Skip to content

The Narrative Of The 2007 NFL Season

The 2007 NFL season was historic, from record-setting regular seasons to old stars moving on to the arrival of new ones. And it ended in a historic manner—with an improbable playoff run by the New York Giants, capped off with a stunning Super Bowl upset of the New England Patriots.

New England had been the story from the start of the season to almost the finish. Tom Brady won the first of what would be three MVP awards. Brady threw for what was then a record 50 touchdowns in the regular season. The addition of Randy Moss gave the Patriot passing game a vertical element that was previously missing. Moss had an All-Pro year. Wes Welker emerged as a slot receiver and caught 112 passes. Matt Light was an All-Pro at left tackle, and the Patriots scored more points than anyone in the league.

The defense, Bill Belichick’s specialty, was almost as good, ranking fourth. Mike Vrabel had 12 ½ sacks from his linebacker position. Asante Samuel picked off six passes at corner. Both were All-Pro.

The Patriots came out and started blasting people—including good, playoff-bound teams. They beat San Diego 38-14 on a Sunday Night in September. They blew out Dallas 48-27 in mid-October and hammered Washington 52-7 later that month. They buried Pittsburgh 34-13 in early December. There were also come close wins—a tough 24-20 victory at Indianapolis in early November, and a harrowing 38-35 escape over the Giants to end the season. But New England had taken all comers and their 16-0 record marks the only undefeated regular season since the schedule expanded beyond 14 games in 1978.

The Giants were in the middle of a good NFC East where everyone finished at least .500 and three teams made the playoffs. Tony Romo had emerged as a good starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys the prior year, and Romo broke out further with a big year in 2007.

With All-Pros at wide receiver in Terrell Owens and tight end with Jason Witten, Romo threw for over 4,200 yards and led the second-best offense in the league. The defense was keyed by pass-rushers at outside linebacker, with DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis combining for 26 ½ sacks.

Dallas and New York met on the opening Sunday Night and the Cowboys came away with a 45-35 win. In early November, the Cowboys won the rematch, 31-20. Dallas edged Washington 28-23 in November. And on the final Thursday in November, with the top spot in the NFC overall on the line, the Cowboys beat the Green Bay Packers 37-27. Dallas finished 13-3, easily captured the NFC East and held the pole position going into the NFC playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Giants were getting some erratic play from Eli Manning, whose TD-INT ratio was only 23/20. But New York had 1,000-yard performers in Brandon Jacobs running the ball and Plaxico Burress catching it. And they had a terrific front four on defense. Osi Umenyiora was a Pro Bowler at defensive end. The great Michael Strahan was now 36-years-old, but still productive on the other end. Justin Tuck got 10 sacks coming up the middle.

The Giants weren’t consistent, but they found their way to 10-6 and made the playoffs. And the scare they gave New England to end the season had given New York some confidence that they could compete with the league’s best.

It was tumultuous season in the nation’s capital. The Redskins dealt with quarterback instability, with Jason Campbell eventually losing the job to Todd Collins down the stretch. They dealt with mediocrity, playing below .500 into November. And then tragedy struck, with Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor being fatally shot when burglars broke into his home.

Taylor’s death would prove to be the inspiration to a noble stretch drive that also was the swan song for the great head coach, Joe Gibbs. The Redskins got must-win games on consecutive Sunday Nights in December, one against the Giants and the other over the Minnesota Vikings, with whom Washington was jousting for the sixth and final playoff spot. A 27-6 victory over Dallas to cap the regular season put the Redskins in the postseason.

Another swan song was taking place in Green Bay—at least a partial one. 2007 would be the final year for Brett Favre as a Packer. After a couple of down seasons, Favre had a big year. He was the MVP runner-up to Brady, throwing to Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. The Packers had a tough defensive front, keyed by Aaron Kampman getting 12 ½ sacks from his defensive end spot.

Green Bay got notable wins in September. The first was when they came to the Meadowlands and hammered the Giants 35-13. That was followed by a 31-14 win over the Chargers. The Packers nipped the Redskins 17-14 in mid-October. Green Bay ran away with the NFC North, finished 13-3 and got the 2-seed, which came with a first-round bye prior to 2020. While Favre’s departure was not yet known, it was a big subject of conversation and the possibility of him ending his career in the Super Bowl was a real one.

The bracket in the NFC was filled out by the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who each won division titles and got home playoff games as the 3 and 4 seeds, respectively.

Seattle had one of the league’s best offensive tackles in Walter Jones, and Matt Hasselbeck had a Pro Bowl year at quarterback. The Seahawk defense ranked sixth in the league for points allowed. Defensive end Patrick Kerney and linebacker Lofa Tatupu were each All-Pro, while corner Marcus Trufant intercepted seven passes. Seattle went 10-6 and was slated to host Washington in the wild-card round.

Tampa Bay also did it with a veteran Pro Bowl quarterback—Jeff Garcia in this case—and a tough defense. The Bucs defense ranked third in the NFL, with defensive end Stylez White leading the way with eight sacks. Tampa only went 9-7, but that was enough in the NFC South, and the Bucs would host the Giants in the playoffs.

Challenges to New England in the AFC in this era had to start with Indianapolis, with Peyton Manning was doing his thing. In 2007, Manning threw for over 4,000 yards, 31 touchdown passes and put another Pro Bowl trip on his Hall of Fame resume. Reggie Wayne racked up over 1,500 yards receiving and Joseph Addai was a 1,000-yard rusher. Jeff Saturday was the best center in the game. The Indy attack ranked third in the league.

What made this Colt team unique is that they could play defense. Indianapolis had the stingiest D in the NFL, and playmaking strong safety Bob Sanders was Defensive Player of the Year. And the Colts needed to be a complete team this year, as they sought to repeat as Super Bowl champs, because the AFC South was competitive.

Jacksonville found their quarterback in David Garrard, and over 12 starts, Garrard played mistake-free football, with an 18-3 TD/INT ratio. Fred Taylor ran for over 1,200 yards. The Jags were a top 10 team both offensively and defensively. And while Tennessee struggled on offense, the Titans had a solid defense, led by tackle Albert Haynesworth. They had the league’s best kicker in Rob Bironas. It was enough to put Tennessee squarely in the playoff race.

Indianapolis edged Tennessee 22-20 in mid-September and hammered Jacksonville 29-7 on a Monday Night in October. The Colts pulled out a 28-25 win over the Jags in the rematch and ultimately rolled to a 13-3 record and the 2-seed in the AFC.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville got clutch wins over Tampa Bay, San Diego, and Pittsburgh. The Jaguars split with the Titans, finished 11-5 and got the top wild-card spot and 5-seed.

As for Tennessee, they went right down to the wire, battling it out with the surprising Cleveland Browns for the last playoff berth. The Titans played the Colts in a flexed Sunday Night Game to the end the season. It was win-or-go-home for Tennessee. With Indy locked into the 2-seed, Peyton only played the first half. Even so, the Titan defense and Bironas came through—they held the Colts to just three points in the first half, got three second-half field goals from Bironas and won 16-10. They were in as the 6-seed.

It was a year of change in Pittsburgh in one regard—Bill Cowher retired, and the Mike Tomlin era began. But it was also a year that showcased Steeler stability. They ran the ball, with Willie Parker racking up over 1,300 yards behind All-Pro guard Alan Faneca. They played defense, with Pro Bowl outside linebacker James Harrison keying the NFL’s second-best D. And they won the games they had to win. Pittsburgh beat Cleveland 34-7 to start the year and edged the Browns 31-28 in November. That was the difference in a race where both teams finished 10-6. The Steelers were AFC North champs and the 4-seed, poised to host Jacksonville.

San Diego had also made a coaching change, jettisoning Marty Schottenheimer after a 14-2 season in 2006, due to playoff shortcomings. The Chargers hired Norv Turner. San Diego still had a potent running game, with LaDanian Tomlinson running for nearly 1,500 yards. L.T. was led into the hole by the league’s best blocking back in Lorenzo Neal. Phillip Rivers was now in his second year as a starter and had tight end Antonio Gates to throw to.

The Bolts were slow out of the gate and 4-4 coming into a Sunday Night game with Indianapolis. The Chargers won that game 23-21 and triggered a stretch drive that got them to 11-5, the 3-seed and a home date with Tennessee to open the playoffs.

Wild-Card Weekend produced one really good game, the Saturday Night prime-time battle between the Jaguars and Steelers. Jacksonville led 28-10 in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh stormed all the way back to take a 29-28 lead. Garrard led one final drive down the field, for the field goal that won it, 31-29, for Jacksonville.

In the other games, Seattle ended Joe Gibbs’ career with a 35-14 win, while San Diego churned out a workmanlike 17-6 win over Tennessee. And the Giants, as three-point underdogs, went south, played mistake-free football, and beat the Buccaneers 24-14.

Divisional Weekend opened with the snow coming down in Lambeau Field. Green Bay’s matchup with Seattle looked like it might be Favre’s final home game as a Packer and it would have been a fitting conclusion—facing his first head coach in Mike Holmgren and frolicking in the snow. The Packers spotted the Seahawks a pair of touchdowns and then got to work in a 42-20 rout.

New England got a stiff challenge from Jacksonville on Saturday night, but Brady was ridiculously efficient—26/28 for 262 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Patriots won 31-20.

Sunday’s games were dramatic and surprising. The Colts and Chargers played a back-and-forth game. Indianapolis had a 24-21 lead, and then Rivers was knocked out. Backup quarterback Billy Volek came in and led a drive for the go-ahead touchdown with just under five minutes to go. Peyton couldn’t respond and San Diego’s 28-24 upset held up. The Bolts were going to Foxboro for the AFC Championship Game.

And the round ended with another upset. The Giants clung to a 21-17 lead down in Dallas and then held off a last drive by Romo. New York had another road win, and this was a genuine shocker. At the time, it seemed to make it more likely that Fox Sports would get its dream Super Bowl—Brady and the undefeated Patriots against Favre, perhaps playing his last game. But there was one more step in between that.

New England and San Diego kicked off at 3 PM on Championship Sunday. Neither team played particuarly well, with Rivers picked off twice and Brady throwing three interceptions. But the Patriots finished their drives with touchdowns, while the Chargers settled for field goals. New England won 21-12 and kept their drive for history going. But neither playoff win had been dominant.

The temperatures at Lambeau Field that night were frigid, with wind chill temps coming in at (-23). Fans reported that getting a beer was nearly impossible, as it froze before it could be drunk. But if you watched from the comfort of your living room, it was a fantastic game. The Giant front four caused Favre problems and stuffed the Packer running game. But Favre also threw a 90-yard touchdown pass to Driver. New York seemed in control, but we were still tied 20-20 late in game.

The Giants lined up for a routine field goal on the final play of regulation. It missed. Lambeau went crazy. But in overtime, Favre threw an interception, New York got a second chance and this time the field goal was good. A third straight road win, and a second straight big upset had kept this improbable Giant run going to the Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl was a defensive affair. Brady played with a high ankle sprain and the Giant defensive front four was locked in, stuffing the run, and pressuring the quarterback. The Patriot D was equal to the task though. When Brady found Moss on a short touchdown pass, New England led 14-10 with less than three minutes to play.

The play that defines this game took place on the ensuing drive. Manning escaped being sacked, got out of the pocket, and threw a desperation pass down the field. Wide receiver David Tyree went up in traffic and came down with the ball deep in Patriot territory. The stunning turn of momentum ended with the Giants scoring the go-ahead touchdown. There wasn’t enough time for Brady to respond. A postseason run of upsets had ended with the biggest shocker of all—New York had beaten New England 17-14 and won the Super Bowl.

It was an improbable end to what had been one of the most exciting regular seasons and playoff runs in NFL history.