"I've seen a lot of them," Gifford said. "This was the best."
Again and again, you watch Tiki Barber and ask yourself: How does he do it? How does he stay on his feet. It defies your eyes. He isn't the biggest back. He isn't the fastest. Sometimes, it just seems he's the most determined. The smartest, and maybe the most determined.
When the Giants needed him to be a franchise star, there was Barber. When they needed to bail out the lost, confused Eli Manning, there was Barber. They beat the Chiefs, 27-17, because Barber wouldn't go down. He ran for 220 yards, obliterating a 55-year-old Giants rushing record. All kinds of Giants rushing records started to fall - for the game, and the season - because this 5-foot-10 Atlas is balancing the Giants on his back, because he wouldn't go down.
"He carried us," Michael Strahan said. "He kept us in the game. To put the team on his back was amazing."
"I was on the field," Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress said, "and I caught myself being a fan."
The NFC East belongs to the Giants now, as long as Barber stays on his feet. At 10-4, the Giants send themselves to Washington and Oakland to end the regular season needing one victory to deliver the division championship. With three starters out, the Giants' defense shut down the most prolific offense in the NFL. With two starters down on the offensive line, they delivered the best rushing performance in franchise history.
If Eli Manning stops stumbling, no one will want to play these Giants in the playoffs. Only now, Manning looks lost, flustered and a long shot to get his act together for January. It's a shame, because only Manning is holding the Giants back from Super Bowl contention.
He's too small to carry people, but he does. The Chiefs hit him, and hit him and hit him and he refused to go down. Dick Vermeil ripped his defense, saying, "We weren't worth a damn ... embarrassing." Well, Barber has developed a habit for turning defenses into disarray, and he did again.
How much do Barber's linemen love him? They were desperate to get back into the game in the final moments and get him him Gene Roberts' record of 218 yards set in 1950. As the Giants Stadium fans chanted Tiki's name in the final minutes, fullback Jim Finn was holding a sign on the sidelines that said, "M-V-P."
"You do whatever you have to for a guy like that," Giants guard Rich Seubert said. "If you don't know it by now, Tiki is a great back."
They'll talk about Barber's 41-yard second-quarter touchdown run for a long time here. He should've been down four or five times, but it never happened. There were six Chiefs who had a hold of Barber, but no one would bring him down.
"At any plethora of points along the way I was down but I kept going and guys kept working for me and eventually busted free," Barber said. "I just kept my feet moving. It's just about getting your feet off the ground and letting them run into me so I can keep going.
"Keep your eye on the prize and you'll eventually get there."
There would be a run of 55 yards in the third quarter, when the Giants were buried back on the 8-yard line and Manning was malfunctioning. And there would be that 20-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, dragging Kansas City's Greg Wesley into the end zone to help make it 27-17.
"We had him in our hands and we let him slip away," Wesley said.
This was one of those double-nickel Michael Jordan games that we used to see over at the Garden, one of those times when the holes looked wider than they were, just like the rims across the river. From the kid out of Virginia whom people never believed could be an every-down back, from the serial fumbler late in the Jim Fassel era, Barber could be running his way to Canton.
Outside in the concrete corridor, Gifford remembered a call he made to Barber after watching him fumble three times in Philadelphia in 2002. Gifford had been watching on television and just wanted to reach out, just tell him about his own three fumbles in the NFL Championship Game back in 1958.
As himself a favored son of the late Giants owner, Wellington Mara, Gifford has an appreciation for the way Barber conducts himself. "Tiki is what Mr. Mara had in mind for his players," Gifford said. And sometimes, Gifford looks at Barber and thinks that he's someone out of the 1950s, because he's just so small.
The great old Giants running back wore the face of a frigid fan Saturday night, but those old football eyes sure sparkled. He's seen a lot of these games since his days, almost all of them, and Tiki Barber had delivered something for the ages.
"Remarkable, wasn't it?" Gifford asked, shaking his head.
The best ever here.