*Three Giants writers debate the team's best regular season wins following Sunday's "W" over Dallas: *
Sunday night was the Giants' biggest win of the season, but was it the greatest of the last five years? Or even longer?
In this week's "Cover 3" on Giants.com, we asked our staffers when was the last time the team notched a regular-season victory as big as the one it had against the Cowboys in Week 14. Here is what they came up with:
SETTING THE STAGE IN FOXBORO
By John Schmeelk
I struggle answering this question since the game didn't put the Giants into first place in the division or clinch anything in terms of the playoffs. They still need a lot of help to take the NFC East away from the Cowboys and perhaps get a bye. They still sit as the top wild card team, exactly where they were before the game was played. The biggest impact of the victory over Dallas in terms of the standings was keeping the Giants where they already were. The Giants are in better position today than they were on Saturday simply because there are only three games left on the schedule instead of four.
It was a huge win, however, in terms of beating a really good team. All year, the defensive players in the Giants locker room have spoken about being as good as they want to be. We saw what that looked like last night. The Giants shut down one of the best offenses in football, and made Dak Prescott look like a rookie quarterback for perhaps the only time all year long. After struggling to stop Ezekiel Elliott in the first half, they shut him down in the second. They covered so well at the linebacker and defensive back level that it gave the defensive line a chance to get home against a strong offensive line. Olivier Vernon handled Tyron Smith as well as anyone has. Devon Kennard was on top of his game. Romeo Okwara stepped up in replacing Jason Pierre-Paul.
To fill in the blank properly, you have to go back and find a win against a great team that helped the Giants make the playoffs. The Giants' wins in 2011 against the Cowboys and Jets near the end of the season were big in terms of getting into the playoffs, but those teams were just 8-8. Earlier that season the Giants went into New England to beat the Patriots, 24-20. The Patriots finished that season 13-3 and it was their only home loss of the season. There are few things more impressive than going into New England and beating Tom Brady and Bill Belichick on their home field.
In fact, that was a MORE impressive victory than the one on Sunday against Dallas. There hasn't been a better once since 2011. Hence, this was the Giants' biggest victory since they beat the Patriots in New England on Nov. 6, 2011. The Giants beat a great team and went on to make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. It's hard to get bigger than that.
STATEMENT WIN IN SAN FRAN
By Dan Salomone
Looking back, the 2012 game in San Francisco didn't go down in history because the Giants failed to make the playoffs that season despite finishing 9-7. But at the time, the 26-3 victory over Jim Harbaugh's 49ers in Week 6 was monstrous. Fresh off their Super Bowl XLVI victory, the Giants were trying to build the bridge to becoming the NFL's next dynasty. They had beaten San Francisco that previous January in the NFC Championship Game, thanks to Lawrence Tynes' game-winning field goal in overtime.
Heading into the 2012 rematch, the 49ers had not allowed a 100-yard rusher in their previous 22 home games and just became the first team in NFL history with 300 yards passing and 300 yards rushing in the same game the week before. Ahmad Bradshaw broke that streak with 116 yards and a rushing touchdown, while Antrel Rolle led the defense with two interceptions. It was a dominant performance by the reigning champs against an opponent that went on to fall three points short of winning Super Bowl XLVII that season. "Coaches always let us know that we're not the kings of the NFL," 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers said after the game. "The Giants are."
ATTACK THE PACK
By Lance Medow
If you're going to compare any victory to what happened Sunday against the Cowboys, it needs to meet certain criteria, such as the caliber of the opponent, time of the season and playoff implications at stake. Week 12, 2012 against the Packers has all those check marks. The Giants were coming off the bye and looking to snap a two-game losing streak against a dangerous Green Bay team riding a five-game winning streak. The Packers entered tied with the Bears for first place in the NFC North, while the Giants were in a tight race for the NFC East title with the Redskins and Cowboys.
Eli Manning and company didn't waste any time setting the tone as four plays into the game Manning threw a screen pass to Ahmad Bradshaw that turned into a 59-yard gain. A few plays later, Andre Brown found the end zone and that was a sign of what was to come as the Giants scored four touchdowns in the first half alone. They led 31-10 at the break and went on to win 38-10 after silencing Green Bay in the second half. It was by far one of the most impressive offensive performances of the season as the Giants ran for 147 yards and Manning threw for 249 with three touchdowns to his top three receivers (Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle).
The defense wasn't too shabby, either. It sacked Aaron Rodgers five times, forced two turnovers and limited him to just 219 passing yards and a touchdown. Similar to the win over Dallas Sunday, the Giants cooled off a dangerous offense with pressure, well-disciplined tackling and opportunistic plays. The Giants ultimately missed the playoffs in 2012, but at that time, the win over the Packers gave them a two-game lead in the division, momentum heading into the latter part of the season and delivered a statement to the rest of the NFC at home in primetime.