Coughlin finally seeing ’07 similarities

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has preached all postseason that this current streak has little to do with their magical 2007 Super Bowl run. But even now, following Sunday’s NFC Championship win, he can’t ignore the parallels.      

The last time either the Giants or Patriots were in the Super Bowl, they played each other. Furthering the similarities is during the home stretch of the ’07 season, the Giants laid an egg at home to a lowly Redskins team in Week 15, then won a road game at an AFC team (Buffalo) to catapult them into the playoffs. This season’s Week 15 loss, also at home to a last-place Redskins squad, was then followed up by a “road” win against the Jets.   

The rest is history, as the Giants haven’t lost since.      

Coughlin has done all he can to downplay the similarities between the two seasons, but not even he can deny them now. He openly spoke about the comparisons, regaling a post-game exchange with defensive end Osi Umenyiora.     

“I’m trying to fight it,” Coughlin said. “But Osi sat next to me for a minute [in the locker room] and he just looked at me with a smile on his face. He said, ‘Have you thought about how this is coming down? Do you realize that this is scary because of the way that this is coming about?’”     

Just like in past Super Bowl-winning seasons, conquering unforgettable title games is not new for the Giants. Lawrence Tynes’s game-winning field goal on Sunday split the uprights at the same end of Candlestick Park where Matt Bahr kicked his game-winning 42-yarder as time expired in the 1990 NFC Championship game. That field goal was also set up by a late takeaway, when defensive tackle Erik Howard forced a fumble by Roger Craig that was recovered by Lawrence Taylor.     

Sunday’s ultimate play was also made by unlikely role players, as rookie linebacker Jacquian Williams stripped Kyle Williams and was recovered by reserve wideout and return specialist Devin Thomas at the 24-yard line to set up Tynes’s kick.    

Coughlin said such a play was no accident, as this batch of players is as close — or even closer — than the ’07 version. The 16-year head coach (the last eight with the Giants) said he’s living in the moment and is appreciating this run even more.    

“There’s a strong feeling amongst this group,” Coughlin said. “We went through a lot this season. We had a lot of ups and downs. We fought through injuries and adversities. Those things just make this so much more meaningful. I can’t say how proud I am of these guys. … We’re very grateful and humbled to win a game like that [and] grateful to win five elimination games in a row.”     

The normally reserved Coughlin then allowed a peek into the emotions he felt throughout the week.    

“I’m delighted. I’m excited [and] at times it’s very difficult to contain yourself,” Coughlin said. “Even this past week when the excitement of this thing was building up, the days seemed to be flying by.”     

Umenyiora was still in disbelief and said this feeling of déjà vu can hopefully end the same as the first time around.      

“It’s the weirdest thing I think I’ve ever been a part of,” Umenyiora said. “I can’t really explain it. But I’m just going to go with it. It’s crazy how similar it is to what happened in 2007. It’s going to be a different game, but hopefully it will be the same outcome.”     

Big Blue notes
 
» The Giants have never lost an NFC Championship game (5-0). They are 3-0 on the road in the NFC championship game, now winning twice in San Francisco and once in Green Bay. It was the second time they defeated the 49ers in a championship in Candlestick Park on a last-play field goal (Bahr, ’90).  

» The 49ers set a record for futility in a championship game, converting just 1-of-13 third-down opportunities. The 49ers were limited to 15 first downs overall and held the ball for only 28:18. Niners quarterback Alex Smith completed only one pass to a wide receiver, a three-yarder to Michael Crabtree.  

» Punter Steve Weatherford had a 40.6-yard net average on a franchise postseason record 12 punts.   

» Linebacker Chase Blackburn’s unlikely return to the Giants is a microcosm of their will and fight. Unemployed until the week after Thanksgiving, Blackburn, who wasn’t resigned last summer, had a team-high seven tackles (five solo).  

» Manning improved to 7-3 as a starting quarterback in the postseason, including 5-1 on the road. The five road postseason victories are an NFL record.  

Manning’s attempts (58) and completions (32) shattered the Giants’ previous postseason records, both, ironically, set in San Francisco. The record for attempts was 44 by Phil Simms on Dec. 29, 1984 and the completions mark was 29 by Kerry Collins on Jan. 5, 2003. Manning now owns the franchise postseason records for passes (316), completions (190), completion percentage (60.13), yards (2,220) and touchdown passes (16).    
 
» Wideout Hakeem Nicks is averaging 18.6 yards per catch in his postseason career, easily besting the former Giants records of 13.9 held by Frank Gifford (17 catches for 236 yards) for receivers with at least 15 receptions.
     
» Tight end Bear Pascoe scored his first NFL touchdown on his first postseason catch, a six-yarder in the second quarter.     

» Running back Ahmad Bradshaw has 94 postseason rushing attempts and his 4.34 postseason yards-per-carry average is the highest in Giants history, surpassing Joe Morris.   

» Punter Steve Weatherford’s 557 punting yards easily outdistanced the former postseason record of 422, set by Brad Maynard in the Super Bowl 11 years ago. 

» The four playoff wins against San Francisco is the franchise’s highest total against any opponent.   

» The Patriots may be the ones with revenge on their minds as they lost Super Bowl XLII while trying to complete a 19-0 season and most recently lost, 24-20, at home on Nov. 6. But the Giants are 3-0 in Super Bowls against teams they faced in the regular season and 0-1 against a team they didn’t previously play (the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV).
     
» This was the Giants’ fifth consecutive road game playoff victory, an NFL record, and fifth-consecutive win overall, outscoring opponents 141-67.      

» The Giants are 3-1 in the Super Bowl. The Patriots are 3-2. Whichever team wins they’ll stake a claim as one of the preeminent franchises since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, as only four other franchises have at least four Super Bowl trophies (Steelers, Packers, Cowboys and 49ers).      

» New York will be the 10th franchise to play in at least five Super Bowls, joining San Francisco, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Dallas, the Raiders, Washington, New England, Miami and Denver.    

» There have been five NFL/NFC championship games decided in overtime and the Giants have played in three of them. They lost the 1958 league championship game to the Baltimore Colts and defeated Green Bay in 2007 and San Francisco on Sunday in conference title games. The other NFC overtime games were Atlanta’s 30-27 victory at Minnesota in 1998 and New Orleans’s 31-28 triumph over the Vikings two years ago.
     
» The Giants played in a record 19th championship game. Dallas is second with 16. The Giants are 8-11 in championship title games — 3-11 in NFL championship games prior to the 1970 merger and 5-0 in NFC championship games after it (1986, 1990, 2000 and 2007).  
   
» The Giants are the third team since the introduction of the 16-game schedule in 1978 to reach the Super Bowl after finishing the regular season with a 9-7 record. The 1979 Los Angeles Rams and 2008 Arizona Cardinals were 9-7. Both of those teams lost the Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers.      

» This was the fourth time — and the first time in the NFC — a fourth seed and a second seed met for a conference championship since 1990, the first season a sixth playoff team was added in each conference. The No. 4 seeds are 4-0 in such games. Twice the fourth seed went on to win the Super Bowl (Broncos in ’97 and the Ravens in ’00).
   
» This was the 47th postseason game in the history of the Giants franchise, third-most overall (Dallas, 58 games and Pittsburgh, 53).   

» New York is 23-24 in the postseason. The 23 victories ties them with Washington for sixth among NFL franchises.  
 
» Coughlin has improved to 11-7 as a head coach in postseason games. The 11 victories tie him with three coaches, including two former Giants coaches (Bill Parcells and Dan Reeves), for the seventh-highest total in NFL history. The win was also Coughlin’s seventh on the road as a head coach, tying Hall of Famer Tom Landry for the most in NFL history. Coughlin is 7-4 on the road in the playoffs (5-1 with the Giants). Landry was 7-7. Should Coughlin win the Super Bowl, he’ll tie Parcells (8-3) in total playoff wins as Giants head coach. Coughlin is now 2-2 in conference title games (0-2 with Jacksonville, 2-0 with New York).

Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.



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