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G-Men hope travel adventures will spur late-season run.
By Ralph Vacchiano
The disruption the Giants experienced three years ago was planned, but it was a disruption nonetheless. In the middle of the 2007 season, the NFL sent them to London for a midseason game against the Miami Dolphins. It required two extra days on the road, plus a longer-than-usual flight and unfamiliar shift of time zones.
Their routine, really for two weeks, was far from their comfort zone.
But a funny thing happened while they were there, as they endured inconveniences like walking off their trans-Atlantic flight and boarding a bus for practice that ended up getting snarled for more than an hour on London traffic. While stuck together for more time than they wanted — or even expected — a bond was formed.
And some players believed that was the real beginning of their run to Super Bowl XLII.
It’ll be a few more months before anyone knows if the Giants’ recent adventures have a similar effect, but that was certainly their hope after they finally played their game — both moved and rescheduled — against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night. They beat the Vikings 21-3 at Ford Field in Detroit.
More important, they think they forged a bond along the very long way.
“I think they handled this in a very professional manner,” said Giants coach Tom Coughlin. “There wasn’t any complaining. No nothing. We didn’t have any frustration. There was no anger expressed at any time. The guys handled it well.”
“It’s definitely not easy,” added safety Antrel Rolle. “We were waiting around for two-and-a-half days to play a game. It was draining. But at the same time, we were together.”
Their adventure began, simply enough, on Saturday when they boarded a charter flight early in the hopes of arriving in Minneapolis before the snow storm got too bad. But the blizzard arrived faster and was stronger than anticipated, so they diverted to Kansas City, where they were forced to sit at the terminal and wait.
Eventually they decided to stay the night and quickly booked a hotel, but they were still fully expecting to get up early on Sunday and fly straight to Minneapolis for the game. Then the NFL moved the game to Monday. Then the roof of the Metrodome collapsed. And then finally, early on Sunday, the NFL moved the game to Detroit.
“I must have changed the itinerary five times,” Coughlin said. “I’d go from one thing to the next, then find something else out.”
With all that waiting there wasn’t really much for the Giants to do. They couldn’t go home to their families. For a few hours they didn’t have hotel rooms. The coaches tried to schedule extra meetings to keep the players sharp, but eventually even they ran out of things to give their players to do.
“We’re kind of getting tired of each other,” said defensive end Justin Tuck. “All of us are in this, I guess, and it’s like recreating a bad Christmas movie. That’s what we’ve been feeling like.
“Obviously, we weren’t prepared to spend this much time together but I think there are definitely positives with guys in their hotel rooms playing cards or talking with the guys next to them. It really has been a positive bonding experience and you get to know guys that you didn’t know as well. Hopefully that bodes well for us going into this playoff run.”
For one night, it certainly did. The Vikings — whose lives were disrupted too by an unscheduled trip to Detroit on Sunday night — looked like the “jet-lagged” team on Monday night. The Giants held them to just 164 total yards. Adrian Peterson managed 26 yards on 14 carries.
The Giants even overcame a bad game by quarterback Eli Manning that included two early interceptions and fought through their adversity and looked like the much fresher team.
“We’ve got a lot to play for, so for us it should’ve been easy,” said defensive tackle Barry Cofield. “It wasn’t normal, but it wasn’t like it was something that couldn’t be done.”
Now that’s done, what comes next — and whether this trip has any kind of positive effect on the Giants — all depends on what they do next. In ’07, they struggled for nearly two months after returning home from London before rallying in late December and beginning their remarkable Super Bowl run. The effect wasn’t immediate, but players said that trip taught them how to rally together in tough times.
This time, the Giants don’t have any time to waste because times are already tough in the NFC, where the playoff race is remarkably tight and it’s very possible one team won’t get in with 10 wins. The Giants play an all-or-nothing NFC East showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) on Sunday. One week later they make a dangerous trip to Green Bay (8-5).
Two losses, and it might be impossible for the Giants to make the playoffs. So if their extended vacation is going to be a positive, they better see immediate results. They’ll find out soon enough, of course. But their wild, Midwestern adventure at least got them off to a good start.
“We had all these planes, trains and automobiles,” said left tackle David Diehl. “This is a story that we’re going to have for a long, long time. But we wanted it done the right way. This was a business trip. And even though all that stuff happened, we kept our eye on the prize.”