GIANTS NOTEBOOK, DECEMBER 9, 2008
By Michael Eisen
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants played a game Sunday they would prefer to forget, but they earned a piece of NFL and franchise history later in the day.
When the Dallas Cowboys lost a late lead and their game to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Giants clinched the NFC East title. The accompanying postseason berth will be the Giants’ 30th, which is the most in NFL history. Dallas has made the playoffs 29 times and will tie the Giants if they clinch a postseason berth this month. Of course, the Giants can take a big step in keeping the record for themselves if they defeat the Cowboys Sunday night in Dallas.
This is the first time in Giants history that they have made the playoffs four years in a row. They were playoff participants in three consecutive seasons four times – 1933-35, 1961-63, 1984-86 and the previous three seasons.
The Giants have also reached postseason play for the first time in the year following a Super Bowl appearance. With an 11-2 record, they are guaranteed to be over .500 for the first time the season after they played in the Super Bowl. They were 6-9 in 1987 (a strike-shortened season following Super Bowl XXI), 8-8 in 1991 after playing in Super Bowl XXV and 7-9 in 2001, a year after losing Super Bowl XXXV.
When the season ends, the Giants will likely be one of just two or three teams to reach postseason play four consecutive years. Indianapolis (six consecutive playoff seasons), New England (five) and Seattle (five) were the only other franchises with streaks of at least three years long entering this season.
The Seahawks are 2-11 and have been eliminated from playoff contention. Indianapolis is 9-4 and currently holds the No. 1 wild card in the AFC. New England, 8-5, is tied with Miami and the Jets for first place in the AFC East.
The NFC East title is the Giants’ seventh since the 1970 merger. They also won the division in 1986, 1989, 1990, 1997, 2000 and 2005.
It is their 22nd division or conference championship since 1933, when the NFL first split into divisions (the league had Eastern and Western Divisions from 1933-49, American and National or Eastern and Western Conferences from 1950-69 and have had divisions within conferences since the merger). For the record, the Giants also won their division or conference in 1933, 1934, 1935, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1944, 1946, 1950 (tie with Cleveland), 1956, 1958 (tie with Cleveland), 1959, 1961, 1962 and 1963.
This is Tom Coughlin’s fourth division championship as an NFL head coach – two with Jacksonville and two with the Giants. That places him sixth among active coaches. Mike Holmgren has eight division titles, Bill Belichick and Tony Dungy have six apiece and Andy Reid and Jon Gruden have each won five. Belichick and Gruden could add to their totals this month.
*Justin Tuck and Terrell Thomas each blocked David Akers field goal attempts in Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time the Giants blocked two field goal attempts in a game since Sept. 15, 1974, in a 13-10 loss at Washington. In that game, Roy Hilton blocked two Mark Moseley field goal attempts in the final 47 seconds of the first half.
*Eli Manning started his 68th consecutive game Sunday. That broke a tie with Kerry Collins and gave Manning the longest starting streak among Giants quarterbacks since Giants Stadium opened in 1976. Manning can tie Fran Tarkenton’s franchise record on Sunday in Dallas. Tarkenton started 69 games in a row from 1967-71.
*Manning’s touchdown pass in the final minute Sunday was the 97th of his career. That moved him ahead of Y.A. Tittle and into fourth place on the Giants’ career list.
*The touchdown pass was Manning’s 20th of the season. He is the first quarterback in Giants history to throw at least 20 touchdown passes in each of four consecutive seasons. Tarkenton (1967-69) and Phil Simms (1984-86) did it three years in a row. Tarkenton just missed making it four; he threw 19 touchdown passes in 1970.
*Brandon Jacobs’ 52 rushing yards Sunday increased his season total to 1,002. Jacobs, who rushed for 1,009 yards in 2007, is just the fourth running back in Giants history to run for at least 1,000 yards in at least two consecutive seasons. The others were Joe Morris (1985-86), Rodney Hampton (1991-95) and Tiki Barber (2002-2006).
Jacobs is one of nine runners who have crossed the 1,000-yard threshold this season.
*The Giants lost Sunday despite having no offensive turnovers. Prior to Sunday, they were 10-0 this season in games in which they committed less than three turnovers. They are 40-20 in such games under Coughlin, who is 103-61 in his career when his teams have zero, one or two turnovers.
*Tight end Darcy Johnson has two receptions this season, each a one-yard touchdown. He is the first Giant to score touchdowns on each of his first two career catches since another tight end, Marcellus Rivers, in 2001. Rivers’ first two touchdowns were on receptions of one and two yards.
*The Eagles had 12 successful third down conversions on Sunday, the most by a Giants opponent since Tennessee had 14 on Oct. 1, 2000.
*Philadelphia’s Brian Westbrook totaled 203 yards from scrimmage on Sunday (131 rushing, 72 receiving). That was the most by a Giants opponent since Sept. 25, 2005, when San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson had 220 yards (192 rushing, 28 receiving). Tomlinson also threw a 26-yard touchdown pass.
*The Giants are now 7-13 under Coughlin when an opposing back rushes for at least 100 yards.
*Westbrook scored on a 30-yard run and a 40-yard reception to become the first Giants opponent with rushing and receiving touchdowns in the same game since St. Louis’ Steven Jackson on Oct. 2, 2005.
*After totaling 14 points on Sunday, the Giants are no longer the NFL’s highest-scoring team. Their 366 points leave them tied for second with New Orleans, six points behind Arizona.
*The Giants still lead the NFL in rushing with an average of 154.6 yards a game and 4.9 yards per carry. Atlanta is second in rushing yards per game (146.7), and Kansas City is second in yards per carry (4.8).
*The defenses of all four NFC East teams are ranked in the top eight in the league. Philadelphia, Washington and the Giants are ranked fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively. Dallas’ defense is ranked eighth. Three of the four NFC East offenses are ranked in the top nine – the Giants are sixth, Philadelphia is seventh and Dallas is ninth. Washington is 16th.
*The Giants’ plus-10 turnover differential is first in the NFC and third in the NFL, behind Miami (plus-12) and Tennessee (plus-11).
*John Carney is second in the NFL in scoring with 116 points, one behind New England’s Stephen Gostkowski and one ahead of Akers and Tampa Bay’s Matt Bryant.
*Tuck is tied for second in the NFC and fourth in the NFL with 12.5 sacks.
*The Giants’ home game on Dec. 21 vs. the Carolina Panthers has been moved to an 8:15 p.m. start and will be televised by NBC. It will be the Giants’ second consecutive prime time appearance; they play this Sunday night in Dallas. The Giants-Panthers game could decide home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
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