The New York Giants 2008 season was one in which they were coming off a historic Super Bowl triumph. The magical run was capped off by beating the 18-0 New England Patriots. Heading into 2008, many expected the Giants to continue their success from the previous year.
New York got off to its best start since 1990, winning their first five games. The team started 11-1 before Plaxico Burress’ infamous arrest for shooting himself in a New York nightclub. Burress’ arrest was a huge blow to the Giants spirits and their offense.
They lost three of their last four games without Plax to finish the season. However, that one win in the last four is one of the most infamous wins in Giants regular-season history. The Giants squared off with Jake Delhomme and the Carolina Panthers in a physical, cold game (wind chill was -28 degrees) in the Meadowlands on Sunday Night Football called by the iconic duo of John Madden and Al Michaels.
The importance of the Week 16 game was significant, as this game pitted the two best teams in the NFC that year. The winner of the game would clinch the top seed in the NFC and lock down home-field advantage for the playoffs. The Giants had a prime opportunity to end the season on a high note in front of a rowdy home crowd.
The game featured many great players that represented the NFL the right way for many years. Stars such as Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs, Amani Toomer, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Antonio Pierce, Delhomme, DeAngelo Williams, Steve Smith, and Julius Peppers all played and had big roles in the game. Let’s break down the game here.
Breaking Down the New York Giants 2008 Win Over the Carolina Panthers
The Giants started the game off with a nice drive until stalling and settling for a John Carney field goal. The Panthers responded by marching down the field and punching it in with a 13-yard touchdown run, a sign of things to come.
New York came right back playing with the physicality of their own running back as Big Brandon Jacobs capped off a 74-yard, 13-play drive with a touchdown from the goal line. Carolina didn’t blink as they came right back again with another rushing touchdown from Williams from five yards out.
The next Giants’ drive went nowhere and Jeff Feagles punted it back to the Panthers already up 14-10. Carolina struck with a huge play from a 60-yard pass from Delhomme to receiver Muhsin Muhammad. DeAngelo Williams made it three drives and three touchdowns for himself, establishing his dominance in the game in the second quarter. The Panthers led 21-10 and the game’s scoring hit a halt as both teams’ defenses started to settle in.
The Giants had one more scoring drive right before the half, as a field goal from Carney cut the deficit to 21-13 at halftime.
In the third quarter, the game was a close affair, with both teams trading punts until Kevin Boss caught a touchdown from Manning to bring the game to 21-20 entering the fourth quarter.
This wouldn’t stop DeAngelo Williams from staying quiet as he trotted off on a 30-yard touchdown run, his fourth of the game to extend Carolina’s lead to 28-20. The Giants stayed poised and relied on the run game and Manning’s level-headed play to stage a dramatic comeback.
The Giants played smashmouth football and Jacobs ran in a one-yard touchdown with 3:24 left. The offense stayed on the field and Manning hit Domenix Hixon for the crucial two-point conversion to tie the game late in the fourth. The Giants defense bent, but didn’t break and the Panthers got to the New York 32-yard line for a potential game-winning field goal and clinch the number one seed in the NFC. The Giants weren’t done, and John Kasay’s 50-yarder fell victim to the Meadowlands’ swirling winds and missed right so the game went to overtime.
The Giants won the overtime coin toss and chose to receive. The drive went nowhere and they punted it to Carolina with the chance to win the game with a score. Thankfully, the Big Blue defense prevailed and gave the offense another shot to win the game. On the drive’s first play, Derrick Ward took off for a 51-yard run to gash open the Panthers’ defense and cross midfield. Ward’s next two runs went for 14 yards and then 17 yards right after.
These 68 yards on the drive pushed him to 215 for the game, a career-high for Ward, and it brought him to 1,000 rushing yards for the season. Ward’s century mark on the ground overlapped with Jacobs’ 1,089 rushing yards, making the two only the 5th 1,000-yard rushing duo in NFL history.
Ward’s last run of the game for 17 yards brought the Giants to the Panthers’ two-yard line. On the next play, Brandon Jacobs fought for his third touchdown of the game and clinched the Giants’ number one seed in a legendary NFC battle on SNF.
The Giants won the game on the strength of their punishing run game. Highlighted by a dominant offensive line, and a three-headed running back group nicknamed “Earth, Wind, and Fire” that rushed for 301 yards in the game to Carolina’s 158. Ward’s 14.3 yards per carry in the game was the highest mark in Giants history.