EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants lost their fourth straight game on Sunday, yet it strangely felt a little bit like 2007 again.
At the end of that magical season, the Giants played an undefeated New England Patriots team to a near upset before losing 38-35 in a regular-season finale that ignited a Super Bowl run because of the confidence they gained from hanging with Tom Brady and Co.
On Sunday, the Giants battled the undefeated Packers for every inch before Aaron Rodgers' brilliance helped the Packers squeeze out a last-second 38-35 victory on a Mason Crosby 31-yard field goal on the final play.
After getting trampled in New Orleans less than a week ago, the Giants rebounded, despite losing in the end. They showed some much-needed signs of life and fight, and may have rediscovered a little of their mojo.
Despite the four-game losing streak, the Giants (6-6) are still breathing playoff air because the Cowboys (7-5) lost in Arizona.
Amazingly, the Giants still control their own destiny with four games remaining, and now travel to Dallas for the first of two colossal meetings that will decide the NFC East.
After losing to the Patriots at the end of '07, the Giants felt very good about themselves and won four straight playoff games to win it all. Now the Giants have four games remaining to get into the playoffs, and guess who's starting to feel good about themselves again?
Look, these aren't the '07 Giants, but the NFC East is within reach. And then who knows what happens once you get into the dance?
"Hopefully we can take that same approach," Eli Manning said when asked about the New England regular-season loss in 2007 and this narrow defeat to the Packers by the same exact score. "That game we lost, but I think everybody felt good about the way we played and had a little momentum going into the playoffs."
"Obviously, it's going to be a similar feel with these next four games," Manning continued. "They're all going to be playoff-style games where we need to win."
Not only do the Giants have to beat the Cowboys twice, but they must take care of another divisional game against Washington at home. And then there's that Christmas Eve game against the Jets, which is shaping up to be a monumental game for both New York teams, both vying for a playoff spot in their respective conferences.
So the Giants still have a long way to go, but Sunday's loss injected some much-needed confidence into the locker room.
"We are headed up," said safety Antrel Rolle, who believes the Giants will see the Packers again. "We have four games to play and we are going to fight extremely tough. We are going to make it to the postseason. We all know what happens once we get in the postseason. The record eliminates itself and then it's 'may the best man win' from that point on."
Green Bay is the best man right now, but the Giants learned that when they bring the fight, all-out effort and heart, they can hang with the best.
They still have their flaws, starting with a defense that still can't get enough stops when it absolutely needs it. There's still the injury factor that never seems to go away, as the Giants played without starting center David Baas (a late scratch two hours before the game due to headaches), defensive end Osi Umenyiora (ankle) and wide receiver Mario Manningham (knee) among others. And they lost safety Kenny Phillips during the game to a knee injury.
But running back Ahmad Bradshaw returned and gave the Giants a much-needed spark in the running game. Michael Boley was back as well, which is huge for a defense which has struggled without its best linebacker.
But more importantly, the Giants got some of their swagger back after the defense flat-lined in New Orleans.
Rolle said he learned a lot about his teammates. "It felt good," Rolle said. "I think we all needed that battle. We all needed that lift especially after Monday night's game. We have a lot of pride in what we do. Nobody likes to go out there and get their butt whooped. We fought to the finish."
The Giants' pass rush snapped out of a funk with two sacks and six quarterback hits on Rodgers. And Manning continued to show that given a little help, he can bring back the Giants back against anybody in the fourth quarter, as he marched the team 69 yards in 2:36 for a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie the game at 35 with 58-seconds left.
But Rodgers only needed two passes to get the Packers 51 yards and down to the Giants' 29. A few plays later, the game was over on Crosby's field goal.
There are no moral victories. But there are confidence builders. And nobody knows better how important confidence can be in making a run than the Giants.
"Guys are obviously disappointed with the loss, but there was a little sense of energy and sense of, 'Hey, we can get this thing going now,'" Manning said. "They're the best team in football right now. And we had them tied up with 58 seconds."
"We couldn't even get close to the Cowboys," Pierce said. "Those games were blowouts. The Cowboys ... that was our biggest fear."
After that loss to the Patriots, the Giants won at Tampa Bay in the wild card round before upsetting Dallas and Green Bay on their way to their Super Bowl XLII victory over New England.
Could another tough regular-season loss to an undefeated team lead to a win over Dallas and a postseason run?
"[We'll] find out next Sunday," Tuck said. "We've done it before. You look at history and think it is going to repeat itself [but] we still have to come out and find that passion like we did in '07."
"Even though it was different circumstances, I think this team realizes what we have here," he added. "We are getting tired of squandering away opportunities."