EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It took only one postseason victory for Giants fans to begin believing the current team can reprise the accomplishments of 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl champions.
The sixth-seeded Giants defeated the third-seeded Minnesota Vikings, 31-24, in an NFC Wild Card Game in U.S. Bank Stadium. They move on to face top-seeded, 14-3 Philadelphia Saturday night in a divisional playoff game in Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles were the only NFC team with a bye on Super Wild Card Weekend.
In 2007, the Giants' divisional road game was also against an NFC East rival that, like the Eagles this year, had twice defeated them in the regular season. The Giants went to Dallas and exacted revenge by defeating the 13-3, No. 1-seeded Cowboys, 21-17.
But those who believe payback has no expiration date and all karma eventually has a .500 winning percentage, a less successful Giants season might provide inspiration this week.
In 2008, the Giants earned the top seed and a first-round bye after finishing with an NFC-best 12-4 record. Philadelphia was seeded sixth with a 9-6-1 record, the 16-game equivalent to the Giants' 9-7-1 mark this season. The Eagles went on the road and earned a 26-14 victory in a wild card game in … Minnesota, which was the NFC North champion at 10-6.
That sent the Eagles to Giants Stadium where Philadelphia held the Giants without an offensive touchdown and ended their season with a 23-11 triumph.
With the seeds now reversed, can the Giants enjoy organizational revenge 14 years later? It certainly is possible as well as they're playing. They played the Eagles twice in the final five weeks of the regular season. The Giants lost the first game by 26 points, but eight days ago they rested most of their starters, allowed just one touchdown and narrowly lost, 22-16.
Brian Daboll said today those games will have no impact on the rematch Saturday. He is a believer in the old Bill Parcells dictum that history, both ancient and recent, means nothing in football. Like all coaches, Daboll lives in the here and now and is certain the Giants can win and advance only if they maintain the discipline, work ethic and offensive and defensive creativity that has progressed them this far.
"It's how we go about our business this week, again, how we prepare, how we practice and then ultimately how we play on Sunday – or Saturday in this case," Daboll said on Zoom call with reporters. "Every game's a new game. Obviously, you have matchups that you went against here over the last two times you played them. One week really has nothing to do with the next week or one game has nothing to do with the next game other than you take things from it. You learn from it. You try to grow from it. But it's going to be how we execute on Saturday and how we prepare throughout the week. That's our process; that's what it will always be. And that's what it'll be this week."
The Giants were underdogs throughout their 2007 Super Bowl run, but Daboll is not looking for that team or that season to offer motivation for the current squad.
"I think we just focus on what we can control, having our good week," he said. "That's what we need to do. We're process oriented. That's really what we focus on. In terms of what happened 16 years ago, no."
When the divisional round begins, the Giants will be one of eight teams with an opportunity to win the championship. What is this team's ceiling?
"I'd say we don't concern ourselves with that," Daboll said. "We concern ourselves with our preparation and our process and our practice habits and doing everything we can do as a coaching staff and as players to get ready to play a game. We're in a short week here. There's a lot of work that needs to be done. I understand we just played these guys twice here in the last month. We'll play them again here coming up. So, there's familiarity on both sides. But again, there's always a process that you have to go through. It'll be one less day to do it. So, a lot of work that needs to be done."
View photos from the Giants' 31-24 Wild Card victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
*It would be impossible to choose which player was happiest in the euphoria of the Giants' postgame locker room, but it's doubtful anyone was more appreciative than Leonard Williams. The standout defensive lineman played 124 regular-season games across eight seasons before savoring his first taste of the playoffs.
"It's an incredible feeling," said Williams, who had four tackles and two quarterback hits in Minnesota. "The way the team came out and fought, from the start to the finish, just shows what a unit we have. We ride for each other. We fight for each other. And we came away with a win. This feels insane to me right now. It's been years coming for me to even make it to the playoffs, and now we're onto the second round. As a team, we want to stay humble – not get too excited – and just go onto next week and keep pushing."
Williams has a different perspective than many of his teammates about a third meeting with Philly in seven weeks.
"This will be my first time, actually," Williams said. "I missed both games against them this year. So, I'm super excited to play them. We're just going right down the street to play them. I'm excited to play them."
*When the Giants visited Minnesota on Dec. 24, the Vikings' Justin Jefferson had 12 receptions for 133 yards, including a touchdown and a late 17-yard catch that set up the game-winning field goal. Cornerback Adoree' Jackson missed that game with a knee injury.
Jackson returned yesterday and spent the game shadowing Jefferson, who led the NFL with 128 catches and 1,809 receiving yards. With Jackson hounding him, Jefferson caught seven passes for 47 yards – one for four yards in the second half.
"It was good to have him back," Daboll said of Jackson. "He played a good game. Again, when you're playing an opponent and a player of (Jefferson's) caliber, it takes everybody: pass rush, coverage. But it was definitely good to have him out there."
Jackson also missed the two losses to Philadelphia and the Giants look for him to have a similar impact on Saturday night.
*Linebacker Jarrad Davis, who was signed on Dec. 28, started in his first career postseason game and played 32 defensive snaps (56%). He had two solo tackles and one quarterback hit. Rookie Micah McFadden, who made seven starts while playing in all 17 regular-season games, was inactive.
"I think he did good," Daboll said of Davis. "He's played well the last couple weeks. And we thought that was the best thing for our team for this game. He's picked up our stuff, and we'll see how it goes this week."
*Linebacker Azeez Ojulari (quad) and safety Jason Pinnock (abdomen) left the game with injuries. "We'll go day to day with all those guys," Daboll said.