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The New York Giants have never played a game on Christmas Day. In fact, only four teams had done so before 1989 and that was in the 1971 playoffs when the league couldn’t avoid playing games on Christmas that year.
The Giants have played on Christmas Eve, however. Six times as a matter of fact. The first game was in 1989 against Bo Jackson and the Los Angeles Raiders in the bitter cold at Giants Stadium (I’m still cold from that game).
The latest game was in 2017 when they were shutout, 23-0, at the hands of the Cardinals in Arizona. In between there was a 9-7 victory against Dallas in 1994, a 35-20 loss in Washington in 2005 and a 30-7 home loss to New Orleans in 2006.
The most memorable Christmas Eve game occurred in 2011 against the New York Jets. Both teams were in playoff contention heading into this Week 16 matchup and needed to win out to qualify for the postseason. This was perhaps the most important game in the history of the rivalry due to the elimination factor.
Tensions were a bit high as the Jets tore down some the Giants’ Super Bowl banners in the runway on the way out onto the field. Head coach Rex Ryan then tried to psych the Giants out by sending former Giants star receiver Plaxico Burress out to handle the opening coin flip.
The Jets (8-6) scored first on a five-yard pass from Mark Sanchez to Josh Baker. The Giants countered in the second quarter with a Lawrence Tynes 21-yard field goal and the longest play from scrimmage when Eli Manning hit Victor Cruz on a short pass and Cruz did the rest, racing past several Jet defenders for 99-yard touchdown.
The Giants never looked back. The defense played a stellar game. Ahmad Bradshaw’s 14-yard touchdown run near the end of the third quarter extended the Giants’ lead to 17-7. Tynes opened the fourth quarter scoring with a 36-yard field goal.
The Jets narrowed the Giants’ lead to six with a one-yard Mark Sanchez sneak but the Giants kept the Jets at bay the rest of the way. Chris Canty forced Sanchez into an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone for a safety and then Bradshaw iced the game with a 19-yard touchdown run to give the Giants a 29-14 victory.
“They did a lot of talking and we let our play do the talking for us,” said safety Kenny Phillips. “We will just leave it at that.”
“We know it’s going to be hyped up – it should be,” Giants defensive captain Justin Tuck said. “I know we did a good job of saying, ‘Talk is cheap, play the game’ all week, but we knew they were going to talk a lot and we talked a little bit ourselves. We’re not that innocent. The thing we did is we came out and backed it up. That’s the most important thing. It was a must-win game for us and we get to go off to the next round, play for a playoff berth.”
The next week, the Giants took out the Cowboys at home, 31-14, to win the NFC East crown. Four games later, they were Super Bowl champions for the second time in four seasons.