INDIANAPOLIS -- Justin Tuck remembers the way the New York Giants felt on the morning of Dec. 11, when they woke up in Dallas and set about the business of stopping a four-game losing streak. The Giants had dropped from 6-2 to 6-6 in an eyeblink and had a game that night against the first-place Cowboys.
"We felt kind of like a cat that had already died eight times," Tuck said Monday.
That Tuck said these words into a microphone at the Giants' first media availability of Super Bowl week says everything about what's happened since that day in Dallas. They would beat the Cowboys that night, winning a defense-free seesaw of a game when Jason Pierre-Paul blocked Dan Bailey's last-second attempt at a tying field goal. And while they would lose to the Redskins at home the following week to fall back to .500, the Giants seem to feel as though the victory in Dallas was their season's turning point.
"I think the way we won was part of it too," Tuck said. "To beat the Cowboys in Dallas is always hard, and that was a game where nobody wanted to give it up. It was a tough game, and we had to be tough to win it."
The Giants are 6-1 since they woke up in Dallas that morning, and are on the verge of their second Super Bowl title in five years. The Cowboys went 1-3 starting with that game, including the Week 17 loss at the Meadowlands that decided the NFC East title. It was a crazy division race that went down to the wire and even mathematically included the Eagles until Week 16. And the Giants are aware of how close they came to not being here.
"To define what took place in the NFC East this year would be very difficult to do," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
There is little doubt of that, as any of you who've been following along with us this year can attest. But as they look back on it, the Giants feel like the first victory over the Cowboys may have been the one that turned around their season.
"It was going to be tough to make the playoffs if we didn't win the division at that point," quarterback Eli Manning said. "Going in to play a division team, a team that was in first place at that point, we knew we had to play well."
They did, and more or less haven't stopped since.