It started to feel a lot like 2008 on Sunday.
Devoted Giants fans outside MetLife Stadium said the team’s 24-2 thrashing of the Atlanta Falcons bolstered their confidence that the Big Blue might be able to repeat the improbable playoff run that ended in a Super Bowl championship four years ago.
“It’s in the air, there’s an aura of 2007,” said Rob Evans, 33, of North Arlington, as exuberant crowds streamed out of the stadium after the game. “If we play like this, there’s not a team we can’t beat.”
That might sound like the blustery optimism of a fan delirious from the first playoff victory in the new MetLife Stadium — and the first home playoff victory since 2000. But even before the game, raucous tailgaters expressed an abiding faith that the Giants, coming off a roller-coaster regular season, were finding their groove.
“We’re winning it,” a prescient Jimmy Smith of River Vale said before the game. “Just like 2007, we’re a sleeper. We’re playing Green Bay next week; get your long johns ready.”
Smith has hosted parking lot parties since 1976 and used his moving company’s van on Sunday to cart three grills, a sofa, and two chairs to the stadium for the final game at the Meadowlands this season.
He and other longtime revelers acknowledged, despite their pre-game confidence, that to win in the playoffs, the Giants will need to take a cue from tailgaters in at least one area. They will need to show consistency.
Terry Chiappa, 53, of Lyndhurst, who said he was one of the first people in the stadium parking lot Sunday, knows something about that.
“I’ve only missed three homes games in 35 years,” he said.
“Kids' birthdays, my wedding,” he said. “Well, I planned the wedding and honeymoon around Giants games, but I couldn’t get out of the rehearsal,” he clarified.
He was handing out wristbands to attendees of a party hosted in Lot 11 by twin brothers Mark and Mike Discerni, 46, of North Arlington, who cooked 200 pounds of food for the 125 friends who regularly join the decades-old tradition.
George McCanless of Mahwah, who was cooking more than 7 pounds of steak on a nearby grill, said “I never know which Giants team is going to show up.”
But, he added, Eli Manning “had one of the greatest years a quarterback has ever had, given that he had no running game.” On Sunday, that changed; two running backs rushed for a total 155 yards.
“[Eli’s] the definition of clutch,” he said. “It’s the same thing he did when the Giants won the Super Bowl.”
If some fans were cautiously optimistic before the game, they exuded confidence afterward.
“The Giants are looking as good as any team,” said Joe Padovano, 55, of Ramsey, a 20-year season-ticket holder who took his two sons to the game. “I love their chances.”
“They’ve got the momentum,” Jen Fitzgerald, 39, of Ringwood, said. Her husband, John, pointed out that the Giants almost beat the Packers last time they played — a game that was decided by a last-minute field goal by the Packers. This time, the Giants will have to play in Green Bay, which summoned another 2007 memory for Chuck Seergy, 51, of Franklin Lakes, a season-ticket holder for 25 years.
“Remember, in 2007, they went to Green Bay in the snow?” recalling the narrow Giants victory that sent them to the Super Bowl. “No one thought they could do it that year.”
Still, he said he would abstain from equating this year’s team to 2007’s until he sees their performance in next week’s matchup.
“If we beat the Packers next week, that will confirm it, that we’re on the same track as 2007,” he said.