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.
The utmost faith
Jan. 20, 2008
NFC Championship Game
Giants 23, Packers 20
Just breathing was hard.
Catching the football with numb hands was nearly impossible. So punter Jeff Feagles and several other Giants — including Eli Manning and his receivers — gave up on warmups after only a handful of reps.
The cold was that intense at Lambeau Field that January night in 2008.
”I couldn’t feel my fingers. I couldn’t feel my face,” Osi Umenyiora told Big Blue View from his home in London, where he serves as an NFL ambassador to the United Kingdom.
The temperature was minus-1 at kickoff. The wind chill was minus-23.
And then it got colder.
Only 20 feet stood between the team hotel and the Giants’ bus before the 2007 NFC Championship game. But it was enough to take Lawrence Tynes’ breath away.
”I had never felt anything like that in my life,” the kicker told Big Blue View from his home in suburban Kansas City, Mo. “I lost my breath when I walked out of that hotel to get on the bus. I was freezing. I couldn’t get on that bus fast enough.
“I just said to myself, ‘Today is going to suck.’”
Tynes did not know the half of it.
By the time he lined up in overtime for a career-defining, 47-yard field goal that gave the Giants a 23-20 victory and an improbable berth to Super Bowl XLII, the faith many of his coaches and teammates had in the reliable kicker had been shaken.
Tynes had missed not one, but two field goal attempts in the fourth quarter, the second — a 36-yarder — hooking wide left as time expired in regulation.
“It was probably one of the worst kicks I’ve ever hit in my life,” said Tynes, who tried to compensate for a high snap by slowing his approach to the ball, causing him to lean backward and to the right. “Obviously it wasn’t anywhere close. At that point I’m thinking, ‘We’re going to overtime. I hope we win the toss.’”
And of course, the Giants didn’t.
Brett Favre — playing in his final game as a Packer — and heavily-favored Green Bay got the ball under the old overtime rules: The first team to score wins.
“We’ve all grown up watching Brett Favre,” Tynes said. “I’m like, ‘Oh sh*t.’”
Faith & frostbite
Umenyiora never lost the faith.
But he had an advantage: He knew Tynes better than most of their teammates.
The two played together at Troy in 1999 and 2000. And there Umenyiora learned just how mentally tough Tynes is.
“I’ve known him for a long, long time,” he said. “He’s got ice water in his veins. If you give him another opportunity, I knew he was going to make that kick.”
But first, the Giants had to stop the Packers and get the ball back.
Surprisingly, it took just two plays.
Corey Webster intercepted Favre on second down to give the Giants new life. But three plays later, they stood at a crossroads, facing fourth-and-5 at the Packers’ 29-yard line.
The team turned to the frostbitten Tom Coughlin — whose face was a violent shade of red, bordering on purple, that human skin was never intended to be — and waited for a decision.
But Tynes already made it for him.
He was not going to let anyone, not even Coughlin, keep him from redemption after missing the 43- and 36-yard tries. So he did not hesitate as soon as Eli Manning’s third-down pass fell incomplete.
“Right as the ball hit the ground, SHOOM! I just ran right out to my spot,” said Tynes, now a senior vice president at Wheels Up, a private aviation company. “I didn’t wait for anyone to say anything. I knew it would be a tough kick. Tough elements. I had not given anyone a ton of faith after the last two kicks.
”We get out there and there’s no snapper out there. There’s no holder. Where is everybody?” he said with a laugh. “Finally I see [Feagles] conferencing with Tom. Tom kind of looks at me and Jeff, and shoos Jeff out there. I know now all the coordinators and people in Tom’s ear were saying, ‘Don’t kick it! Don’t kick it! Don’t kick it!’ I obviously didn’t know that at the time. But I had the utmost faith that I was going to make it.”
Coughlin would later admit Tynes all but made the decision for him.
”I don’t say anything,” Coughlin said in 2017. “He drops his cape and goes out on the field. So I say, ‘Field goal!’ The coaches are yelling, ‘No! We’re going to lose the field position and lose the game.’ ”
They were wrong. Tynes drilled it right down the middle.
“And then mayhem,” he said.
Tynes became the first visiting player to kick a field goal of more than 40 yards in a postseason game at Lambeau Field.
But there was more on the line for him than merely a Super Bowl berth.
”Listen, if I miss that 47-yarder, I’m never playing football again,” Tynes said. “NFL kickers are what you do after you miss. That’s what your career’s going to be based on.
”I tell these young guys I work with: I don’t care how many you hit in a row. I want to see what you do after you miss one.”
In overtime, the only thing Tynes missed was the celebration. He immediately bolted for the warmth of the locker room.
“I get in there, and there’s nobody in there,” Tynes said. “I’m just like, ‘What the hell just happened?’”
To understand Tynes and 2007, you have to start at the beginning.
The kicker arrived from the Kansas City Chiefs in a trade that May, learning almost immediately that he was not in Kansas (or Missouri) anymore.
“It was almost like I went from the minor leagues to the big leagues,” Tynes said. “The day I got there after I was traded, I get to my locker and there were literally 20 cameras in front of my face. Having played in Kansas City, I never experienced anything like that.
“So I knew right from Day One that it was different. There was a different feel. There was different pressure.”
And his tenure with the Giants got off to a trying start.
His wife, Amanda, went into labor two months early, giving birth to twins Jaden and Caleb in July.
He lost his snapper, Ryan Kuehl, in training camp when he ruptured his Achilles’ tendon. An unlikely replacement emerged to fill in.
“Jay Alford was our third-round pick that year, and he raises his hand,” Tynes said. “He was a defensive lineman. Somehow, Jay Alford is our snapper for the rest of the year.”
A new team and a new city. Two newborns. A new long snapper. One stressful job where every miss is a failure that threatens your career.
Alford’s dual responsibilities created complications for Tynes because his snapper was rarely available during practice. And timing between the snapper, holder and kicker is paramount.
“Things were just off,” Tynes said.
Then the Giants got off to a slow start once the season began.
They lost their first two games — including a 35-13 blowout home loss to Green Bay — and then trailed Washington, 17-3, at halftime before making a comeback.
And Tynes struggled too, missing field goals in two of the first four games.
”I got off to a really slow start,” he said. “The first half of the season was not good.”
But then the Giants won six in a row and nine of 11. Tynes finished making 23-of-27 field-goal attempts.
For him, failure always brought a lesson.
“The 43-yarder I missed gave me everything I needed to know about this particular kick [in overtime] because if I get a good snap and hold and I start this ball on the right path, I’m going to make it,” he said. “That’s why misses aren’t always as bad as they seem. I learned a lot from that kick. I just didn’t hit it far enough right.”
‘A crazy, crazy game’
The game itself almost became an afterthought beyond the brutal cold and Tynes’ goat-hero turn (he hit 3-of-5 attempts that night).
But there were four lead changes or ties in the second half.
There was Brandon Jacobs trucking Hall of Fame cornerback Charles Woodson on the Giants’ first offensive play. It set the tone.
There was Manning continuing his breakout postseason, completing 21-of-40 passes for 251 yards.
There was Plaxico Burress, who broke franchise postseason records for receptions (11) and yards (151), despite being covered by Pro Bowler Al Harris.
But the MVP might have been the warm chicken broth served at halftime in a desperate attempt to warm up the Giants.
They held Green Bay to only 28 rushing yards, intercepted Favre twice and allowed the Packers to convert just one of 10 third-down opportunities. The Giants outgained Green Bay, 377-264, and held the ball for 40:01 to just 22:34 for the Packers.
“That was a crazy, crazy game,” Umenyiora said. “For some reason, oddly enough, even though we weren’t favored, we felt like we were better. I think maybe it was the stuff we have been through before: Going to play a Dallas Cowboys team in Dallas that was to me the best team in football that year and beating them.
“When you go through stuff like that, you just have this air of you can pretty much do anything.”
But not everything was rosy.
When Tynes took off his cleats and socks in the locker room, he found an unpleasant surprise.
He had felt a pain in his kicking foot earlier in the game when he mishit a kickoff higher up on his foot than normal. But he didn’t think much of it — until he got to the locker room.
He found a knot “the size of a baseball form right in between my big toe bone and my ankle,” Tynes said. “Basically, I busted every blood vessel in my foot on a kick. The only thing keeping that blood from pooling there was my sock and the tightness of my shoe.”
It was drained the next day. But he was unable to kick for 10 days.
“If the Super Bowl had been the next Sunday, I wouldn’t have played in it,” Tynes said. “And that would have sucked.”
But he did, hitting a field goal and two extra points to help upset New England.
“The strongest part of my game was my mental game,” Tynes said. “That’s who I was. That’s why I played as long as I did. I wasn’t the most talented guy, but I was mentally tougher than half the guys out there.”