The world has been shocked, the dragon has been slain, the mighty 18-0 Patriots have fallen.
To be a fan of a Super Bowl champion is to never tire of the campy platitudes. Each one brings home the new reality, which, for the foreseeable future, can be classified as "too good to be true."
Never is such a reminder more appropriate -- Yo, we just won the @$#%ing Super Bowl!!! -- than this year for us Giants fans. The most die-hard among us always believed it could happen, but now that it has happened, we can't believe it.
To rehash what everybody knows, the Giants just beat the 18-0 Patriots, who came into the game with the best single-season record in league history, having surpassed the 17-0 record of the 1972 Dolphins (who accumulated the record when the NFL season was 14 games, not the 16 it is today).
But the Giants radically realigned history last night: Their victory dropped the Pats down more than a few notches, below the 17-0 1972 Dolphins, below the 18-1 1985 Bears, and, amazingly, below even the 14-6 2007 Giants.
Despite a season's worth of talk about the Patriots and their historic quest, 2007, was in the end the Giants' year. True, the Giants blew their shot at a perfect season in Week 1 with an ugly loss the Cowboys (and followed that with another unsightly loss the week after). But by being the only team who won in Week 21, they completed a championship season that couldn't have been more perfect in the end.
I posit that Giants fans, having seen their team knock off the perfect Patriots, are feeling a purer brand of euphoria than Patriots fans would if their team had won last night. Though it's probably not the best metaphor when talking about a team called the Giants, David beating Goliath is more fun than Goliath beating David.
For the Giants, the Super Bowl was the culmination of three of the most exciting, heart-stopping games in the franchise's history. Each of them was amazing in its own way.
It started in the second round of the playoffs against Dallas, when the Giants upset the heavily favored Cowboys in what could best be called a tense thriller: Having taken a four point lead with a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, Giants fans sweated out the remaining minutes as their defense turned aside numerous attempts by the Cowboys' celebrated offense.
The clock wound down, torturously, but the tension only made R.W. McQuarters' game-ending interception all the more sweet. The Giants had knocked off their heavily-favored rivals, and their first major upset of the 2007 playoffs -- they had handily beaten the slightly favored Tampa Bay Buccaneers the week before -- was in the books.
The next game's week against Green Bay had a different feel to it, but managed to be even more awesome. Unlike against Dallas, the Giants thoroughly outplayed the favored Packers for most of the game, but repeatedly shot themselves in the foot in the form of stupid penalties and missed field goals. Self-inflicted wounds have become a hallmark of Giants football over the past three years, and the unfortunate propensity was rearing its ugly head as the G-Men gave the Packers chance after chance to stay in the game.
But while Giants teams of the very recent past might have rolled over after squandering so many chances to pull away, the most salient quality of the 2007 Giants has become their ability to fight through adversity. Having weathered two crushing missed field goals from placekicker Lawrence Tynes - one of which would have won the game as the clock expired at the end of regulation - the Giants' defense made one last play by intercepting a Brett Favre pass to give Tynes another shot. Tynes rewarded his teammates by kicking the Giants into the Super Bowl.
Though it didn't seem possible to top the drama of those previous two games, the Super Bowl somehow managed to. As they had the week before, the Giants outplayed their opposition, but an inability to capitalize on their good play left them trailing for most of the game.
But as the fourth quarter dawned, Eli Manning, who has rapidly metamorphosized from a mentally-fragile, distressingly juvenile-looking creature into a legitimate leader of men, took the Giants downfield for their first touchdown and the lead.
The Patriots responded, however, embarking on a long, methodical drive that, when it was over, seemed to cast a sense of grim inevitability: Yes, the Patriots had been playing poorly while the Giants had looked inspired. But that drive -- during which the Giants defense was clearly exhausted -- seemed to indicate inspiration could only go so far: The Patriots were, in the end, the better team. After struggling against a game Giants team, they had finally done what they needed to do.
It seemed like that, that is, until Eli Manning led his troops onto the field with 2:42 remaining in the season and 83 yards in front of him. And until Eli hit Amani Toomer on the drive's first play for a first down, giving his team and its fans a renewed sense of optimism. And until the Giants converted a 4th and 1 to keep their season alive. And until David Tyree, a nondescript receiver who owes his job in the league to his contribution on special teams, made a one-handed catch by trapping the ball against his helmet, a 32-yard gain that will go down as the biggest and best play from scrimmage in Giants franchise history. And until rookie Steve Smith made a key third down catch deep in New England territory.
And finally, until Giants fans saw Plaxico Burress standing wide open in the endzone, the ball floating lazily towards him, taking its customary eternity in the air. Plax softly cradled it and made sure his two feet were in bounds. Implausibly, the Giants were seconds away from being world champions.
And with another strong stand by the defense, the Patriots last shot at perfection had come and go. The 2007 New York Giants had completed their championship season. It couldn't have been more perfect.