Few people gave the New York Giants much of a chance against the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, but the G-Men didn’t care. Especially not former linebacker Antonio Pierce.
“I just remember Antonio Pierce saying, ‘Hey, everybody, we’re going to wear back,’” former Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer said in-studio on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “We were just like, ‘All right, let’s wear black.’”
The symbolism was not difficult to undress. The Giants flew to Phoenix for a game, yes, but they also flew there for a funeral.
“Yes, (Pierce said), ‘This is a funeral for their undefeated season,’” Toomer recalled. “It was really like a ceremonial thing because we wanted to make sure that everybody on our plane was focused on, ‘This is it. We’re going to end it. We’re not just going down here to show up and be the sacrificial lamb for the undefeated New England Patriots. We’re actually going to come down here and throw some haymakers and try to get this game.’”
They did. The Giants won a 17-14 thriller thanks to a dominant defensive line and late-game heroics from Eli Manning, David Tyree, and Plaxico Burress, among others, thus thwarting the Patriots’ 19-0 bid.
It was poetic justice for the Giants, who almost beat New England in the regular season that year. They led 28-23 through three quarters, but lost 38-35 in East Rutherford in Week 16.
“We felt like we let them off the hook,” said Toomer, who had 59 catches for 760 yards and three touchdowns in 2007. “We were going to end their undefeated season at that point. We felt like we let that one get away, so now for us to have another opportunity – which never happens in sports, especially in football, to have two opportunities at the same team to end their undefeated season – we were very excited about that.”
In hindsight, that regular-season loss may have been a blessing in disguise, as New England’s aura of invincibility was immediately erased. The Giants knew they could hang with Tom Brady and the Patriots. In fact, they felt like they were the better team.
“All those little things kind of add up,” Toomer said. “It was just a mental state that we were in. We weren’t afraid to express our feelings about it. . . . (There was) just kind of that collective look around the room, like, ‘All right, (we) got it. (We) got it. Boom. We’re ready.’ Everybody was on the same page. That’s what was great about that team. A lot of us we’re veterans and we had good rookies that really helped us out as well and supplemented us in different areas, but we all had this connection and we all knew that the end of our road together was coming. After that year, the team kind of fractured and eventually blew up in terms of the players that were in that locker room. So we really knew that time wasn’t on our side.”