Giants finish has many thinking of 2007 title run

The way the New York Giants finished the season, there is a

sense of excitement heading into the playoffs and a feeling that

this could be 2007 all over again.

Don’t recall?

The Giants made a late season run to make the playoffs four

years ago, pushed the undefeated New England Patriots in their

regular season finale and went into the postseason believing they

were capable of beating anyone.

They beat everyone, including the Patriots to win their third

Super Bowl title.

Fast forward.

New York (9-7) captured the NFC East by beating the Jets and

Dallas Cowboys in the final two games of the regular season. Couple

that with last-second losses to NFC top-seeded Green Bay and No. 2

seed San Francisco during the season, and that confidence was back

Monday as the Giants started preparations for a wild-card game

against the Atlanta Falcons (10-6) here on Sunday.

“We have a lot of similarities and we can do a lot of things we

did in ’07,” defensive captain Justin Tuck said Monday after the

Giants reviewed their 31-14 win over the Cowboys and heard Tom

Coughlin discuss being back in the playoffs for the first time in

three seasons. “Hopefully, we can get on that run.”

What has to be encouraging for the Giants is the way that the

defense has stepped up.

After watching Eli Manning and the offense carry the team most

of the season, the defense has contributed big time, especially the

defensive line which has helped record 11 sacks and limited the

opponents rushing game the past two games.

“The season was up and down and this isn’t the way we wanted to

go in, but in terms of how we finished the season, we needed to get

those wins and got them,” linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. “We

have to draw from that. Right now everyone’s confidence is high and

we’re ready to go.”

The Falcons have the weapons to test the defense with

quarterback Matt Ryan, running back Michael Turner, receivers Julio

Jones and Roddy White and veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez.

Still, the Giants like the idea of playing a dome team in the

cold at MetLife Stadium.

“Atlanta is a great team,” safety Antrel Rolle said. “They are a

hard-working team and they are a fighting team. The coaches do a

great job as far as their play-calling goes. They do a good job of

playing together as a team. We are definitely going to have our

hands full but nothing that we’re not up to.”

Giants Pro Bowl guard Chris Snee tried to downplay the

similarities to 2007, noting that many of the players have come and

gone.

“I’d love to have the same ending as the ’07 team,” he said. “We

certainly have the capability of doing that as we have shown. I’m

happy just to be in the playoffs. We’ll take it from there. I don’t

spend too much time reminiscing about that glorious time in our

life.”

Running back Brandon Jacobs didn’t mind though.

“I would not want to face the New York Giants in the playoffs

right now,” he said. “I got the same feeling (that I had in 2007).

There’s a lot of guys that are here that weren’t here a couple of

years ago when we went (to the Super Bowl in 2007), but it’s the

same kind of feeling that I have. It’s basically the same road as

well.”

The Giants are entering the playoffs fairly healthy. Defensive

end Osi Umenyiora returned to the lineup for the first time since

spraining an ankle in late November and recorded two sacks.

Tight end Jake Ballard, who missed the last two games with a

knee injury, plans to run on Tuesday, and Tuck is playing his best

football this season after overcoming neck, groin and toe injuries

during the season.

Manning also is having a career year. He threw for a team-record

4,933 yards, 29 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Second-year

receiver Victor Cruz finished with a franchise-record 1,536 yards

receiving and a team-high nine touchdowns, including five of 68

yards or longer.

Cruz believes the Giants have a chance to play for a

championship.

“That has to be the goal because you play this game to win the

Super Bowl,” he said. “The first step is obviously winning the

division and the second step is getting into the playoffs and we

have done that so far.

“I feel like we are hitting our stride at the perfect time and

we should be able to make a run for it.”