With the Giants celebrating the 10th anniversary this season, the Giants.com crew discusses the unsung heroes from the 2011 championship team.
John Schmeelk: On offense, the only possible pick is Jake Ballard. He was only one of seven offensive players to play more than 1,000 snaps that season. In the postseason, only three skill position players played more snaps than Ballard (Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, and Hakeem Nicks) despite the tight end missing part of the Super Bowl with a knee injury.
Ballard was able to take advantage of the extra attention paid to Nicks and Cruz in 2011 and finished the year with 38 catches for 604 yards and four touchdowns. He wasn't just Manning's check-down target, either. He averaged 15.9 yards per catch, which was higher than Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks – in fact, only Victor Cruz's average was higher.
In the Super Bowl, Ballard tried to play after suffering a serious knee injury. But he collapsed after trying out his knee on the sideline and had to undergo serious surgery in the off-season. He was a tough player who did his job for the run and the pass.
One other name that cannot be overlooked is Deon Grant, who finally got a Super Bowl ring in his 11th and final NFL season. In addition to his veteran leadership, Grant was part of defensive coordinator Perry Fewell's integral three-safety scheme with Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips. The Giants allowed an average of 14 points and 233.8 passing yards per game in their four postseason victories that year, doing so against Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith, and Tom Brady.
Dan Salomone: There are four massive banners with graphics of the organization's four Lombardi Trophies hanging in the field house of the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. They list the names of every player and staff member, and it's not just coach speak to say each person played a role in winning it all that season – that's the special part of a championship team. From the most memorable to the overlooked, there are countless moments that you can point to and say if Player "X" didn't make that play, the Giants' season could have ended. This was especially true for the 2011 team, which let's face it, was not expected to go that far. But without the Jake Ballards, the Dave Tollefsons, the Kevin Boothes, the Chase Blackburns, the Bear Pascoes – and the list goes on and on – there would be no remembering that season 10 years later.
One other name that cannot be overlooked is Deon Grant, who finally got a Super Bowl ring in his 11th and final NFL season. In addition to providing veteran leadership, Grant was part of the integral three-safety scheme with Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips that was devised by defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. The Giants allowed an average of 14 points and 233.8 passing yards per game in their four postseason victories that year, doing so against Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith, and Tom Brady.
Lance Medow: The one player who comes to mind is the perfect embodiment of the unsung hero label – Chase Blackburn, who wasn't with the team for the full season, but made a significant impact upon his return. Blackburn became an unrestricted free agent following the 2010 season and wasn't re-signed until Nov. 29, just five days prior to a Week 13 matchup against the undefeated Packers at MetLife Stadium. Blackburn impressively picked off Aaron Rodgers in the second quarter to help set up a go-ahead touchdown for the Giants; it was just Rodgers' fifth interception of the season. Although New York didn't win that game, Blackburn's familiarity with the defense enabled him to smoothly transition back into the thick of things.
Blackburn started the final four games and all four postseason battles, in which he made his presence felt in just about every contest. He tied Antrel Rolle for the team lead in tackles with nine in the Wild Card game against the Falcons and had a 40-yard fumble return in the fourth quarter to set up a TD in the Divisional Round at Green Bay. Blackburn also led the team in tackles with seven in the NFC Championship game against the Niners and then, his biggest play of all, picked off Tom Brady on a deep pass intended for Rob Gronkowski at the beginning of the fourth quarter in Super Bowl XLVI. The linebacker went from a mid-season addition to a notable playmaker during the title run.