, before Baltimore battered them 35-7 in Super Bowl XXXV, also in Tampa.
Their Philadelphia playoff history
The Giants own a 2-0 advantage over the Eagles in the postseason. In addition to the aforementioned game in 1981, the Giants defeated Philadelphia 20-10 in an NFC Divisional Playoff game on Jan. 7, 2001, at Giants Stadium.
Ron Dixon’s 97-yard kickoff return to start the game gave the Giants immediate momentum. Then they went up 17-0 after Brad Daluiso’s 37-yard field goal and Jason Sehorn’s 32-yard touchdown return of a Donovan McNabb interception. The Giants limited the Eagles to 46 rushing yards in the game and McNabb managed to complete only 20-of-41 passes.
They hammered Minnesota 41-0 the following week in the NFC Championship Game.
They won their game at Philadelphia during both of the regular seasons prior to their playoff victories over the Eagles. The Giants won 20-10 at Veterans Stadium on Nov. 22, 1981. They won 33-18 there on Sept. 10, 2000.
They finished in third place in the NFC East the last time they traveled to Philadelphia for a Wild Card game, too (the 27-21 win in ‘81).