As I walked through MetLife Stadium to watch the Giants play the Falcons in the Wild Card Playoff game last weekend, I stood in awe as I saw an enormous painting on the wall above me — it was a photo of a noticeably freezing cold Tom Coughlin celebrating on the field in Green Bay when the Giants won the 2007 NFC Championship Game in sub-zero temperatures.
Just a few hours later, I realized the Giants would be in the same position again.
The Giants dominated the Falcons in the second half on Sunday, as Eli Manning andthe Giants offense were firing on all cylinders while the Giants defense shut out the Falcons altogether and had several key fourth and 1 stops.
The Giants running game, which ranked dead last during the regular season but had been improving in recent weeks, was rejuvenated on Sunday as Brandon Jacobs (92 yards rushing) and Ahmad Bradshaw (63 yards rushing) found holes in the defense and helped wear down the Falcons. This opened up the passing game and Eli Manning found both Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham in the endzone for a combined three scores. I predicted earlier in the week that Nicks or Manningham would have a big game because of all the hype surrounding Cruz. The Falcons shut down cruz, but the Giants just have too many weapons.
The Giants have never looked like a more complete team than I’ve seen in the last two weeks — every single aspect of their game has been solid and they have not been turning over the ball at all. The best improvement I have seen is on the defensive side, which looked shaky earlier in the season. However, they have really found their groove in recent weeks and it is quite impressive when a defense shuts out an offense in the playoffs. The key fourth and 1 stops were the most impressive part of the game by the defense, as those fourth and short plays usually decide a game more than people may think.
The Giants will look to build on this momentum as they travel to Green Bay for the Divisional Playoff matchup on Sunday at 4:30 pm. The Packers’ quest for an undefeated season was put on the line when the Giants put up a great fight against them late in the season. The Giants and Packers offenses were both moving the ball effectively, as the game was tied at 35 with under a minute to go. In shootouts like those, it is all about who has the ball last and Aaron Rodgers and the Packers had just enough time to get down into field goal range. Mason Crosby booted the field goal through for the game-winning score, but the game was so close that it could have gone either way. Regardless, it makes for a very interesting playoff matchup.
- I think the Giants defensive line could make all the difference in this game, as they are finally much healthier now than they were before. New York is not afraid to put their four defensive ends on the line — Umenyiora, Tuck, Pierre-Paul, and Kiwanuka. This fierce combination has caused disruption every single time they have put them on the line this season, I don’t know why they don’t just use them exclusively.
- The Giants offense needs to make sure they don’t fall behind the powerful Packers offense. If they can run the ball effectively and spread the ball around in the air, they should be able to wear out the Packers defense enough so that they can get some scores without too much difficulty. Most importantly, they need to limit turnovers.
- The Giants core that remains from the ’07 Super Bowl squad need to continue to step up and play the way they did in that playoff run, because time is running out. They won’t be together forever and they have a prime opportunity to repeat their success if they can put together a few more wins.