A Date To Remember is an occasional series Big Blue View will be running through the Super Bowl, highlighting the glory of the Giants’ past and celebrating the biggest playoff wins in franchise history.
Jan. 14, 2001
NFC Championship Game
Giants 41, Vikings 0
The legend stepped to the front of the room, still a commanding presence even in retirement.
Lawrence Taylor had something to say.
And when the greatest linebacker of all-time speaks, people listen.
“You’ve got what you want right here,” Taylor told the 2000 Giants. “You can’t ask for anything better than this. Playing this game, you’re 60 minutes away, here at Giants Stadium. It can’t be any better than that.
“From the bottom of my heart, we’re proud of you. And whatever it takes, get it done.”
Taylor was only one of at least eight members of the 1986 and 1990 Super Bowl teams to have met with the Giants on the eve of the 2000 NFC Championship Game.
But his message resonated the loudest.
“It’s the tradition of the Giants organization,” running back Tiki Barber told reporters. “The pride that floats around here, the breadth it reaches… We have to carry on that legacy.”
And did they ever.
The Giants did not necessarily need the extra motivation the night before they executed the most dominant performance ever in an NFC title game.
Only a few words can encapsulate how completely the Giants dismantled the Vikings, 41-0, at Giants Stadium.
Humiliation. Domination. Annihilation.
The Giants led 34-0 at halftime. They held the ball for an eye-popping 42:22, including the final 12:53.
And they outgained Minnesota, 518 to 114 (including just 60 net passing yards for the Vikings). The 404-yard disparity was the largest in NFL postseason history.
The championship had became a game of keep-away by the Giants long before the fourth quarter in an effort to reduce any further embarrassment for the Vikings.
Yet somehow, visiting Minnesota — which lost its final three regular-season games — was a one-point favorite entering the game.
The blowout came two months after mild-mannered coach Jim Fassel uncharacteristically guaranteed that the Giants would make the playoffs after losing two straight to fall to 7-4.
The Giants won their final five regular-season games, clinching home-field advantage with the best record in the NFC. Then they won their first two postseason games.
“I think we shocked a lot of people, but we didn’t shock ourselves,” Fassel said.
Late owner Wellington Mara, then 84, struck a similar theme when speaking to the crowd as he accepted the NFC Championship trophy.
“This is the Giants team that was referred to as the worst ever to win home-field advantage in the National Football League,” he said. “And today, on this field of painted mud, we proved that we’re the worst team to ever win the National Football Conference championship.”
The deciding factor might have been an observation offensive coordinator Sean Payton — now the Saints coach — made in his film preparation.
He recognized an opportunity to exploit Minnesota cornerbacks Wasswa Serwanga and Robert Tate.
“We liked the matchup of our receivers against their secondary,” Payton said, “and we knew they’d put eight guys up there to stop the run.”
Payton reviewed the plays the Giants ran that season, picked the most effective and compiled the game plan from them. He then faxed it to quarterback Kerry Collins the Tuesday night before the game with a note, “The best that we could do.”
“These were our greatest hits, songs you know by heart,” Payton said. “I wanted Kerry and the team to know we didn’t need new plays. Our best was good enough.”
And so was Collins’ best.
He produced the game of his career and broke multiple records in completing 28-of-39 passes for 381 yards and a championship game-record five touchdowns. (Ironically, it came before his meltdown in Super Bowl XXXV: 15-of-39 passing for 112 yards and four interceptions against the Baltimore Ravens.)
Collins did all the damage in only three quarters, having sat out the fourth.
Ike Hilliard had 10 receptions for 155 yards and two touchdowns, including a 46-yard score that gave the Giants a 7-0 lead just four plays into the game.
The Vikings’ Moe Williams fumbled the ensuing kickoff. And on the next play, Collins hit fullback Greg Comella for an 18-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead just 2:13 into the game.
And on it went.
The Giants defense was just as dominant as its offense.
Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper lost a fumble on the first play of the second half while sacked by Shaun Williams. Five plays later, Collins found Amani Toomer for a 7-yard touchdown to increase the lead to 41 points.
The defense recorded the franchise’s third playoff shutout, after blanking Cleveland in 1958 and Washington in 1987.
Culpepper did not have many options.
Cornerbacks Jason Sehorn and Dave Thomas blanketed Randy Moss and Cris Carter. Moss caught just two passes for 18 yards. Carter did not catch a pass in the first three quarters and finished with only three receptions for 24 yards.
Fassel did not credit his own guarantee for the Giants’ run or the NFC title game rout.
”I don’t think the prediction turned them into a Super Bowl team,” he said. “I made the stance and told everybody to shut up and go about their business. They did the rest.”