Super Bowl run now in play with Giants getting better and better

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Super Bowl is now in play as an achievable, honest goal. If you’re a Giants fan, nothing has ever sounded so completely insane and perfectly reasonable at the same time.

It’s crazy because this franchise is said to be in its early hours of a rebuild with a rookie head coach and a rookie general manager and a roster that seemed to have more potholes than the Cross Bronx Expressway.

It makes sense because the Giants just beat a 13-4 team at their own building in the first round of the playoffs and were setting up a rematch with the top-seeded Eagles in Philadelphia, where the home team struggled to close the Giants’ walk-ons beat last week.

That 31-24 win over the Vikings moved up to sixth place in Round 2 and of course the Eagles are expected to win this round. But a lot of things expected in the NFL — like the Giants, who are playing 5-12 this year — never materialize. Ask the Vikings about it on Monday while they’re busy packing their gear and planning their trips to a distant golf course or beach.

The Giants are getting better and better, a requirement for a deep postseason run. Back then, no one thought the Giants would go to the Super Bowl in 2007, even after they tied the Patriots 15-0 at the end of the regular season.

Brian Daboll sells the fans after the Giants' win over the Vikings on Jan. 15.
Brian Daboll greets fans after the Giants’ win over the Vikings on January 15.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

But they kept getting better and better, eventually knocking out the 13-3 Cowboys in their field. That day at Texas Stadium, hours after Peyton Manning and 13-3 defending champions Colts were eliminated from the playoffs, Manning matriarch Olivia had this to say to some writers:

“I have a heavy heart for Peyton, but I’m proud of Eli.”

The same Eli Manning who had been hit by critics about as often as Daniel Jones in his first three years would be hit in his first three years. Archie Manning later said he didn’t know who would leave the New York market first, his son or Tom Coughlin.

Together, Eli and Coughlin shocked the world and the 18-0 Patriots in the Super Bowl, a win co-owner John Mara called the greatest in franchise history. 15 years later, is it likely that the Giants of Jones and Saquon Barkley and league rookie of the year Brian Daboll will make an even wilder story than this one?

No it is not. And yet this team is gaining confidence and poses a threat to the Eagles. Perhaps the Giants can survive this test. They might get lucky in the form of an upset from San Francisco in Dallas/Tampa Bay. Or maybe the Giants can actually beat the 49ers on the street in a brutal NFC title game just like they did 11 years ago.

For now, the 2022 Giants must be taken seriously as a Super Bowl contender. And that’s about as unlikely a statement as has been made about this franchise in nearly a century of football.

Daniel Jones leaves the field following the Giants' win over the Vikings on January 15.
Daniel Jones leaves the field following the Giants’ win over the Vikings on January 15.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST
Saquon Barkley celebrates after the Giants' win over the Vikings on January 15.
Saquon Barkley celebrates after the Giants’ win over the Vikings on January 15.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

What an odd season it’s been across the board. The Giants won a total game at NFC East – one! — and still found a way to make the playoffs and became the first team in more than three decades to qualify for the tournament without winning at least two division games.

Daboll trained his way around his 4-0 record against the Cowboys and Eagles just as he worked his way through his players’ noticeable limitations. He hired the right coordinators on both sides of the ball, despite not having a meaningful relationship with any of them, and made a wise decision putting another relative stranger, Thomas McGaughey, in charge of special teams.

Daboll also got Barkley to be Barkley again, turning Jones into a study in efficiency, athleticism, and balance. After a decade of mostly miserable football, the Giants were expected to win a small handful of games this year, and their rookie coach toasted a 9-7-1 record. What fan in their right mind would have ever believed their team would head into the postseason and along the way give Isaiah Hodgins a break in the final game of the regular season?

As it turned out Sunday, this virtual week off in Philly did nothing to slow the Giants’ momentum. They treated the Vikings defense like the scout unit it is, ripping off back-to-back touchdown drives at lightning speed and covering 166 net yards in nine games to hold a 14-7 lead. The Giants averaged 18.4 yards per play. Almost overnight they had become The Greatest Show on Turf.

Daniel Jones wants to throw in the first quarter.
Daniel Jones wants to throw in the first quarter.
Karl Wenzelberg

Jones ran everywhere, gaining 71 yards on 10 carries and leaving the Barkley-inspired nickname “Vanilla Vick” trending on Twitter. The home team had no answers for everything the Giants did in the first 30 minutes. In addition to those two walk-in-the-park TD drives, the sixth seed grinded a 20-play, 85-yard drive that ended in a field goal and lasted nearly 11 minutes of rest.

The Giants didn’t let up in the second half either. They didn’t just hold the lead here in Minnesota. They held onto the belief that they could reach the greatest stage in sport.

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