Super Bowl play is now in play with the Giants’ improvement

MINNEAPOLIS – The Super Bowl is now playing as an accessible, honest-to-god target. If you’re a Giants fan, nothing sounds completely crazy and completely reasonable at the same time.

It’s crazy because this franchise is supposed to be in the early hours of rebuilding with a rookie head coach and a roster that looks more potholed than the Cross Bronx Expressway.

It makes sense because the Giants just beat a champ 13-4 in their own building in the first round of the playoffs, setting up a rematch with the top-seeded Eagles in Philadelphia, as the home team struggled to overcome the Giants’ walk-ons last week.

“We’re back,” Giants co-owner John Mara told The Post amid a cheery locker room at US Bank Stadium after the sixth seed beat the third seed Vikings, 31-24.

Mara meant his franchise is finally back in business after notching its first postseason win since beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl, again, 11 years ago. “It felt like 1964 even [1980] Again,” said the landlord of the drought which was severe on his old man Wellington.

Mara was reminded that he told The Post in 2021 that he saw Daniel Jones as a future Super Bowl winner before he was asked if he could see this rising linebacker and this rookie team actually advance to the big game.

He replied, “We’re worried about Philadelphia, it’s going to be a big challenge for us.” “I’m not going to make any predictions beyond that, believe me.”

Brian Daboll sold fans after the Giants beat the Vikings on Jan. 15.
Brian Dabol greets fans after the Giants’ victory over the Vikings on Jan. 15.
Charles Winzelberg/New York Post

But if the Giants do indeed return, doesn’t that mean the players think they can go the distance?

Mara agreed, “I think they believe that, then who knows?”

That’s right, who knows? It’s entirely expected that the Eagles will send Jones & Co. home for the winter. But a lot of things predicted in the NFL—like the Giants going 5-12 this year—never materialized. Ask the Vikings about it while they’re busy packing their gear and planning their getaway to a golf course or a remote beach.

The Giants are getting better and better, which is a prerequisite for a deep postseason run. And suddenly Jones looks like a fast freight train in the most important stance in sports, a 6-foot-5 athlete who can beat you a dozen different ways.

Again, who knows? Back in the day, no one thought the 2007 Giants were going to the Super Bowl, even after they effectively played a 15-0 Patriots tie at the end of the regular season.

Daniel Jones walks off the court after the Giants' victory over the Vikings on Jan. 15.
Daniel Jones walks off the court after the Giants’ victory over the Vikings on Jan. 15.
Corey Sipkin for NY Post
Saquon Barkley celebrates after the Giants' victory over the Vikings on Jan. 15.
Saquon Barkley celebrates after the Giants’ victory over the Vikings on Jan. 15.
Charles Winzelberg/New York Post

But they just kept getting better and better, eventually taking out a 13-3 Cowboys on their field in the Divisional Round. At Texas Stadium that day, hours after Peyton Manning and the defending champion 13-3 Colts were eliminated from the playoffs, Manning’s mom, Olivia, told two clerks:

“I have a heavy heart for Peyton, but I am proud of Ellie.”

The same Eli Manning who was bombed by critics in his first three years as much as Jones was bombed in his first three. Archie Manning later said he did not know who would exit the New York market first, his son or Tom Coughlin.

Together Eli and Coughlin shocked the world and 18-0 Patriots in the Super Bowl. Fifteen years later, is it possible that Giants Jones, Saquon Barkley, and Major League Rookie of the Year Brian Dabul could compose a story more brutal than that one?

no not like that. However, right after Daboll declared the playoff experience overrated, his giant team proved him right. This team gains confidence through possession and is a real threat to the Eagles.

“The ultimate goal seems more within reach now,” said Leonard Williams. “I think we’ve shown each other that it’s really possible, if we play together to keep pushing this thing forward.”

Perhaps the Giants can survive this manhood challenge in Philly. Maybe they’ll get a lucky break in the form of the Dallas/Tampa Bay upset in San Francisco. Or maybe the Giants can actually beat the 49ers on the road in a violent NFC title game, just as they did 11 years ago.

Daniel Jones looks to throw the ball during the first quarter.
Daniel Jones looks to throw the ball during the first quarter.
Charles Winzelberg

Right now, they have to be taken seriously as contenders to get to the Super Bowl. And that’s as unlikely a statement as it has been made about this franchise in nearly a century of football.

“I think as long as we’re together…the sky’s the limit,” said Darius Slayton.

the receiver downed a late, third-rate pass that could prove fatal; It wasn’t. Dexter Lawrence made a rough mistake late on that could have been fatal; It wasn’t. Xavier McKinney made a big stop in the fourth on TJ Hockenson, and the Giants were on their way to the second round.

“It’s very good to be back and play meaningful games,” said Mara, in a voice hoarse from shouting, particularly in regard to Lawrence’s punishment. “And seeing our fans excited, that’s the best thing for me.”

The best thing about everyone wearing blue, it turns out, is the belief these upsets inspired. The Giants did not retain their lead in the end. They held on to the possibility that they could advance to the biggest stage in the sport.

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