Right now in the land of the New York Giants, there’s just one spot in history that can turn that 0-2 frown upside down.
The miserable performance of the Giants’ home opener was given a brief, ecstatic reprieve at halftime as the team celebrated the 10th anniversary of the 2007-08 squad, unlikely winners of Super Bowl XLII. Throughout the evening, boos directed toward the Giants’ modern-day incarnation were drowned out by highlights from that historic season on the big screens, including David Tyree‘s famous “Helmet Catch,” which also adorned the complimentary game programs handed out at the entrance gates. Tyree’s catch has since become the enduring image of that historic game, a 17-14 win that some consider the greatest upset in professional sports history.
At the beginning of the night, running back Brandon Jacobs, he of 1,009 yards in the 2007 season, brought East Rutherford to its feet ringing the opening bell that precedes each home kickoff. Michael Strahan later took over the intermission ceremony, featuring a majority of the team dressed in their white road jerseys complete with Super Bowl XLII patch, brandishing the Vince Lombardi Trophy before making a brief speech.
“There are three things that I know,” Strahan declared. “One, we have the best fans in the NFL. The second thing I know is that we proved a lot of people wrong and that we are the Super Bowl XLII champions. And the third thing that I know is we had to go through a lot of teams for this. We didn’t just win the game. We didn’t just get it done. So I need a little help, what did we do? STOMP YOU OUT! Fans of the Super Bowl XLII 42 champions, it’s been 10 great years!”
The halftime tribute capped off a weekend of nostalgia, as the Giants took over the New York/New Jersey area. For example, the team took to the city on Friday in an event benefitting Tom Coughlin’s Jay Fund Foundation, and also hosted an event at Ellis Island on Sunday. In between, members of the team showed up in The Bronx, where championship heroes Tyree, Shaun O’Hara, Antonio Pierce, and Jeff Feagles threw out the first pitch prior to the New York Yankees’ 9-3 win over Baltimore.
Throughout the week, the visit of the champions was a hot topic throughout the Giants’ facility. Two members of that team, quarterback Eli Manning and long snapper Zak DeOssie, remain active starters, while Steve Spagnuolo, architect of the defense that shut down New England’s legendary offense, returned to the Giants’ defensive coordinator job in 2015 after a sabbatical that included a three-year head coaching stint in St. Louis. Earlier in the week, Spagnuolo mentioned a visit from defensive tackle Fred Robbins lifted his spirits from the Week 1 loss to Dallas and later recalled the chaos that surrounded the victory aftermath.
“I couldn’t find (his wife) Maria. When the game was over, I couldn’t find her,” Spagnuolo said with a smile. “I missed all of (the celebration). I never got to hold the Lombardi trophy and then finally I found her, which was to me the greatest moment.”
Keeping with the family theme, Spagnuolo enthusiastically recalled Coughlin’s inspiring speech the night before the game.
“He talked deeply about what it was like and how your family is so involved in all of it,” Spagnuolo reminisced. “They share the pain and the glory and then when you accomplish that, how much you feel that it was for them. How much they feel a part of it. I got to stop talking and thinking about that.”
Also feeling nostalgic was tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride Jr., whose father served as the offensive coordinator in the historic win.
“(My father) had been to the playoffs many times. We were so proud,” he said. “I immediately called my sister and we were tearing up. (We were) so proud of him and all that he’s gone through and all he’s battled through in this league. To have the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl was tremendous for him, and then winning it was unbelievable. So, it was a very, very special time for our family.
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who would later earn a ring of his own in Super Bowl XLVI, remarked that he never saw the Tyree catch until the build-up for that latter game.
“The first time I saw the Tyree catch was when they played it when we were headed to a Super Bowl,” Pierre-Paul said. “They played it and showed us and it was a pretty cool catch.”
Pierre-Paul added an interesting take on the play, saying he “most definitely” would’ve sacked Manning on that throw, recalling Manning’s improbable escape from New England pressure. “He’s not throwing that on me” he added with a laugh.
Much like the modern day Giants, the 2007-08 group likewise began their year 0-2, ironically enough by also losing to the Dallas Cowboys on the road in a Week 1 Sunday night game, before dropping Week 2’s match at home to an NFC North team, though in 2007 it was the Green Bay Packers. The Giants would later defeat both Dallas and Green Bay en route to the Super Bowl.
In even further irony, the celebrated team began to right their ship against another NFC East foe on the road, as they defeated the Washington Redskins in Week 3. This season’s team gets the opportunity to earn a win as they travel to Philadelphia to visit the Eagles on Sunday afternoon (1:00 p.m. ET, FOX).