10 Greatest Wins in New York Giants History

Updated on November 12, 2019
Four New York Giants Super Bowl trophies on display in the lobby of the Giants headquarters at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
Four New York Giants Super Bowl trophies on display in the lobby of the Giants headquarters at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. | Source

What Are the Top 10 Wins in Giants History?

The New York Giants have a long and storied history in the National Football League (NFL). The Giants' eight NFL championships, including four Super Bowl wins, rank third in the league all-time. The Giants also rank first in the number of title game appearances (or top-two finishes for those seasons before the championship was determined by a playoff game).

The championships provide a natural starting point for ranking the 10 best wins in New York Giants history. But the Giants have also recorded more than 700 regular-season and non-championship playoff wins in their long history. So there is a large field to choose from when considering which Giants wins belong in the top 10.

As a long-time Giants fan, I've had the pleasure of witnessing all four of the Giants' Super Bowl wins, along with numerous other great wins in Giants history. My own personal knowledge doesn't extend back beyond the mid-1970s, but as a student of New York Giants history, I'm confident in my ranking.

Criteria Used in Ranking the Wins

The questions that I considered in choosing and ranking the wins include:

  • Was the game a championship game?
  • If not a championship game, did the game put the Giants into the championship game?
  • What significance did the game have in the Giants' overall history (for example, did it build the Giants' reputation, did it mark a turning point for the team, etc.)?
  • Did the Giants dominate their opponent in the game?
  • For close games especially, how exciting was the game?

My ranking is subjective, of course. Disagreement is certainly possible, and debate is welcome.

10. Final 1939 Regular Season Game: Giants vs. Redskins

The Setting

  • Date: December 3, 1939
  • Venue: Polo Grounds, New York, New York
  • Attendance: 62,404

Significance of the Game

The battle for the 1939 Eastern Division Championship came down to the final week of the season. The Giants and Redskins had been locked in a tight race all season long. They had fought to a scoreless tie in Week 4 and then stayed even in the standings for the next few weeks. New York took a brief one-game lead when Washington lost in Week 8, but the Giants lost the following week to even things up again.

The Giants and Redskins entered the last week of the season tied for first place with identical 8-1-1 records, and with the division championship and the right to play for the NFL Championship on the line. The matchup at the Polo Grounds attracted enormous interest. The defending NFL Champion Giants were looking to make it two in a row, while the Redskins, the 1937 champs, wanted to reclaim the crown.

Recap of the Giants' 9-7 Win

The game was a low-scoring but exciting contest, which was only decided with 45 seconds left. And even then, the decisive play caused an uproar among the Redskins and their fans.

For three quarters, the Giants were the only team to score. Ward Cuff kicked a 40-yard field goal in the first quarter to open the scoring. Ken Strong followed with a 19-yarder in the second quarter, and Cuff kicked another one from 15 yards out in the third quarter.

The Giants' defense stymied Redskins quarterback Frank Filchock and the rest of Washington's offense until the fourth quarter. The Redskins did come close to scoring once in the second quarter, as Filchock led a drive to the Giants' one-yard line. But Tuffy Leemans intercepted a Filchock pass in the end zone to end the threat.

The momentum finally turned in Washington's favor late in the fourth quarter. The Redskins blocked a Giants punt and recovered the ball on the Giants' 19-yard line. Two plays later, Filchock tossed a touchdown pass to Bob Masterson. Masterson followed with a kick for the extra point to bring the Redskins within two points with five and a half minutes left.

The Giants were soon forced to punt, and Filchock led the Redskins on another drive all the way to the Giants' five-yard line. After a penalty moved the Redskins back to the 10-yard line with 45 seconds left, Bo Russell attempted a field goal that would have given the Redskins a 10-9 victory, but it was ruled wide.

Pandemonium ensued. Washington coach (and former Giants player) Ray Flaherty and Redskins players vociferously protested the call, and one player even attacked the referee. Fistfights broke out in the stands. But the Giants had held on for the win and the right to meet the Green Bay Packers again in the NFL Championship game. Unfortunately for the Giants, this time the Packers came out on top. But the Giants did have their second consecutive Eastern Division Championship.

Game Statistics

New York Giants

  • Passing: 6 of 12 for 47 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
  • Rushing: 117 yards, 0 touchdowns
  • Defense: 4 interceptions

Washington Redskins

  • Passing: 14 of 27 for 164 yards, 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions
  • Rushing: 38 yards, 0 touchdowns
  • Defense: 2 interceptions

9. 2000 NFC Championship Game: Giants vs. Vikings

The Setting

  • Date: January 14, 2001
  • Venue: Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
  • Attendance: 79,310

Significance of the Game

The 2000 season marked only the third time the Giants reached the playoffs since winning Super Bowl XXV 10 years earlier. In the 1993 playoffs, the Giants lost in the Divisional Round. In 1997, they lost a close Wild Card game to the Minnesota Vikings.

Now in 2000, they had won the National Football Conference (NFC) Eastern Division with a 12-4 record, which was the best in the conference. They beat the Philadelphia Eagles handily in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. A win against the Vikings would give them their first NFC Championship since 1990 and put them back in the Super Bowl.

Recap of the Giants' 41-0 Win

The game turned out to be one of the most one-sided wins in franchise history and the biggest rout in NFC Championship game history. The Giants dominated the Vikings in all phases of the game. They maintained possession for more than 42 minutes. The racked up 518 total yards to Minnesota's 114 and had 31 first downs to the Vikings' 9. Quarterback Kerry Collins set Giants playoff records, passing for 381 yards and 5 touchdowns.

The Giants got on the board early and were already leading 14-0 a little more than two minutes into the game on touchdown passes by Collins to Ike Hilliard and Greg Comella. In the second quarter, Collins added two more touchdowns on passes to Joe Jurivicius and Hilliard, and Brad Daluiso kicked two field goals. By halftime, the Giants had a huge 34-0 lead. They added one more touchdown in the third quarter on a Collins pass to Amani Toomer.

Meanwhile, the Giants' defense, which had been the team's strength all season, lived up to expectations and thoroughly outplayed the Vikings' vaunted offense. The Giants harassed Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper and limited future Hall of Fame wide receivers Randy Moss and Chris Carter to a total of five receptions. Defensive stars for the Giants included cornerback Jason Sehorn, linebackers Jessie Armstead and Michael Barrow, and defensive end Michael Strahan. But it was a team effort, with 15 different players recording at least one tackle.

Going into the game, the Giants had been the underdogs. But after a near-perfect effort, the Giants were the ones hoisting the NFC Championship trophy. They were headed back to the Super Bowl for the first time in a decade.

Game Statistics

New York Giants

  • Passing: 29 of 40 for 385 yards, 5 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
  • Rushing: 41 attempts for 138 yards
  • Defense: 3 interceptions, 4 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble

Minnesota Vikings

  • Passing: 13 of 28 for 78 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
  • Rushing: 9 attempts for 54 yards
  • Defense: 2 interceptions, 1 sack, 9 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble

8. 1981 Wild Card Game: Giants vs. Eagles

The Setting

  • Date: December 27, 1981
  • Venue: Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Attendance: 71,611

Significance of the Game

After making the playoffs six times in eight seasons from 1956 to 1963, the Giants fell into a sustained period of seventeen years in which they missed the post-season. The team's overall record during these lean years was 84-156-4. And the situation didn't appear to be improving in 1980 when they had their eighth straight losing season and finished last in the NFC East at 4-12.

In this context, the 1981 season marked a huge turnaround for the Giants. Their 9-7 record was good enough to earn them a Wild Card berth. Their Wild Card game against the Eagles was their first playoff game since 1961. A win would give them their first playoff victory since 1958. It would be even sweeter because they were facing their biggest rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, who had reached the Super Bowl the previous year.

Recap of the Giants' 27-21 Win

The Eagles were seven-point favorites. They had finished ahead of the Giants in the standings and had the home-field advantage. Moreover, the Giants were playing with their second-string quarterback, Scott Brunner. Brunner had replaced starter Phil Simms when Simms separated his shoulder in Week 11. He had done a good job, leading the Giants to four wins in their last five games. But he was up against veteran Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski, who already had nine playoff games under his belt.

As it turned out, Brunner outplayed Jaworski. He threw a touchdown pass on the Giants' second possession of the game, and the Giants never trailed. Brunner added another touchdown pass on the Giants' next possession. Mark Haynes completed the Giants' first-quarter scoring when he recovered an Eagles' fumble in the end zone. At the end of the quarter, the Giants led 20-0.

Jaworski got the Eagles on the board late in the second quarter with a touchdown after defensive back Herm Edwards intercepted a Brunner pass. But with about two minutes left in the half, the Giants put together another drive. Running back Rob Carpenter led the attack, and Brunner capped the drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass.

Eagles running back Wilbert Montgomery scored two touchdowns in the second half, with the second one coming after three long penalties against the Giants put the Eagles on the Giants' one-yard line. The Eagles were within reach at 27-21, but the Giants' lead was too much to overcome.

The Giants got the ball back with just under three minutes to play. Carpenter iced the win with a five-yard run for a first down that allowed the Giants to maintain possession. Carpenter finished with 161 yards for the day, on 33 carries.

It was a great day for the Giants as they beat the rival Eagles and earned a spot in the Divisional Round. Although their good fortune ran out in that round, by winning the Wild Card game the Giants succeeded in exorcising seventeen years of failure for the franchise. Just a few years later, they would enter one of the best periods in team history.

Game Statistics

New York Giants

  • Passing: 9 of 14 for 96 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception
  • Rushing: 42 attempts for 183 yards, 0 touchdowns
  • Defense: 3 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Passing: 13 of 24 for 154 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions
  • Rushing: 29 attempts for 93 yards, 2 touchdowns
  • Defense: 1 interception, 1 sack, 3 fumble recoveries

7. 1938 NFL Championship Game: Giants vs. Packers

The Setting

  • Date: December 11, 1938
  • Venue: Polo Grounds, New York, New York
  • Attendance: 48,120

Significance of the Game

The 1938 NFL Championship game matched the Giants against the Western Division Champion Green Bay Packers. The Giants' 8-2-1 regular-season record, their best record since 1933, included a 15-3 win over the Packers in Week 11. But neither team was considered the definitive favorite.

The Giants were two-time NFL champions, while the Packers had four titles to their credit. But for both sides, the 1938 championship game presented the opportunity to become the first team to win two NFL titles since the league had split into two divisions in 1933 and instituted a playoff game to determine the champion. The Giants had won their first contested title in 1934 and the Packers had won in 1936. The other titles for both teams had come before 1933, when the champion was simply the team with the best record at the end of the season.

Recap of the Giants' 23-17 Win

The game was a thriller right from the beginning. The Giants scored twice early in the game after ends Jim Lee Howell and Jim Poole blocked two punts by Green Bay's Clarke Hinkle. The first led to a Ward Cuff field goal, and the second resulted in a touchdown run by Tuffy Leemans, giving the Giants a 9-0 first-quarter lead.

The intensity level rose in the second quarter as the teams traded touchdowns. The Packers closed the gap to 9-7 on a 40-yard pass from Arnie Herber to Carl Mulleneaux. But a few minutes later, after Giants center Mel Hein recovered a fumble on the 50-yard line, Ed Danowski hit Hap Barnard with a touchdown pass to push the Giants' lead back up to nine. Not to be outdone, the Packers answered with another touchdown on a one-yard rush by Hinkle. At halftime, the Giants held a precarious two-point lead.

The Packers went ahead for the first in the third quarter on a field goal by Tiny Engebretsen. But their 17-16 lead was erased on the Giants' next possession when Hank Soar made a leaping catch of a Danowski pass and fell across the goal line for a touchdown. Green Bay put together one more sustained drive, but Danowski quashed it with an interception, and the Packers never seriously threatened again.

The game was a hard-fought, exciting battle. But in the end, the Giants won their third NFL Championship, becoming the first team to win it twice since the playoff format was adopted.

Game Statistics

New York Giants

  • Passing: 8 of 15 for 94 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
  • Rushing: 42 attempts for 115 yards, 1 touchdown
  • Defense: 1 interception, 3 fumble recoveries

Green Bay Packers

  • Passing: 8 of 19 for 214 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception
  • Rushing: 46 attempts for 164 yards, 1 touchdown
  • Defense: 1 interception

6. 1956 NFL Championship Game: Giants vs. Bears

The Setting

  • Date: December 30, 1956
  • Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
  • Attendance: 56,836

Significance of the Game

When the Giants won the Eastern Division title in 1956, they found themselves matched up in the NFL Championship game with the Chicago Bears, the champions of the Western Division. Coincidentally, both the Giants and Bears had last played in the NFL Championship game a decade earlier in 1946, when Chicago beat New York 24-14. Overall, the Bears held a three to one advantage in previous NFL title matchups: the Bears had also beaten the Giants in 1933 and 1941, and the Giants had won in 1934.

During the 1956 regular season, the Giants and the Bears met in Yankee Stadium in Week 11. They played to a 17-17 tie. Nonetheless, the Bears were picked as slight favorites for the championship game.

This game would give the Giants a chance to close their NFL Championship gap with the Bears. And although the Giants and their fans were not aware of it at the time, the 1956 NFL Championship season would mark the beginning of one of the best eras in Giants football history, in which they would appear in the championship game in six out of eight seasons—although they wouldn't win another one for 30 years.

Recap of the Giants' 47-7 Win

On the day of the game, the air was frigid at 20 degrees and the field was icy. As they had in the famous "sneakers game" in 1934 (see below), the Giants opted to wear sneakers for better traction. The Bears did too, but it didn't seem to do them any good.

New York took control of the game from the opening kickoff. Gene Filipski returned the ball 53 yards to the Bears' 39-yard line. From there, the Giants needed just four plays to score a touchdown on a 17-yard rush by Mel Triplett. After place-kicker Ben Agajanian made the extra point, the Giants had a 7-0 lead. Less than three minutes had elapsed.

Agajanian boosted the Giants' first-quarter lead to 13-0 with two field goals, the second for 43 yards. The Giants added three touchdowns in the second quarter on two runs by Alex Webster and a blocked punt recovery in the end zone by Henry Moore. Although the Bears got on the board with a touchdown by Rick Casares, the Giants' lead had ballooned to 34-7 by halftime.

The Giants' defense was excellent, featuring outstanding plays by Andy Robustelli, Emlen Tunnell, Jimmy Patton, and Harland Svare, among others. Although the Bears had had the number one offense in the NFL during the season, they couldn't get untracked against the Giants.

Meanwhile, the Giants added two more touchdowns in the second half on passes by quarterback Charlie Conerly to Kyle Rote and Frank Gifford. At the end of the day, the Giants had thoroughly crushed the Bears 47-7 and won their fourth NFL Championship.

Game Statistics

New York Giants

  • Passing: 11 of 20 for 228 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
  • Rushing: 34 attempts for 126 yards, 3 touchdowns
  • Defense: 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery

Chicago Bears

  • Passing: 20 of 47 for 237 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
  • Rushing: 32 attempts for 67 yards, 1 touchdown
  • Defense: 1 fumble recovery

5. 1934 NFL Championship Game: Giants vs. Bears

The Setting

  • Date: December 9, 1934
  • Venue: Polo Grounds, New York, New York
  • Attendance: 35,059

Significance of the Game

The 1934 NFL Championship game between the Giants and the Chicago Bears was a rematch of the 1933 title game, which had been the first-ever in the NFL. (Previously, the league champion was the team with the best season record.) In 1933, the Giants lost a close 23-21 game to the Bears at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Not only were the Bears the defending champions, but they had a perfect 13-0-0 record in the 1934 season as well as an 18-game winning streak going back to 1933. The Bears had the NFL's number one offense and its number two defense. Meanwhile, the Giants won the Eastern Division with a relatively pedestrian 8-5-0 record and were in the middle of the pack in both offense and defense. Two of their five losses came at the hands of the Bears.

The championship game was scheduled for the Giants' home field at the Polo Grounds. The New Yorkers were looking to win their second NFL Championship—they had won in 1927 before the championship game format was adopted—and prevent the Bears from winning two in a row.

Not surprisingly, the Bears were the favorites. The Giants had their work cut out for them.

Recap of the Giants' 30-13 Win

The game came to be known as the "Sneakers Game" because the Giants traded their cleats for basketball sneakers midway through the game to improve their footing on the frozen field. Giants end Ray Flaherty suggested the switch to head coach Steve Owen, and Owen's assistant Abe Cohen managed to find some sneakers at nearby Manhattan College in time for the second half. The gambit worked.

The only score in the first quarter came on a 38-yard field goal by the Giants' Ken Strong. In the second quarter, the Bears took the lead when Bronko Nagurski pushed his way in for a touchdown from the one-yard line. Jack Manders added two field goals to increase the Bears' lead to 13-3 near the close of the third quarter.

At that point, the sneaker-clad Giants began to move the ball. Early in the fourth quarter, quarterback Ed Danowski connected with Ike Frankian on a 28-yard touchdown pass and Strong converted the extra point to close the gap to 13-10. Strong put the Giants ahead when he eluded and outraced the Bears' defense for a 42-yard touchdown run. When he kicked the extra point, the Giants led 17-13, but they weren't finished.

Strong soon scored again on an 11-yard rush. Then, following an interception by Bo Molenda, Danowski ran for nine yards for the Giants' final touchdown. Molenda kicked the extra point. Meanwhile, the Giants completely shut down the Bears' vaunted offense. When time expired, the Giants had a 30-13 win.

The entire complexion of the game had changed in the fourth quarter. Both teams credited the Giants' second-half sneakers for the turnaround. It was an exhilarating come-from-behind win for the new NFL Champion Giants.

Game Statistics

New York Giants

  • Passing: 7 of 12 for 103 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions
  • Rushing: 37 attempts for 173 yards, 3 touchdowns
  • Defense: 3 interceptions

Chicago Bears

  • Passing: 6 of 15 for 76 yards, 0 touchdowns, 3 interceptions
  • Rushing: 46 attempts for 89 yards, 1 touchdown
  • Defense: 2 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries

The Super Bowl XXV ring to commemorate the New York Giants 20-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills at Tampa Stadium.
The Super Bowl XXV ring to commemorate the New York Giants 20-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills at Tampa Stadium. | Source

4. Super Bowl XXV: Giants vs. Bills

The Setting

  • Date: January 27, 1991
  • Venue: Tampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida
  • Attendance: 73,813

Significance of the Game

Super Bowl XXV marked the Giants' second trip to the Super Bowl. Having won their first Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XXI, they were looking to make it two for two. Meanwhile, it was the first Super Bowl appearance ever for the AFC Champion Buffalo Bills.

The game was a matchup between the NFL's number-one offense and its number-one defense. The Bills, featuring a no-huddle offense captained by the NFL's top-rated quarterback, Jim Kelly, had led the league in scoring with 428 points in the regular season. Meanwhile, the Giants' defense had limited opponents to 211 points, best in the league, and had given up the second-fewest total yards in the league.

The Giants and Bills had each won their division with a 13-3-0 record. When they met in Week 15 of the season, they played a close game, with the Bills winning 17-13. The starting quarterbacks for both teams were injured in the game. Kelly suffered a knee injury that kept him out for the final two games of the season, but he was able to return for the playoffs.

The Giants, however, lost Phil Simms for the rest of the year when he broke a bone in his foot. They turned to long-time backup Jeff Hostetler. He performed well for the remainder of the season and the first two playoff rounds. Nonetheless, in the Super Bowl, the Giants found themselves relying on a quarterback who had made only a handful of starts as they faced the top-ranked Kelly. Buffalo was a heavy favorite to win.

Recap of the Giants' 20-19 Win

The Giants' offensive game plan relied on a power running attack keyed by running back Ottis Anderson. The strategy was designed to keep the Bills' offense off the field for long stretches of time. Defensively, the Giants planned to focus on limiting the Bills' passing game.

The Giants' ball-control offense paid off on their first drive of the game, which took 6:15 off the clock and resulted in a field goal by Matt Bahr. The Bills came right back, though, with a quick drive culminating in a field goal by Scott Norwood.

After the Giants were forced to punt on their next possession, Kelly led the Bills on an 80-yard touchdown drive that included six consecutive pass completions. Midway through the second quarter, Hostetler was sacked in his own end zone for a safety, giving Buffalo a 12-3 lead. But with less than four minutes remaining in the half, Hostetler engineered an 87-yard touchdown drive, with Stephen Baker scoring on a 14-yard pass. With the extra point, the Giants cut the Bills' lead to 12-10 at the half.

The Giants began the third quarter with a 75-yard touchdown drive that ate up a then-record 9:29. The Giants had four third-down conversions in the drive, including an impressive 14-yard completion from Hostetler to Mark Ingram on third down and 13. Anderson scored the touchdown and Bahr kicked the extra point to give the Giants the lead at 17-12.

But on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Bills scored again on a 31-yard run by Thurman Thomas, and Norwood kicked the extra point. The Giants countered with another long drive, this one taking 7:32 off the clock. Bahr kicked his second field goal and the Giants led 20-19.

With 2:16 remaining, the Bills got another chance. With Kelly mixing passes and scrambles, and Thomas running for two substantial gains, they got the ball to the Giants' 29-yard line with eight seconds left. Norwood came in for a field goal to win the game, but his 47-yard kick was wide. The Giants dodged a bullet and had their second Super Bowl Championship. Anderson was named the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player.

Game Statistics

New York Giants

  • Passing: 20 of 32 for 222 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions
  • Rushing: 39 attempts for 172 yards, 1 touchdown
  • Defense: 1 sack

Buffalo Bills

  • Passing: 18 of 30 for 212 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
  • Rushing: 25 attempts for 166 yards, 2 touchdowns
  • Defense: 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery

Ahmad Bradshaw scores the Giants' winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLVI
Ahmad Bradshaw scores the Giants' winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLVI | Source

3. Super Bowl XLVI: Giants vs. Patriots

The Setting

  • Date: February 5, 2012
  • Venue: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Attendance: 68,658

Significance of the Game

Both the Giants and the New England Patriots were looking for their fourth Super Bowl win when they met in Super Bowl XLVI. The Patriots had won in three of their six previous Super Bowl appearances, while the Giants had won three of four. Most notably, the Giants had stunned the Patriots to win Super Bowl XLII four years earlier. This was the first trip back to the big game for both teams.

The Giants won the NFC Eastern Division with a lackluster 9-7-0 record in the 2011 regular season. They were the fourth NFC seed in the playoffs, but they made it to the Super Bowl after convincing wins in the first two playoff rounds and an overtime nail-biter against the San Francisco 49ers in the Conference Championship game. They were only the third team with less than 10 wins in a 16-game season to appear in the Super Bowl, and both of the others had lost. They were also the first Super Bowl team to have been outscored by its opponents in the regular season.

By contrast, New England had won the American Football Conference (AFC) Eastern Division with a 13-3-0 record to earn the first seed in the AFC playoffs. One of the Patriots' three losses, however, had come at the hands of the Giants in Week 9. Nonetheless, as they had been in Super Bowl XLII, the Patriots were the favorites.

Recap of the Giants' 21-17 Win

On the Giants' first possession, quarterback Eli Manning led the Giants downfield, but the Patriots sacked him twice to put the Giants out of field goal range. After Steve Weatherford's punt gave the Patriots the ball on their own six-yard line, quarterback Tom Brady was penalized for intentional grounding on an incomplete pass out of the end zone for a safety and a 2-0 Giants' lead. On the next series, the Giants scored the first touchdown of the game on a two-yard pass from Manning to wide receiver Victor Cruz to cap a 78-yard drive.

The Patriots erased the Giants' 9-0 lead with two scores in the second quarter. Early in the quarter, Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 29-yard field goal. With four minutes left in the half, Weatherford's punt put the Patriots on their own four-yard line. But Brady put together a 14-play, 96-yard drive—tying the longest drive in Super Bowl history—for a touchdown with eight seconds left. The extra point attempt was good, and the Patriots had a 10-9 lead at the half.

The Patriots opened the third quarter with another touchdown drive, building their lead to 17-9. After a 34-yard kickoff return by Jerrel Jernigan, the Giants managed to cut the deficit to 17-12 on their next possession with a 38-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes. New York's defense held the Patriots to a three-and-out on their next possession, and the offense followed with a drive to New England's nine-yard line. But Manning was sacked for a six-yard loss, and the Giants settled for a 33-yard Tynes field goal with 40 seconds left in the quarter.

On the second play of the fourth quarter, with the Patriots leading 17-15, Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn intercepted a long Brady pass at the Giants' eight-yard line. But neither team could sustain a drive on its next possession, and both were forced to punt.

With 3:46 on the clock, the Giants began their final drive from their own 12-yard line. On the first play, Manning completed a 38-yard pass along the left sideline to Mario Manningham. With several more completions to Manningham and Hakeem Nicks, interspersed with runs by Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants had a second down at New England's six-yard line with just over a minute left.

New England had only one timeout left, and clock management became the key for both teams. The Giants gave the ball to Bradshaw with instructions to stop short of the goal line in order to run more time off the clock, paving the way for a field goal and limiting the Patriots' time to make a comeback. But the Patriots opened a hole for Bradshaw and his forward momentum carried him over the goal line. A two-point conversion attempt failed.

The Giants had the lead at 21-17, but Brady and the Patriots still had 57 seconds to score, and everyone knew that Brady was capable of making it happen. But the Giants' defense stymied Brady, and New England never made it into Giants' territory. The Giants emerged with another Super Bowl win over the favored Patriots.

Manning completed 30 of 40 passes for 296 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions. He was named the Super Bowl MVP for the second time in his career.

Game Statistics

New York Giants

  • Passing: 30 of 40 for 296 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions
  • Rushing: 28 attempts for 114 yards, 1 touchdown
  • Defense: 1 interception, 2 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery

New England Patriots

  • Passing: 27 of 41 for 276 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
  • Rushing: 19 attempts for 83 yards
  • Defense: 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles

The Super Bowl XXI ring to commemorate the New York Giants 39-20 victory over the Denver Broncos at the Rose Bowl.
The Super Bowl XXI ring to commemorate the New York Giants 39-20 victory over the Denver Broncos at the Rose Bowl. | Source

2. Super Bowl XXI: Giants vs. Broncos

The Setting

  • Date: January 25, 1987
  • Venue: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
  • Attendance: 101,063

Significance of the Game

Super Bowl XXI marked the Giants' first-ever appearance in the Super Bowl. Their last NFL Championship had come three decades earlier in 1956, and their last appearance in the championship game was in 1963.

The Denver Broncos had gone to the Super Bowl in 1977, but they lost to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XII and had not returned to the championship game since then.

The Giants won the 1986 NFC East title with a 14-2-0 record, tied for best in the league with the Chicago Bears. Their 14 wins were the most in franchise history. The team's primary strength was its defense. Led by future Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor, the Giants' defense allowed the second-fewest points in the league and gave up the fewest rushing yards. In their two playoff wins before the Super Bowl, the Giants allowed a total of only three points.

Denver won the AFC West with a record of 8-5-0. The Broncos were paced by versatile quarterback John Elway. Like the Giants, they also had a strong defense, leading the AFC in defending against the run.

The Giants and Broncos had met in Week 12 of the regular season, with the Giants winning 19-16. Now they were meeting again, each team looking for its first Super Bowl Championship.

Recap of the Giants' 39-20 Win

The Broncos' first possession led to a 48-yard field goal by Rich Karlis, which tied the record for the longest field goal in Super Bowl history. The Giants came right back with a 78-yard touchdown drive, mixing Phil Simms passes with runs by Joe Morris. The touchdown came on a six-yard Simms pass to Zeke Mowatt. It seemed at that point that the game would be an offensive slugfest, as Denver scored again on its next possession, giving them a 10-7 lead.

The second quarter told a different story, though. The Giants had to punt three times. The Broncos had scoring opportunities, but the normally reliable Karlis missed two field-goal attempts. The Giants got the only points in the quarter on a safety, when defensive tackle George Martin sacked Elway in the end zone. The Broncos still led at the half, but only by one point, 10-9.

The complexion of the game changed again in the second half. The Giants dominated the Broncos, scoring four touchdowns and a field goal in their first five possessions. The Giants kept their first drive going with a fake punt and a quarterback sneak by backup Jeff Rutledge. Simms capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Mark Bavaro. New York's second possession led to a Raul Allegre field goal. On the Giants' third possession, Simms and Morris combined on a flea-flicker play, with Simms passing to Phil McConkey for a 44-yard gain to Denver's one-yard line. On the next play, Morris ran the ball in for the touchdown.

Entering the fourth quarter, the Giants had a 26-10 lead. But they didn't stop there. On the Broncos' first play, Giants defensive end Elvis Patterson intercepted an Elway pass, and the Giants were on their way to another touchdown, this time on a six-yard pass to McConkey.

The Broncos finally did mount a sustained drive, and Karlis connected for a field goal. But Denver followed with an onside kick, which the Giants recovered. They ran five plays on the ground, including a 22-yard run by Simms to the Broncos' 2-yard line. Ottis Anderson ran the ball into the end zone for the Giants' fifth touchdown of the day.

At the 2:22 mark, Denver finally managed to score another touchdown when Elway connected on a 47-yard touchdown pass to Vance Johnson. But it was too little and far too late. The Giants won their first Super Bowl Championship 39-20.

Simms was named the Super Bowl MVP. He completed 22 of 25 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns. His 88% completion percentage set a new Super Bowl record.

Game Statistics

New York Giants

  • Passing: 22 of 25 for 268 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
  • Rushing: 38 attempts for 136 yards, 2 touchdowns
  • Defense: 1 interception, 4 sacks

Denver Broncos

  • Passing: 26 of 41 for 352 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception
  • Rushing: 19 attempts for 52 yards, 1 touchdown
  • Defense: 1 sack, 2 fumble recoveries

Super Bowl XLII ring to commemorate the New York Giants 17-14 victory over the New England Patriots at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Super Bowl XLII ring to commemorate the New York Giants 17-14 victory over the New England Patriots at University of Phoenix Stadium. | Source

1. Super Bowl XLII: Giants vs. Patriots

The Setting

  • Date: February 3, 2008
  • Venue: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
  • Attendance: 71,101

Significance of the Game

The Giants’ victory in Super Bowl XLII heads the list as the greatest win in the franchise’s history. The Giants were seeking their third Super Bowl Championship and their first since they had won Super Bowl XXV 17 years earlier. They were also trying to become the first NFC wild card team to win the Super Bowl.

The AFC Champion New England Patriots, meanwhile, were looking to claim their fourth Super Bowl Championship in seven years. And they were coming off a perfect 16-0 season—the first team to complete a perfect season since 1972 and the first ever to do it in a 16-game season.

The Giants finished second in the NFC East with a 10-6 record and were seeded fifth in the NFC playoffs. To get to the Super Bowl, they had to knock out three divisional champions on the road. After beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card game, they faced the Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional Round. The Cowboys had beaten the Giants twice in the regular season, but this time, the Giants won. Next up were the Green Bay Packers, who had also beaten the Giants during the season. Again, the Giants came out on top, in a 23-20 overtime thriller.

The Giants' matchup with the Patriots in the Super Bowl was another case of déjà vu from the regular season. New York and New England had met in Week 17, with the Patriots winning 38-35 to complete their perfect season.

All things considered, it was no wonder that the Patriots were 12-point favorites to win the Lombardi Trophy.

Recap of the Giants' 17-14 Win

The game was a defensive battle for the first three quarters and a thrill ride in the fourth.

The Giants scored first. On the first possession of the game, Eli Manning led a drive that took 9:59 off the clock, but the Giants had to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes.

On the first play of the second quarter, the Patriots came back with a touchdown on a run by Laurence Maroney. There was no additional scoring in the rest of the second quarter and none in the third, and New England took its 7-3 lead into the fourth quarter.

On the Giants' first play in the fourth quarter, Manning hit tight end Kevin Boss with a 45-yard pass. The Giants put together several runs by Ahmad Bradshaw and a 17-yard Manning pass to Steve Smith to advance to the Patriots' five-yard line. From there, Manning connected with David Tyree for a touchdown to give the Giants a 10-7 lead.

But Tom Brady and the Patriots were not to be outdone. Beginning with about eight minutes left, Brady engineered a drive consisting mostly of short passes. With only 2:45 remaining, Brady threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss to take back the lead at 14-10.

Down by four, the Giants needed a touchdown. Manning responded with a 12-play, 83-yard drive for what may have been the most thrilling finish in Super Bowl history.

With 1:15 left, the Giants faced third down and five on their 44-yard line. Manning found himself under heavy pressure, but he eluded the grasp of two Patriots linemen and fired deep down the middle. Tyree out-jumped Patriots safety Rodney Harrison to make the catch. He maintained possession by pinning the ball against his helmet as he fell to the ground for a 32-yard gain.

But Tyree's miraculous "helmet catch" wasn't the end of the heroics for the Giants. After a sack and an incomplete pass, the Giants needed another third-down conversion with 45 seconds left. Manning hit Smith with a 12-yard pass to get the first down, and on the next play, with just 39 seconds left, he completed a 13-yard pass to Plaxico Burress for the touchdown. Tynes kicked the extra point for a 17-14 lead.

The Patriots got the ball back, but the Giants' defense held them in check to preserve the win. It was a colossal upset that ruined what had been a perfect season for the Patriots and gave the Giants their third Super Bowl title. Manning was named the Super Bowl MVP.

Game Statistics

New York Giants

  • Passing: 19 of 34 for 255 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
  • Rushing: 26 attempts for 91 yards, 0 touchdowns
  • Defense: 5 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble

New England Patriots

  • Passing: 29 of 48 for 266 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions
  • Rushing: 16 attempts for 45 yards, 1 touchdown
  • Defense: 1 interception, 3 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble

Final Thoughts on This Ranking

It is probably no surprise that the top four Giants' wins in my ranking are their four Super Bowl championships. As a modern fan, of course, I may be biased. But I do think that it's far more difficult to win the NFL Championship in the Super Bowl era than it was previously. League expansion and longer seasons have decreased the odds of a team getting to the championship game, let alone winning it.

The fact that the Giants were the underdogs in three of their four Super Bowl wins also increases the significance of the victories. New York was the favorite only in Super Bowl XXI. I've ranked that one No. 2, ahead of two of the upsets, because it was their first Super Bowl win, and because it was a one-sided win to cap the Giants' best-ever season.

The Giants' three pre–Super Bowl era championship game wins fill the next three spots in the ranking. The two wins from the 1930s helped establish the Giants as one of the NFL's dominant teams. The 1956 championship game win was huge for the franchise as the league was gaining national exposure and popularity.

For two of the final three slots, I've chosen wins that put the Giants in the championship game. And I've ranked the 1981 Wild Card game against the Eagles with those two because it was the team's first playoff win after years of futility.

Some of the games in my top 10 were thrillers. Others were dominating performances. All were significant milestones in the Giants' long history.

My ranking is open to debate, of course. Maybe you disagree with the order of the ranking or you think another game or games should be in the top 10. If so, I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many times have the New York Giants played in the Super Bowl?

The Giants have reached the Super Bowl five times. They have won four times (see No. 1 through No. 4 in the ranking). The only Super Bowl game that they lost was Super Bowl XXXV on January 28, 2001, when they lost 34-7 to the Baltimore Ravens.

How many NFL Championships have the Giants won?

The Giants have won eight NFL Championships. In addition to their four Super Bowl wins, New York won the NFL Championship in 1927, 1934, 1938, and 1956. In 1927, the NFL did not use a playoff game format. The champion was simply the team with the best season record.

The Giants also lost 11 pre–Super Bowl era championship games, in 1933, 1935, 1939, 1941, 1944, 1946, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, and 1963.

How many wins have the Giants had in their history?

Through 2018, the Giants have recorded 692 regular-season wins. Their overall record is 692-598-33.

The Giants also have 24 playoff wins to their credit, including their championship game wins. They have lost 25 playoff games.

When did the Giants win their first NFL game?

The Giants' first season in the NFL was 1925. After losing their first three games, the Giants beat the Cleveland Bulldogs 19-0 at the Polo Grounds on November 1, 1925, for the first win in franchise history. The win marked the beginning of a seven-game winning streak, and New York finished in a tie for fourth place with an 8-4-0 record.

What is the longest winning streak in New York Giants history?

The 1990 team started the season with a 10-game winning streak, which is the longest regular-season winning streak in franchise history. The Giants also finished the previous season with three straight wins, for a regular-season streak of thirteen wins in a row over two seasons.

New York also had nine-game winning streaks in 1927, 1962, and 1986.

Selected References

Battista, J. (2008, February 4). Giants Stun Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. The New York Times, p. A1.

Battista, J. (2012, February 6). Giants Beat Patriots in Final Rally. The New York Times, p. A1.

Berkow, I. (1981, December 28). Carpenter Carries Giants. The New York Times, p. C1.

Daley, A. J. (1938, December 12). Record Play-Off Throng of 48,120 Sees Giants Halt Packers at Polo Grounds. The New York Times, p. 22.

Daley, A. J. (1939, December 4). 62,530 See Giants Beat Redskins in Thrill-Packed Game for Eastern Title. The New York Times, p. S28.

Effrat, L. (1956, December 31). Giants Crush Bears at Stadium and Take First Pro Football Title Since 1938; 56,836 Fans See Chicago Bow, 47-7. The New York Times, p. 16.

Kelley, R. F. (1934, December 10). National Pro Football Title Is Won by Giants in Game Jammed With Thrills. The New York Times, p. 25.

Litsky, F. (1987, January 26). Super Bowl XXI; Giants Rout Broncos in the Super Bowl. The New York Times, p. A1.

Litsky, F. (1991, January 28). Super Bowl XXV: The Game; Giants Win. The New York Times, p. C1.

Pennington, B. (2001, January 15). Giants Reach Super Bowl in a 41-0 Rout. The New York Times, p. A1.

Strickler, G. (1938, December 12). Giants Take Pro Title; Beat Packers 23-17. Chicago Daily Tribune, p. 21.

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