Finishing was very important to the Giants heading into this year.
Tom Coughlin, well aware how tenuous his job status had become thanks to his inability to get his teams to the finish line despite strong starts, made the word finish the team's mantra all the way back in training camp. It was stressed at almost every press conference, emblazoned on shirts and probably spelled out in the coach's Alpha-Bits at breakfast every morning.
The idea was clear. Instead of having a team that folded up whenever it got punched in the mouth, exactly the kind of team the Giants had been for most of Coughlin's tenure, the coach wanted a team that would respond with their best work when they faced a deficit so that they could ultimately overcome it.
It seemed to work a little too well in the early part of the season. The Giants would start every game looking like garbage before eventually working their way back in front during the fourth quarter and holding on for a victory.
In true Coughlin fashion, it seemed to stop working at midseason as the Giants lost five of six games to put their playoff spot at risk. Still, Coughlin pushed the idea of finishing at every turn because the Giants could still make the playoffs if they finished strong.
The one win in that run best exemplified the power of the message Coughlin sent all season. Down 12 to the Cowboys with just a few minutes left in their season, the Giants found their backbone and won a game because they saved their best for last.
They got a gift when the Cowboys misfired on an easy pass that would have ended the game, but taking advantage of lucky breaks is part of finishing. The Giants did it all season, whether it was a botched call or a lucky bounce on a fumble, and they turned those opportunities into advantages that allowed them to finish as strongly as their coach asked them to in the preseason.
And finish strong they did. They beat the Jets, they beat the Cowboys and they just kept on winning all the way to Indianapolis.
Sunday night was the strongest finish of all, of course. It had all the hallmarks of the previous great finishes -- some fortunate breaks, a dropped pass by the Patriots, Eli Manning, Mario Manningham, more Eli Manning -- crammed into a little package that wound up with another Lombardi Trophy for the team to caress like a small baby.
There have been plenty of dominant champions in the history of the NFL and just about all them rank higher on the scale than these Giants. But what they lacked in dominance, they made up for with an unflinching belief in their own ability to come up with what was needed in the biggest moments of games.
Finish seemed like a dangerous mantra for Coughlin to push when the year began, because it pretty much spelled out his fate if the team didn't improve on the last two years. Without risk, there can be no reward, though, and Coughlin's sales job turned out to be a rousing success.
Maybe he should think about Repeat next time.