Big Blue had won three straight over New England, including two rather important victories ... Super Bowl XLII, and XLVI in a brilliant performance from Eli Manning. They also won a crucial regular season meeting at Gillette in 2011, necessary for them to take the division and ultimately make it to that second Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Bill Belichick's club was undefeated going into Super Bowl XLII, until David Tyree helmet catch and the Giants' relentless pass rush foiled that attempt at the first unblemished record through a 16-game season.
Not included in this streak was a Giants loss that came one month before Tyree's helmet catch (Week 17 in 2007), when New York almost knocked off the perfect Patriots. Brady was playing at such a high level that no one thought those Patriots would lose. Even though Eli Manning and company didn't pull off the upset that Sunday night, it became one of the most memorable regular season games of the Y2K era.
Coming into our 13th top game of 2015, Brady and New England were undefeated again, carrying a sterling 8-0 mark into MetLife Stadium. And there were Coughlin and Manning again, trying to beat this unique rival at their own brand of Stratego, again.
The game didn't disappoint. However, when Stephen Gostowski's 54-yard field goal sailed through the uprights, the streak would not continue.
Play of the Game 1
After Scott Chandler got the scoring going for the Patriots, the Giants responded. From his own 13, Eli Manning launched a ball for Beckham down the right sideline. It appeared as though Manning actually led his receiver too far inside, which normally would leave a play out there for the safety to make. Nope. Beckham adjusted on the run, cut inside the safety who overran the play (or at least the space where he thought Beckham would make the catch), and 87 yards later was tying this baby up.
Play of the Game 2
Play of the Game 3
The Giants held down Rob Gronkowski for over three quarters. Down 23-17 with just under 12 minutes to play, operating at his own 24, Brady looked for his big tight end ... deep. Gronkowski caught the ball near the left hash at the Giants 40, got hit, spun out, and lumbered the rest of the way for a spectacular score. Frankly, it was the kind of play that only maybe a Travis Kelce or Delanie Walker could make. Watch it again. How many tight ends can run these vertical routes, be physical enough to break the necessary tackle, keep their balance, and score?
With the game tied 7-7 in the first quarter, Julian Edelman made a simple catch followed by a nice backwards move, and then got spun down for a 12-yard gain. Except for the fact that he broke his foot, and didn't play the rest of the regular season.
Quite simply, this changed the course of the season. The Patriots went 9-0 with Edelman, 3-4 without. New England finished tied with Denver for the top record in the AFC, yet you have to figure they would have won at least one or two games with Edelman. Playing the AFC Championship at home could have slowed those Broncos pass rushers, who were instead feeding off crowd noise in Denver and making life miserable for Tom Brady. You never want to assume, but...
Early in the third quarter, with the Giants up 20-10, Danny Amendola took an innocent punt at the Patriots 11, squeezed up against the ride sideline and broke free. That is, until Duron Harmon -- Amendola's teammate -- decided to run right behind him at the Giants 15-yard line. It was enough to trip up the diminutive receiver, and New England missed out on a return touchdown. Watch it again. Yeah, Duron, that wasn't cool.
One other note on Amendola: if you get a chance to watch this game on NFL Network (5 p.m. ET), check out his little out-in move to get Gostowksi a little closer on the game-winning field goal attempt. #thelittlethings.
Many people know that Bill Belichick's time as defensive coordinator under Bill Parcells, who was head coach in New England from 1993-1996, played a role in his being hired by Bob Kraft to run the team. What they might not know is that Parcells, who made his legend winning two Super Bowls while with the Giants, got his NFL start in New England way back in 1980. The next season, Ray Perkins hired Parcells to coach the linebackers, including some rookie named Lawrence Taylor (only the greatest to ever play the position).
Going one step further ... Coughlin also served under Parcells. Coughlin was wide receivers coach in New York from 1988 to 1990, the same time Belichick was coaching the defense. Both highly successful head coaches were assistants on that Giants 1990 team that won Super Bowl XXV. So here they were, a whopping 25 years later, still doing their thing.
Why This Game is No. 13
Yet, Patriots at Giants became another contest in which New York couldn't hold the lead, ultimately leading to Coughlin "resigning." And you could argue that the Edelman injury reshaped the entire postseason. Make no mistake, Patriots at Giants was as important as ever, even if it wasn't on the big stage.