If the critics were to be believed, the Giants had no business being in the 2000 playoffs, let alone the NFC Championship game where they would face the mighty Minnesota Vikings, a team whose prolific offense put up 5,961 yards and 397 points.
But head coach Jim Fassel’s scrappy Giants not only earned a playoff berth, but they had also proven down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs that they deserved to take on the conference’s Giant, and take them on they did.
Defensive coordinator John Fox drew up a game plan to take away the Vikings’ deep passing game, whose receivers featured Randy Moss and Cris Carter. Fox also planned to send mostly a four-man rush after quarterback Daunte Culpepper to disrupt the underneath passing game.
Without a passing game to lean on, the Vikings would have to turn to their running game, as led at the time by Robert Smith. And the Giants were feeling pretty confident in being able to control Smith, the NFC’s second-leading rusher.
Smith, who in Weeks 10-14 had rushed for over 100 yards per game, had run for less than 100 yards in his final three regular-season games. In the divisional playoffs, he had been held to 25 yards rushing by the Saints.
Offensively, the Giants were feeling pretty confident about being able to carve up the Vikings defense that had allowed 397 points scored against it, seventh-most in the league, and had allowed 356.3 yards per game, the fourth-highest average in the league that year.
The Vikings' pass defense, in particular, was an issue; that unit had finished 28th in the league after allowing 3,913 yards through the air, fourth-most in the league.
The game unfolded just as the Giants had hoped. Quarterback Kerry Collins threw five touchdown passes, the first of which went to receiver Ike Hilliard on a 46-yard strike on the game's fourth play.
By halftime, the Giants had a 34-0 lead, the game essentially over. And by game’s end, the Giants completed their total domination of the mighty Vikings by liming their offense to 17:38 worth of possession and 114 net yards on offense, with neither Moss nor Carter making so much as a ripple effect on the game.
Having cemented a date with destiny in Super Bowl XXXV against the Baltimore Ravens, the Giants were the toast of the town.
And a jubilant Wellington Mara delighted scores of Giants fans everywhere when he proclaimed, “Today, they’ll say we were the worst team to ever with the NFC championship. In two weeks, I hope they’ll say we’re the worst team ever to win the Super Bowl.”
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