Palladino: Giants Need To Deny Demons Of Playoffs Past

‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.”

In another day, another time, you might get awful nervous about Sunday’s NFC Championship game in San Francisco.

And none of it would have had to do with this year’s 27-20 Niners win at Candlestick.

The Giants, a far different team than the one that took apart Green Bay in Sunday’s semifinal, came close enough in that one, drawing to within 20-13 before tight end Vernon Davis and running back Kendall Hunter settled matters with early fourth-quarter touchdowns.

No, what we’re talking about here is the last postseason meeting between these two teams. That was a decade ago, several football lifetimes, before Kevin Boss and then Jake Ballard put the memories of me-first Jeremy Shockey to shame, when Eli Manning was still breaking every significant record his old man, Archie, held at Ole Miss.

Remember that one? The 2002 wild card game in San Francisco. 39-38 Niners after they came back from trailing 38-14 with 4:27 left in the third quarter.


Cue the ghosts of playoffs past.

Not to throw a damper on this great party the Giants have thrown themselves, but if the ghosts have anything to do with anything — and sometimes they do — the Giants should pay heed to the past.

Of course, not only is this a different era, but a different coach is in charge. Something tells us Tom Coughlin is not going to let the Giants sit back and relax, or let anyone storm back as easily as Terrell Owens, Jeff Garcia, Tai Streets, and kicker Jeff Chandler did.

Michael Boley pointed out the overall mindset that has grabbed hold of this Giants team since this fantasy streak started four games ago against the Jets.

“Never quit,” Boley said. “We have to finish what we started. We started the season on a good note. That’s one of the things that Tom has said to us from Day 1, as soon as we stepped in here for training camp. Finish, make sure we finish everything we do.”

The 2002 squad didn’t quit. It did collapse, however, under a barrage of passing and a botched field goal snap by seasoned substitute long-snapper Trey Junkin that, had it arrived at holder Matt Allen’s target 41 yards distant from the posts, might have produced the game-winning points.

In essence, they failed to finish.

If the Giants are to turn their backs on the football gods and win in that beautiful city of the morning fog, they need to finish.

“We wouldn’t say we’re unstoppable, but our mindset is extreme at this point,” safety Antrel Rolle said. “We’re not going to be denied.”

A lot of that, Rolle said, has to do with chemistry over talent. That’s what Coughlin’s teams are all about. Without chemistry, without trust in each other, this defense would have been demoralized from the get-go, given its injuries and ineffectiveness most of the season.

But Coughlin kept them together long enough for some healthy cavalrymen to ride to the rescue. And now they’re one of the playoffs most formidable units.

And the passing game has excelled all season. And now that the Saints’ 400-plus passing yards Saturday proved the Niners’ secondary exploitable, Manning has his work all laid out.

It’s just a matter of shaking the ghosts.

They do have a funny way of popping up at the most inconvenient of times.

Giants fans: Are you nervous heading into the NFC Championship game? Let us know in the comments below…

  • D.K.

    No, because the Giants were mediocre all season, they beat a horrible Falcons team, and a Packer team that didn’t show up. NY does a lot of talking, but I have a feeling they won’t be able to back it up on Sunday against a niner team that is proving to be unstoppable. And we don’t live and die on streaks, we have been one of the best teams in the league all year long, consistency that has brought us one game away from the Super Bowl, and the entire time we’ve gotten no credit from the media whatsoever. Enjoy your time in the spotlight fellas, we’ll enjoy ours come Feb. 5th, the only time when media coverage means anything.

  • Mase

    Not one bit, Ernie —

    There have clearly been **three** distinct seasons here — a very, VERY weak 6-and-2 to start, SEP-OCT, barely getting by 4 very weak teams (StL, Arizona, Miami, and Buffalo);

    and, they outscored the opposition in these 8 games by exactly one — 1 — point. Eli was the difference between 6-2 and, 2-6.

    Then there was a horrid NOVEMBER — SF, then PHI, NO, and GB — giving up **87 points** in the final two….

    Then, a stong, and getting strong-ER, DEC-JAN, with only the lapse against WASH.

    The last 4 games, incl 2 playoffs, they’ve outscored their opponents by **71** points; this is unreal — and frankly, it does not remind me of ’07 at all — but 1986, on into the win @ Denver in the ’87 Superbowl.

    Manning is throwing harder, and more accurately, and releasing faster, than ever, and now with 4 healthy weapons (and I do mean weapons) for him — Nicks; Cruz; Manningham, and Ballard — I think they’re inspiring downright fear on offense, and likewise with a healthy (and dominant) pass rush. That allows them to drop 7, or 6, into coverage (with 5 down linemen occasionally against GB) — and the secondary is looking better than ever as a result.

    I would not be surprised to see our GIANTS win in a blowout; 42-7 or something; it’ll rain non-stop Thurs-Sun according to the forecast, and with a much better thrower and receivers who are faster and, who can make the cuts, I just don’t think SF will be able to keep up —

    More to the point , this game may even be something of a letdown (not for us, though — but for the viewing public).. Then, for 2 weeks, it’ll be all about “the rematch” .. Brady vs. Manning…

    we hope !!

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