The NY Giants are going to California! The Road Warriors soundly defeated the Packers and overcame some of the worst and disgusting officiating in recent memory. Tremendous win! How many people would have forecast that Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees would be gone from the playoffs?! It's the Giants vs SF for a ticket to Indianapolis.
Normally one of the things that we preach when you go on the road is the need for TDs, not FGs. But in the first drive, the Giants got a FG and it was G-R-E-A-T! We tweeted at the time:
"The first third down conversion to MM was really important. Normally I want and need 7 but I can handle 3 because took GB's emotion"
Green Bay came into the game with a lot of emotion. The Giants took Green Bay's best punch, drove the ball and put up 3. That first 3rd down conversion when Eli hit Mario Manningham on 3rd and 8 for 19 yards was GINORMOUS. That is a play that will go unnoticed by many, but it should not go unnoticed by any of us. It settled down the team. This wasn't going to be ATL, where the offense would go through a first quarter drought. The message was that this Giant team was going to play for four quarters. Eli was money, Mario was money, the coaches were money, the Giants were money.
We've been critical of the coaches, putting the blame of underachievement squarely on their shoulders. Let's all please remember that this "great" team was 7-7 only a few weeks ago. Right now, the coaches have to get all the credit. One of the biggest detractors of all, Osi Umenyiora, is giving them all the love:
"Hey, we take on the personality of our coach. He's a tough guy and we're going to play tough."
Every Giants fan can taste the bitter irony of how Osi is reclaiming his and the Giants glory at the same time. In the nick of time.
The turnovers were incredible. The Giants simply beat the Packers at their own game. Usually it's the Pack defense that generates the turnovers and the offense that protects the ball, but the Gmen got 3 fumble recoveries. It would have been four, except a Greg Jennings fumble was not ruled for the Giants.
Giving credit to individuals on the "Good" is nearly impossible because so many people were incredible in this win. We'll try to single out some moments and some people, but please add some more in the comments.
1) TOM COUGHLIN, PERRY FEWELL and KEVIN GILBRIDE. That sound you are hearing is me puckering up.
Coughlin had the Giants ready. He and his staff were ready for everything McCarthy threw at them.
Fewell had a great defensive game plan that would not let Aaron Rodgers beat them. As maddening as the (five) QB scrambles for 3rd down conversions were, Rodgers' postgame interview explained that "the high volume of man coverage dictated that" he run when no one was assigned to him. It was actually part of a design where the Giants were going to make sure that the air attack did not go over the top. The result was a few 15-20 yard pass receptions, but no wholesale gashings like what we saw during the regular season contest. Those sacks and scrambles meant the coverage of the GB wide receivers was excellent, and that meant a win. Man coverage. Perry, you keep using it and we'll keep doling out the kudos. Essentially the Giants did not spy Rodgers, preferring to have an extra man bracketing the man assignments. The feet of Rodgers bent the Giants defense but the arm of Rodgers was stopped from breaking it.
Gilbride attacked often. My favorite playcall of the night was when the Giants got the ball at the ~4 yard line after another fumble recovery and run by Blackburn. 1st and goal. PLAY ACTION to MARIO MANNINGHAM FOR A TD to go up 30-13 and make it a three score game. Suffocation. There was less small ball than I would have liked, but Eli found a rhythm early and that is the goal.
2) Eli Manning. Cool as a cucumber. Never rattled. That poise in the playoffs and in Q4 is something he has always had. Now that he is also playing the best footballl of his career, the combination is lethal. He was knocked around and kept coming. Gilbride puts the ball in Eli's hands and Eli delivers.
3) Michael Boley. Two sacks. Team lead in tackles. He's the best LBer on this squad and he is quietly doing important work in coverage too. Add Jacquain Williams here and you have two LBers who are vital to 'managing' the TE in bracketed coverage.
4) Osi Umenyiora. 2 sacks vs GB. 1 sack vs ATL. 2 sacks vs DAL. 5 sacks total in 3 games. At least he is currently more of a pain in the a** to opposing QBs than he is to Reese and Mara. Let's also remember that Ross got beat on a slant & go ... if Osi doesn't strip the ball, it is a wide open 7 probability for GB.
5) Nicks. You've gotta pick your poison vs the Giants wideouts. Cruz gets doubled. Nicks now is getting the numbers. His 66 yard humongous catch + run for a TD is part of a pattern where Cruz and Nicks are burning defenders for a long one, game after game. On another reception in Q2, he comes back to the ball instead of waiting for the ball to come to him- the little things that make a good WR a great one.
6) The Hail Mary. You have to give plenty of kudos to Bradshaw AND MANNING for getting out of bounds after ad-libbing and picking up 23 yds. At that point I felt that 3 was the proper call, but for whatever reason Gilbride and Coughlin chose to throw it up. It came down to Nicks, who turned a 13-10 halftime edge into 20-10. Incredible.
7) Derrick Martin and Victor Cruz. These two players recovered onside kickoffs. But the Martin recovery was on a fake and the replay showed that Martin was ready the entire time. Great respect for not leaving. The PHL disaster last year schooled Quinn on schooling his players not to leave, so he too must receive acknowledgment for a job well done.
8) Antrel Rolle. The man was ubiquitous. He was busy with WR coverage, and still managed to come out ok despite that mismatch.
9) The entire secondary. When guys like Phillips, Webster, Ross, Amukamara and Grant are not getting exposed on camera, it means they are shutting down receivers off camera. There were a few warts, but Aaron Rodgers is always going to make any team look bad some of the game. This group lost some battles but won the war.
1) Tynes. Poor kickoffs to the 5 and 15 yard line. One kickoff is out of bounds and spotted at the 40. Was the missed FG kicked too low? We'll let that one get blamed on a blown block.
2) The short yardage run game. Give the Giants 3rd and 10, no problem. Give the Giants 3rd and 1 and it is a disaster. There is no surge, and there certainly won't be one vs Justin Smith next week. At this point on 3rd and short, just go play action and pray the LBers and Strong Safety are stupid enough to bite.
3) Ballard is playing hurt. It is sad to watch how hobbled TE Jake Ballard is. His 1 catch for 17 yards was a huge grab, made all the more remarkable by the condition he is playing in. It looked at times like he could barely walk. If he can return to any health, it will be great for Eli.
1) Bill Leavy and the referees. Regulars to this blog know that we do not like to discuss the officiating. It is generally a random element of luck that evens out over the long run. And we hold to the Bill Walsh theory that it is simply part of the 20% of the game you cannot control. But we draw the line when the officiating is so egregious and one-sided that it becomes almost criminal. It was borderline criminal out there.
I could not see the replay angle that validated Coughlin's challenge for a Jennings fumble. But once they showed it, it was CLEAR that the refs totally blew the call. Aikman and Buck were unequivocal in their dissent against the officials. Unfortunately the poor officiating was seemingly non-stop. There was a horrible spot of a Ware run that was off by a full yard, causing 4th down. Why? Because he fell sideways, meaning his knee never had the opportunity to touch the ground. Then of course there was the Osi phantom 15 yard personal foul, where Rich Eisen of the NFL Network was absolutely ILL. They call that, and yet Eli is taking helmet hits, Clay Matthews body slams him to the ground long after the ball is gone... no calls there. The holding call on Snee... Like I have said numerous times, it is not worth yelling about the officiating because it evens out, but last night it was simply one-way and negligent.
The Giants beat up a Packers team that had Aaron Rodgers and a last place defense. But the Packers defense also gambled and won with many turnovers during the regular season. They could not be dismissed as being a vulnerable unit because they led the league (tied with the Niners) with 38 takeaways. The Giants had to protect the ball on offense and stop Rodgers from carving them up. They did. The Packers had 7 (different press accounts had anywhere from 6 to 8) dropped passes, but let's give the Giants the credit for making Rodgers throw harder passes and making the receivers make harder catches. Fewell's simplified defense with "a high volume of man coverage" is turning the Giants into a formidable opponent; Eli Manning is the only one left to do the carving.