This Sunday the Best Rivalry in Football is Back!
These two teams are not new. In fact, when the New York Giants meet up with the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday it will be as if time has turned back, and I am lucky enough to be sitting beside my dearly-departed father getting ready for the big game.
The Giants and the Niners were the same as the Cowboys and the Niners in our house – two teams who always boasted the biggest names, the most remarkable plays, the best quarterbacks, and the most fun. The Giants were always that huge, burly running team that kept it on the ground and kept pounding defenses into dust, while the Niners were always the high-flyers. They had a quarterback – Joe Cool Montana – that seemed to be a robot. He could find anyone, he could hit anyone between the numbers, and his skill only matched his complete and utter luck. It was as if a bright light shone down on that man. As far as the Cowboys were concerned, this was the end of a reign. When number 16 threw that ball on that final drive to send the 49ers to the Super Bowl, that one second marked the end of one dynasty and the beginning of another.
When it comes to the rivalry between the Giants and 49ers, this is one of those significant challenges that is rooted in the 1980s – when both teams were on the rise. The Giants and 49ers have met in the playoffs eight times in the last twenty-five years, with the 49ers leading the playoff series 4–3. The Giants beat the Montana led 49ers 49–3 in the divisional round of the 1986 playoffs (which amazed absolutely everyone) and went on to win the first Super Bowl Championship in franchise history. They were hungry. (Which is what the Pats need to remember about the Ravens). They would again meet in the playoffs in the 1990 NFC Championship Game. In one of the most physical football games ever played the Giants upset the 49ers once again – but by a much less margin of 15–13, killing the 49ers hopes of winning three Super Bowls in a row. The 49ers would exact revenge in 1993 when they offered payback by pummeling the Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs 44–3, marking the very last game of the careers of both Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms. The two would meet again in the 2002 playoffs in the closest-fought contest of their historic rivalry. Here, the Giants raced to a 38-14 lead before the 49ers came to life and scored twenty-five unanswered points; a last-second field goal attempt by the Giants failed on a blown snap and a controversial throw to the end zone finished it off.
So, the question remains: Who is the hungriest this time around? Although most have called for the Giants to win and meet the Patriots in the Super Bowl, fans and viewer’s should never count out the “hunger” factor – and the 49ers have that factor this year. They may not have Montana, Young, Rice, etc. – but they are back – and they are playing the best football the conference has seen in a good, long while. Another important factor? Lady Luck seems to live in San Francisco. Perhaps it wasn’t just the Montana arm and skill, because the 49ers have become just the fourth team in NFL postseason history to score a go-ahead touchdown when trailing with fewer than ten seconds left in regulation play.
The others comprise some of the greatest postseason moments in the Niners versus Giants rivalry. There are a few writing that the 49ers are slightly favored this coming Sunday (perhaps they’re all hedging their bets to save face). And their odds of winning the Super Bowl are just the same according to the Vegas sportsbooks. One of the most exciting things for fans this year, however, will be the fact that although all four teams have their pros and cons, the games that are about to commence are promising to be nail-biters. No runaways are expected – even if they do have the Pats winning the Lombardi already. A lot can happen between now and then – and the 49ers know it. They are definitely in great shape to win another Super Bowl, but the games from here on out are going to be close.
New England is boasting the most proficient quarterback in all of football. The Ravens are boasting a defense that has a tendency to rile up the competition and cause turnovers. But when it comes to the 49ers and the Giants, you are talking about two teams that combined to win six Super Bowls in ten years.
Again, the past is coming back and it feels extremely good to see it all again. It’s been quite a while since they last met, but Giants’ fans remember ‘Big Blue’s’ last trip to Candlestick (and it will always be Candlestick, people) in the postseason. And although that game has nothing to do with these two present teams, this meeting has the potential to rejuvenate a rivalry that hasn’t been talked about in decades.
The Giants are boasting the best quarterback in the division, along with a young group of receivers who have proven themselves week-in and week-out. The 49ers seem to have gotten a shot in the arm with a new coach they stand behind 100%, an improving quarterback (which must be hard considering the huge footsteps you’re walking in), a talented all-purpose running back, and a dominant defense that can force offenses to become one-dimensional – which is not something that the Giants can afford to do. Upside? These teams are so young and just getting into gear, that this rivalry could be sustained for many years to come, bringing back football the way it’s supposed to be played.
The Giants did travel to San Francisco earlier this year, losing 27-20 because of a ‘batted’ ball on fourth-and-two from the 49ers ten-yard line. (Lady Luck again. Perhaps she just likes all those seals they have there). This simple mistake brought the Giants the loss. However, this time around, the stakes are far higher and the game shouldn’t be all that much different. In essence, the game will be won on who makes the biggest mistake at the worst time.
Many fans are beyond happy that the Giants beat those pesky Packers so that the Niners could enjoy home-field advantage for this NFC Championship that will bring back the memories. In Green Bay the Giants looked great on both sides of the ball, but this NFC Championship will bring in the dominant quarterback with a fierce passing game going up against the ‘immovable objects’ that the 49ers defense has proven themselves to be.
This game should be one of the toughest to predict in the entire postseason – which is really saying something this year, considering all the close games and upsets that have already been witnessed. But the greatest thing about this one game will be the memories – the chills, the rivalry – a chance to remember how ultimately fun and thrilling football used to be…seen through the eyes of the young that are just as hungry as the old!
And although this last line may go over like Ricky Gervais ‘digs’ at the Golden Globes, it must be said. GO NINERS!!!
Until Next Time, Everybody.